The Proverbial When to Format Windows Question


I have a ASUS K501UW-AB78 laptop, Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz, M.2 SSD and 16 GB ram, I think it’s 3 maybe 4 years old. Lately it’s been really slow. It’ll start up fast but my mouse will drag on the screen, opening up programs is really slow and if I have several browser tabs open those will be slow. I don’t have any pop ups going on. My browser habits are very old guy boring. I always go to the same sites, nothing naughty lol, and I don’t download anything. If I do download things it’s always from the Microsoft Store or I go directly to the creators website like 7zip. As far as antivirus goes I’ve been rocking Windows Security for the past couple years before that I was using Kaspersky. I dropped Kaspersky because it just had a bunch of stuff I didn’t need, like password manager, child protections, VPN, and that sandbox browser that was horribly slow. I just felt like I was spending too much annually for it and for things I didn’t need and could get free with Windows Security.

Sooo, with all that said what’s the consensus on formatting to clean things up and make Windows run like brand new? I’m hesitant because I remember how much of a pain it was to constantly run Windows update over and over, then some times the update installations would hang and you’d just let it sit there for hours and then you have to make sure you have your particular hardware drivers just in case the Windows Update didn’t install the correct ones. I haven’t done a full blown format since Windows 7 and that was like 5 or 6 years on my old desktop Frankenstein computer lol. So I’m looking for feedback from that community about this. Especially with how frustrating Windows Update has been lately! Do you think I should format or maybe go through uninstall things that I haven’t used, or uninstall everything, maybe get a name brand antivirus I don’t? Looking forward to this geek project this weekend and any advice or tips you can give. Thanks!

Comments (10)

10 responses to “The Proverbial When to Format Windows Question”

  1. yaddamaster

    I wipe my machine every year and wipe most machine in my household at least every two years. It's just simpler than trying to hunt and peck around.

    Of course, I also partition my hard drive so that all of my personal files are on my d: drive so that I can wipe my c: drive on a whim.

    Windows reinstalls in about 20 minutes and all updates are done within 40. Reinstalling all of the apps I want and configuring everything back the way I want is about another two hours.

    So 3-4 hours once a year - I think it's worth it. I'd waste at least that much hunting and pecking around.

    • navarac

      In reply to yaddamaster:

      I gave up partitioning drives a long time ago. Its not needed with "search" these days, or even a decent file system. Then again, keep data in the cloud.

      • j5

        In reply to navarac:

        I used to partition my computer when I using Windows 2000. It was great then. But I'd agree with it not mattering as much now a days. My main hard drive is a 512GB M.2 that has Windows, my programs, pictures, documents and downloads on it. I have everything backed up to One Drive as well. And then I also have a 2 TB mechanical drive installed that I use to dump stuff on that takes up a lot of space like any games I play, all my personal videos or just stuff misc things. And that's also backed up to One Drive. So why partition anymore like you said...the cloud.

    • j5

      In reply to yaddamaster:

      What do you mean having to hunt and peck? Are you talking about searching for files or something else? The last time I did a full format it took longer than 4 hours, a lot longer. 3 -4 hours is pretty good actually. Especially if you do it methodically, like not installing anything until all the Windows Updates are completely installed, then install security software (if you run any) then go through update that and Windows Update, then you install other software and then run Windows Update once again. And then even before you get to third party software you have to make sure Windows Update installed all the correct hardware drivers for you machine. That might be too much but that's how I remember it being done back in the day. How do you do it?

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to yaddamaster:

      Keep on partitioning your drive.

      Others apparently aren't comprehending that if ONLY Windows and 3rd party software installed under %PROGRAMFILES% is on C:, and you have a backup of your own user account's %APPDATA% (which should remain on C:), then you should be able to format C: and reinstall Windows without needing to backup all personal files first.

      That said, you should have backups.

      Tangent: keeping tax returns in the cloud is a personal choice not shared by all, just as an example.

      • j5

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Hm, I think having your tax returns in an encrypted back up service like One Drive is perfectly fine. I mean if you have a bank account ALL of that personal information you give them is less secure, with today's banking security standards, than keeping documents in an encrypted cloud service.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to j5:

          Tax returns were a tangent.

          Trying to use a laptop as a passenger in a car on US-101 between Florence, OR and Healdsburg, CA means no wifi and most of the time no cellular network either. ALL files in the cloud becomes more of a problem than solution.

          These days, with most people in my neighborhood still working from home, cable networking isn't what it was in February. Several times an hour there are hiccups. Streaming anything between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM is an exercise in futility. In those circumstances, files are far better stored locally than in the cloud.

          Anyway, the main point is that storing most files on a partition other than C: (and moving the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, etc folders in %USERPROFILE% to that other partition) makes reinstalling Windows on the C: partition much easier. The only thing to be careful about is backing up %APPDATA%, which should remain on C: in %USERPROFILE%.

          That said, if the reason for reformat and reinstall is speeding things up, odds are one shouldn't use backups of browser caches and extension storage, so likely better to exclude them from %APPDATA% backups.

          • j5

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            I have had to work from since the pandemic and my internet has been pretty bad in the afternoon. So along with other people having to work from everyone's kids are at home sucking down the bandwidth too.

            Yeah I can see how how being on the highway all the time could present a problem with your files being on the cloud. But I'd consider it a benefit because if you lost or damage your laptop during your commute you wouldn't have to worry about those files being lost you could just download them.

            I don't know I've had my butt saved by cloud storage several times. First time was when I used to use Carbonite years back (would never use them now) the hard drive on my desktop died in the middle of the night. I just want to Wally World and purchase new drive and downloaded all my files.

            Far as my formatting question goes. I just uninstalled a lot of programs I haven't been using, cleaned temp files out, restarted a few times and it runs much better.

  2. madthinus

    I will look at the thermal performance of the laptop first. See what happens to the CPU clock speed when you put it under load. Might be that you need to clean the fans and heat sinks If it starts fast and slows down as you use, it might just be the cooling solution that is starting to fail or is just clogged up and needs cleaning.

    • j5

      In reply to madthinus:

      That is is a great idea thanks! I haven't cracked it open since I first got it years back to install the mechanic drive. Thanks for that tip!!!