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Formatting the hard drive

To me formatting the hard disk is like cleansing your system of all those nasty DLL's.  It makes it easier to test installations and even the program you are working on.  Especially with VB/ADO and all of the DLL's that accompany that mess.  I like to format just to keep my development hard disk clean.  I normally back up important files/programs and then reinstall just WinXP and Visual Studio.  I'm thinking about getting another hard-disk or a server to just hold all of the "junk" I download and have backed up on CD.

How often do you guys format your development and test systems?  On your test machine(s), do you format the hard disk before every installation test or do you simply do a restore of a clean system off of a back up.  If you do a restore what software/hardware do you use?

Dave B.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I really hope you mean re-image, otherwise you are wasting time.

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A complete format and install every six months or so is the rule here at Mitch & Murray.  In addition, we have test systems that have a clean disk, and then we use Ghost to blast over a fresh/clean OS install which we then use for any testing / tool eval / install and deployment tests.  This way we can have a fresh virgin install of any Win32 flavor and most Linux flavors up and running in the time it takes to Ghost the image over - 5 minutes or so.

The Ghost techique we have found to be _vastly_ easier & better than doing it all with VMWare.  It takes a few hours to install & Ghost the images over to a server, but after that investment of time you are in business forever.

The Ghost utility is also great for doing a complete stand-alone backup of any system to a server drive.  We do our laptops that way weekly - takes about an hour for 20GB, runs totally unattended after it first fires up.

Might I also add that DVD writers are now in the $300 range, and they are the cat's ass for backing up critical data, and our Sony DVD+R writer will burn 4.3GB in 20 minutes, all with negligable system loading.

These are great days to be a geek.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Ah, you aren't (your reinstalling visual studio), check out ghost image

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I tend not to like testing on absolutely clean, controlled machines.  You're just ensuring that your program will run under optimal conditions.  (Of course, if it's meant to run in a controlled environment, nevermind.)

Still, I like using both clean and dirty systems for development.  With the dirty ones, I can download stuff and experiment.

Heterogenous environments rule.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I make two Ghost images. One directly after I've installed the OS and made all those little customizations to the desktop, start menu, and so on that take a load of time but make up for it in comfort, and a second one a few days later after I have installed all the software I'm going to be using. I rarely bother with another one, as I reckon that it would take up too much space and stuff I install after the first time is rarely stuff I'm 100% certain to want to reinstall again.

Obviously I have all data on the D drive (and the Windows install disk on another FAT32 partition).

If you're looking at a testing machine, then you want to install just the OS and the program you're running. Using Ghost appears the best way, as it will install an OS in less than ten minutes.

I would consider running the test again with some common software (Office, WinZip, Photoshop, Norton and others) installed, so that you can tell if there are any incompatibilities.

But as for stability I have found that W2000 has done away with much of the need for periodic reinstalls that used to be de riguer with Win98.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, January 22, 2003


I only *reboot* every 3 or 4 months (NT 4).

I don't register pointless stuff, and I remember to unregister things before deleting them. Works for me.

Reinstall - when I get a new machine is about it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Ditto most comments about ghost.

I had a video driver locking up on my pc. (mouse and computer would freeze).

I tried re-installing the video drivers. Did not solve the locking problem.

Saved my work to a network drive.

Grabbed my nice image (with all nice windows settings and windows updates with browser, video drivers etc.). Also, it has all my personal prefs for windows, and even the ftp settings for the browser.

Time to re-install the image on the notebook? Less then 5 minutes! Back up and running!

The locking problem is gone, despite the video drivers being same as what is on my image.

Imaging is a fabulous for re-installing.

However imaging is a separate issue from testing. Vmware makes more sense for testing software.

I actually agree that re-installas should only occur every few years.

However, ghost makes it sooo easy, you can do it every few months and not care...

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I used to be a reinstall maniac, but since 2000 and especially XP I find that my system works fine if I just let it go.

Flippy the Binhead
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I only rebuild my development PC from scratch when it's totally cactus.

I bought a new pentium 933MHz, with bucket loads of RAM and HD space a few years ago, it came preconfigured with Win ME, which, rapidly proving it's uselessness, was quickly replaced with XP. I've never had a crash in all this time, which is remarkable. I am yet to do a rebuild. Maybe it's just that I'm getting older and can't be bothered with all that stuff now. I'm far less anal about stuff like that than I used to be.

I have a 'hack' PC which I ghost to whatever version of windows I want when I need to test deployments.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Oh yes, those nasty DLLs...sharing program code and making EXEs smaller ;-)

John Topley
Thursday, January 23, 2003

I wouldn't consider formatting my dev PC unless it was permanently hosed. It kills several hours of my day and stops me doing anything productive.

Now my test PC, by contrast, gets re-imaged all the time, but that's probably because I use it to test 95/98/NT/2000 installations (my dev PC's XP) and find almost all the install bugs when running off a totally clean OS.

Better than being unemployed...
Thursday, January 23, 2003

For the bulk of our testing situations, VMWare and a library of standard guest OSs I built serves us well. One project required 22 different target platforms, and I don't have space for that many boxes in our QA lab, nor could we spare that many physical boxes, so Ghost (a great product, but not always the right choice for every situation) was out.

In general, imaging a machine is always with Ghost (our sysadmin maintains a good set of standard images we pull from, depending on our machine type and role), but almost all our test environments are handled via VMWare by me. Occasionally, we have had some hardware-specific testing requriements arise where I either chose to or I had to use physical boxes (e.g. needed to test a game's min sys requirements for the mac and pc). For new projects or at other appropriate times, I start off with fresh copies of our reference VMWare guest OSs, and will make special 'dirty' copies that have sundry other crap on them as needed for the environment (e.g. had to install visual studio once, because of its debugger, to recreate a javascript bug on a particular build of IE 5.0 a client was seeing--weird).

We rarely re-image boxes, which includes our developers; might see one or two developer boxes get re-imaged a year, but normally it's only been if their box has started acting up.


Thursday, January 23, 2003

About saving data before formatting a hard drive:
Let's suppose I have a hard disk of 40 GB and I want to backup some files.
Can I just split the Hard Disk into 2 partitions and use the second partition for storing my files there? Is there any risk to lose the files on the second partition after I format the first partition where Windows was installed? Any idea?

Would be glad if i get an answer:

Thanks in advance

Friday, February 20, 2004

Because my hard drive is becoming a mess, I decided to reformat it and reinstall Windows XP. No luck.  I get the message that "format cannot run because the volume is in use by another process. Format may run if this volume is dismounted first.  All opened handles to this volume would then be invalid. Would you like to force a dismount on this volume (Y/N).  I said Y.  The the message came up.  Cannot lock the drive.  The volume is still in use.

I cannot see that anything is running if this what it means.  I have disconnected my network cable and am at a loss to know what to do.  Is there anyone who could please help me.  TIA

J.R. Whitehead
Monday, August 30, 2004

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