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last update: 29-07-2006

How I run my windows installation
or "17 years of experience working with MS Windows"
Several partitions/drives
After working with Windows NT for some time, and discovering DriveImage (now Norton Ghost) and I decided to use several drives for my windows-, program- and data-installation.
Today I use
one drive (I:) for windows  (abt. 10Gb)
one drive (P:) for programs (abt. 12Gb)
one drive (Q:) for data I create my self (abt. 30Gb and growing 10% a year)
one drive (R:) for downloads, program backup etc. (never large enough! currently 160Gb)
backup drive (Z:) on server (966Gb on a Raid5 - currently plenty of free space)
This setup makes it relatively simple to re-install windows (I:) or make a backup of data that's especially dear to me (Q:), or to expand the drive that seem to run out of space way too fast (R:).
Tools I use all the time
VersionBackup  This tool will do backup from a workstation to a local disk or a server disk, and more importantly it will keep different versions of the same files, on a daily basis. 
Read more about my experiences with backup systems here.
Norton Utilities
I would not attempt to run my windows system without these two tools:
SpeedDisk and WinDoctor
JSI Inc.   Here you can find A LOT of Tips & Tricks to every aspect of windows (starting with Windows NT)
Radmin   In-expensive and easy to use remote control tool.
Major advantage: With NAT routed LANs, you only need to point in-comming IP:port to one of the PC, and you can internally setup a link to other pc's on the LAN.
logmein.com   Brillient - free -  web based remote control tool. The very best remote control tool I have used to date.
Major advantage: True plug and play! You setup a free account, install the client, and it works!
AnalogX tools   Maker of many fine small utilities.
FastCache is a permanent DNS fixture of my windows workstation.
K9  A free and extremely effective anti-spam tool. At the core is a mathematical system looking at the words and letters of every mail you receive. 

When first installed, it does and knows nothing! 

You then classify the first 10 emails or so, that you receive after installing K9. and it starts working.
For the next about 100 or so emails you get, you need go into K9 and make sure that it scores correctly. From then on it just gets better and better at predicting and sorting out spam. Highly recommendable.

miniClock  A small tool I have made in VB6, it shows a dual time, as I have family on the other side of the globe. Also time and date is always visible on the screen, as it sits at the top of the screen on-top of everything else - at all times!
Norton Ghost  
Make a complete backup of your windows installation, from time to time, and you will never again have to make a complete re-install - or a reinstall to a previous known status is always available within minutes, and your wordprocessing and email and... still works correctly - instantly!
Read more about my experience with windows stability and re-installs here.
SpeedFan  In the quest to get a completely silent PC, this tool has shown its true colors.
MS Office   Every body needs basic writing tools. I use MS Office 2K.
About Backup 
Through the years I have tried different tape-based backup systems, and I simply do not find them reliable or easy to use.
Not even the rather expensive tape systems I used when being a systems and network manager at a small print house (100 employees).

So today I simply backup my data to another disk. The extra disk is attached to a server, placed in another building.

I have tried different backup tools, and VersionBackup fits all my needs for backup. It automatically runs abt. 8 times every 24 hours on my main workstation, and automatically stores the newest version from day to day in a version system. 
The backup is made to a server disk, and I keep the backup files un-compressed and un-zipped. This way I can use the brilliant built-in backup-browser or I can just use Explorer to restore files.

I only backup files that I create myself. As this keeps my backup needs at a manageable level, and even with a daily addition of often changed files to the backup space, it still fits nicely onto todays medium sized disks.

System Backup or Partition Backup
Win3.1 In the Win3.1 days, it was normal that one had to restart ones pc several times a day. The developers in the office even reinstalled windows every week. So we quickly devised a method of copying the entire windows installation to the server, and thus a re-install of windows - including pre-installed programs and tools - could be done in a matter of minutes.
Win9x With Win95 and Win98 the re-installs became much less needed. However the procedure also  became a bit more difficult, as the network drivers were usually a part of the windows environment, and not a part of the DOS drivers.
WinNT In the WinNT days one could work for months without the need to re-install Windows, it was becoming more of a joy to work with, develop for and maintain a Windows network.

However a complete re-install of windows and needed office programs had become quite a chore whenever it was needed. The average install time was 4-12 hours depending on the programs and tools that was needed for the specific user.
Different methods were developed and tested. Off the shelf utilities became available.

For my personal workstation (which now took 16+ hours to re-install) I developed a discipline of keeping a notepad document with listing of all the programs and setting installments and adjustments made. And then at regular intervals I would take a complete backup of the drive/partition of windows. 
This backup was made using DriveImage. Today (2006) Symantec has acquired the company (and technology) and sell it under the brand name of Ghost.

With Win2k and now WinXP re-installs are less and less of a problem, as each version of windows has had major improvements in the area of stability and longevity.

However - I still keep a notepad document listing of all the programs I install, and I still make copies of the windows partition. Years of tough learned habits with multiple times of weeks of delays on project deadlines due to un-timely crashes of pc's (hardware and/or software) will not go away easily.