One Tablet PC rebuilt

I am one happy geek today.  Late last night I got fed up with Outlook crashing a few times a day and my HP tc1100 generally running slower and slower so I decided to rebuild the Tablet from scratch.  I figured it was also a good excuse to see exactly what was on the recovery DVDs that HP included with the tc1100 so off I went.

<rant mode on>

Most software uninstallers don’t really remove much of anything.  In trying to decide if I wanted to avoid the rebuild and maybe patch the install manually I took a stroll through the folders where programs often put files to see what was there.  In the Program Files folder were folders for dozens of programs I had previously uninstalled and most of them were full of files.  The uninstaller just left them there.  I also looked in the two hidden folder trees where many programs store user settings data and in some cases real data, the Local Settings folder and the Application Data folder.  Both of these are hidden folders so most users won’t even see them and will never suspect the uninstallers leave files there, in my case over 2 GB of files!  Software developers shame on you if you leave this sort of data in hidden folders!  Take my word for it– if I remove your program from my PC I don’t need this data left behind just in case I reinstall your program.  I remove your program because I either don’t need it or I didn’t like it.  It’s not coming back. 

<rant mode off>

The first thing I did some might find a bit strange– I made a mind map in MindManager that listed all the software and drivers I needed to install to build my dream Tablet PC.  The mind map made it easy to input all that information and drag the programs around to get them in the optimum order for a problem free install.  I also categorized the various program installs in case I didn’t have time to complete them all in one sitting, with installs marked critical, high priority, regular priority and low priority.  The latter category contained software that could be installed almost anytime without impacting my productivity and in fact had some programs listed that I wasn’t sure if I was going to install at all.

For each driver or program on the mind map I attached a note that contained the registration code for those programs that required one and I also put two check boxes, one to indicate the installer had been downloaded and one to indicate when the program was installed.  The registration codes were easy because I buy all software online and when I get the confirmation email with the code I capture it in OneNote so I have them all in one place, along with the link to redownload if needed.  I downloaded all the programs and installers in one sitting and saved them all to my iPod.

Armed with a concise plan I ran the Windows XP Tablet Edition DVD and reformatted the disk clean and installed Windows.  I was curious to see if the label on the HP supplied WinXP disk had the HP drivers and programs slipstreamed into the Windows installer as the label indicated it also contained those items but when the install was complete and Windows booted up it was evident the drivers were not installed.  No problem, I then popped in the Drivers and Applications DVD from HP and it installed all the drivers and apps in one pass that took about 20 minutes, after which I was in pristine factory condition.  So far so good, I have the fastest Tablet PC on the planet because there was no software to clutter it up.

Next it was time to get my email and blogging tools installed so on went MS Office (for Outlook) followed closely by my anti-virus software.  I ran Office Update to bring all the programs up to speed and then restored my OutBack Plus backup I made just before the rebuild.  This put my entire Outlook environment back just like it was before the rebuild and also restored my web browsing environment with all favorites, cookies and settings intact.  It was like I never wiped the computer clean which is why I have used Outback for so many years.

I installed the rest of my productivity software next, MindManager, Time Meter, Onfolio and Audacity among them.  Once that was done I needed to restore all my data from before so I installed iTunes to get my iPod working with the new build.  One caveat– iTunes is set to auto-sync by default and if you have music on the iPod that you want to bring into your PC as I did don’t partner the PC with the iPod just yet.  iTunes doesn’t let you copy music from the iPod to a desktop iTunes library by design but I’ll show you a simple way to do that in another article coming right after this one.  Once the iPod drivers were installed by iTunes it became a USB disk drive and I copied my backed up data onto the HP.  I shortly had a working environment better than before and it is as fast as when I first rebuilt it.  I am extremely pleased with how smooth this went and even though it took me about four hours it was time very well spent.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention an interesting thing I noticed on the rebuilding of the HP.  A lot of USB peripherals ship with install CDs with instructions to install the software before plugging in the device for the first time.  The implication is that the software CD also installs the hardware drivers needed to make the peripheral work with Windows.  Unfortunately, many such install CDs also install several programs that you might not want.  I have three USB peripherals that I installed during the rebuild of the Tablet PC and I decided to try something.  Instead of installing the software for these devices I decided to just plug them in one at a time after the Windows install was complete.  To my surprise Windows XP recognized all three devices and installed the drivers automatically, saving me from running the installer and ending up with the software that I didn’t want.  All three devices work flawlessly.  This is pretty safe to try with any USB device since it will let you know if the peripheral will not work without drivers.


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