Byte Me Article 110 – What a reformat means to you

What a reformat means to you
– What is a Reformat?

9 February, 2013

What is a reformat???  This is a topic that I have covered before, however, so many people have trouble with the concept.  Unfortunately, (for us technicians), computers represent one of the most customised or individualised devices in the modern world.

From the first time that we fire up a new PC we are customising it to suit our needs and our preferences – even telling the PC what part of the world it is going to be residing in.  If we could make the same number of changes to our motor car then it would get crashed every time someone else drove it.  Software programmers have in most cases given us total freedom to change things like the appearance of our desktops – not only the colours but the icons, their shape, size and position, the sounds that the PC makes, the resolution of the screen and even the size/shape of the mouse pointer.

2013-02-09 Byte Me Article 110 - What is a reformat

We can change how quickly the mouse responds to scrolling and even swap the left and right mouse buttons!   These possibilities are endless and we haven’t even begun to install our favourite software (or to uninstall the trial software and junk that came with the PC).  Once we are happy with the way it looks and what software is installed we then usually set about using that software to create new files or modify existing ones.

All is going well until at some stage down the track misfortune can strike and your hard drive can fail, or you can get a virus or simply a software corruption which can’t be fixed – the only alternative (besides a new PC) is reformatting the hard drive and reloading everything from scratch.  But in this case you also have to deal with installing Windows in the first place as well as all of the associated drives, updates and patches.  Perhaps right now, you could also ponder, for a second, the amount of time that you have spent changing things to suit your preferences.

Unless you have recently made a set of recovery disks to restore from, then all of these settings are lost and would need to be done again.  Let’s hope that as a minimum you have a backup of any important data, as when you reformat there is nothing original left – zip, zero, zilch – no user data, no user settings, not even a trace of that new wireless printer you had so much trouble installing and getting working last week!   These are the sort of jobs that people in the IT industry often get called upon to complete – and we have no problem restoring your data from a proper backup, but we can only go so far to get everything looking the same.

So, how is this job made even worse?  If you have multiple profiles on a PC (different users logging onto it with different usernames)!  Yes this creates a new document store, a new music folder, a new pictures folder, a new set of emails and Internet favourites for every user.  We often get asked to ‘make it look the same as it used to’ however this is akin to someone water painting a canvas, washing it clean and then taking it to a professional artist and asking them to replicate what was there before without them even getting a chance to have seen it – and why can’t they (because it was all there previously – right)?

I was once called back to a job out near The Caves because I had forgotten to reinstall MYOB.  However, upon my arrival I found everything was installed and would work, except the MYOB icon was in a different place on the desktop!  The user had not realised this and was not happy about it – he then asked me to put it back in exactly same spot for him so that he could use it again!  The point of this article is to emphasise the importance of backing up your user data, at the very least.  Then you also need to take the time to create a set of system recovery disks every few months if you don’t want to spend hours customising your PC and never want to lose those settings with a reformat.

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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