Recently I started running into some issues on my main gaming PC (affectionately called “Godzilla” due to its size) which were starting to really annoy me. Apps weren’t loading correctly and performance was being hit hard due to rogue services chewing up CPU. Most people get into this kind of situation when they’ve been using their computer for a while – when both time and numerous applications begin to weigh your PC down heavily. Something’s not right and Windows needs a good clean up and so I took the plunge and went through the reset process.
There are plenty of tools out there now that try to optimise your PC, some “cleaners” are quite popular too, but be warned that Microsoft will taking steps in the future to block such applications due to their intrusive nature. Some in the past have installed spyware/adware and are risky propositions. Best to avoid them in the future if you can.
The nice thing is Windows gives you options for this out of the box, known as “Reset this PC”. If you want it can try to bring the system back to its original state whilst keeping all your personal files, documents, etc but there is still the option for going all the way to wipe your system completely. Seeing as I wasn’t sure just how much I could back up and if it were necessary, I gave Option 1 a try first. The nice thing I found after the process was complete there was a file generated that listed all of the installed applications that had been removed. My list was spammed with a lot of files related to Visual Studio, SQL Server etc (for my day job) but it’s nice to know what else was missing.
Initial testing for me after the reset turned out to show that my problems still existed so it was time to go all the way and choose the other option which would wipe all settings from Windows as if it were a clean install. From here you can choose to only clean the HDD that Windows is installed on or wipe everything. My extra drives were mainly for data so I could leave them be and save time but just in case I backed up my game libraries and documents. Having a spare USB HDD can come in handy here but if you’ve got your whole Steam library sitting on your machine it might be a much more challenging problem if you’ve got a lot of games downloaded.
Surprisingly, both choices for resetting my PC ended up taking a similar amount of time to run – maybe an hour at most. The difference being with the wipe option you need to go through some initial settings that you would for a Windows install before being brought back to that familiar desktop.
It’s worth mentioning that my Windows drive is an SSD which is a LOT faster than a HDD so the timing is likely to vary substantially. Any time you run a process like this be willing to walk away for a few hours to let your computer do its thing… definitely don’t do it if you need to get report done for work the next day.
Office was the next step and Microsoft have done a good job of taking the pain away from past installers thanks to Office 365 which adopts a web installer like Visual Studio, etc but that’s literally a one-click experience which is great for allowing users to just walk away from. It would have been nice to see if applications like this had their own equivalent to save on time and downloads. Admittedly this might mean that more disk space would need to be reserved for such a thing but many prebuilt PCs used to do this to save on bundling storage media plus it simplifies the process for users when the machine is first switched on. Being able to control what else could be restored that way could be a neat feature to have evne if it is confined to a small set of core applications.
Getting my games back up and running had both positives and negatives. Steam and GOG Galaxy both make it VERY easy to get you back to playing again as you can back up your games directories and once you reinstall the clients you just need to point them back at the directories again and they’ll be back in a flash. However if you’ve got anything from the Windows Store you are out of luck and will need to download the lot again. For people with slow Internet that leaves a bitter taste… having to download a 100Gb game like Gears of War 4 is not a happy experience. Thankfully I’m not in an immediate need for a lot of the games on my PC so I can pick and choose when to download them.
Even though I did need to run the process twice (one option, then the other) it’s a relief that the process itself was mostly painless. Everything I need to do my regular work is installed now and seems to be working better than it was prior to the reset. Still it’s not something that you’d expect many to have the patience or the knowledge to want to take on but it’s the best implementation of it from a version of Windows so far and a highly useful tool to take advantage of.
But regardless of how good it all works it’s always best to ensure that you have backups just in case things go wrong. For the sake of your own sanity the extra time to do so could be worth it if things go wrong.