Going from Vista to XP, then using data on removable media written from XP.

Well, it seems my latest computer, just eleven months old, has become a cesspool of infection, its Vista 64 OS writhing with viruses. At least, this is what the Geek Squad tell me is the root cause of its slow performance, occasional blue screen crashes, slow or stalled shutdowns, and last but not least the thirty-seven minute lifespan of a battery charge that was about four hours on January 1. How it got so badly infected I don’t know. I’ve been installing all the critical Windows updates and service packs. I’ve been keeping my Norton Internet Security up to date and submitting with pained resignation to its continual pleas to run resource hogging full system scans. I don’t download illicit software or content. I avoid the sort of websites that exist only to send popups and adware my way. About the only unusual thing I’ve been doing is streaming German TV programs from ZDF, but that’s legal too. Yet there it is: an OS about to collapse under the weight of all these slimy, crawling viruses.

Having a good idea what’s coming, I backed up all my critical data, or most of it, on DVDs. Some of it is simply copied to the disks in WINRAR files and some of it was transferred using Windows Backup. What I thought was going to happen was that the Geek Squad, at Best Buy where I bought the computer would either repair the OS and save the data, or wipe the disk and replace the OS, but either way it would be free, because I paid extra for – err – “protection” – when I bought the computer. Turns out I was wrong about that; my service contract is only for hardware, like if a screw comes loose in the fan or something.

But I happen to have an installation disk for 64-bit Windows XP. I could never use it before because I was never in a position of being willing to wipe my hard drive and install an OS, but now I don’t have any option but. In fact, I would rather not try to retain anything presently on my HDD, since that way I can be reasonably sure that there will be no leftover segments of any old drivers or other software.

So how difficult is this going to be? Is there more to this process than simply, “(1) format C:, (2) insert XP disk, and (3) run setup.exe on the XP disk”? I do have a standby computer, so if something goes wrong I’ll still have some access to the Internet for troubleshooting the installation.

I’d say the Norton abomination is your principle problem.
If you have the recovery discs for the computer, just run those and the drive should be automatically reformatted and Vista reinstalled.
It may be that you have a recovery partition instead of discs (NOT the System Restore nonsense) This is usually accessible by hitting F12 during POST.

Reinstall Vista, catch up with all the updates, install Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast! Antivirus and SuperAntiSpyware (all free) and you should be problem free.

Installing XP could give you far more headaches as there may not be the hardware drivers appropriate to your laptop.

I reinstalled Vista on my laptop about four months ago, took an hour.

Dump Norton. Get yourself a copy of Malware Bytes and Avast. Turn UAC back on. And take the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 7.

For installing the OS, there’s a better way, with no need to reformat, assuming you’ve got the space on your HDD.

Boot from the CD/DVD to a command prompt.

Rename c:\Documents and Settings or \Users
Rename c:\Program Files
Rename c:\ProgramData (this is a hidden directory)
Rename c:\Windows\Win.Ini
Rename c:\Windows
Rename c:\Boot.ini

For a Brucie Bonus, move all the above into one directory called Old.

Now install your new OS. This way, if you find you’re missing something, you haven’t lost it.

In my case I think I’m better off reformatting the disk anyhow; for one thing this would minimize the winsxs which is now about 19G. Moreover trying to configure SQL Server and Visual Studio to work and play together had turned into a real headache, but when I installed that SW on my old computer a few days ago I had no problem whatsoever, leading me to think that the issues on the new computer include data or code that is interfering with this software. Better to start with a clean disk, in my opinion.

Myglaren I’m pretty sure there’s no recovery partition, assuming you mean I would see a virtual disk D:\ in the My Computer folder. That isn’t the case here.

Do not install XP 64!

A restore partition may be hidden. What brand is the computer, and do you have all the disks that came with it? There may also be a program installed that you can use to burn a set of discs to restore to factory condition.

I wouldn’t trust Geek Squad on anything computer related. They are known for consistently and deliberately misdiagnosing problems to improve their bottom line.

Yep, don’t reinstall XP, particularly if it’s a laptop. It’s very likely that XP doesn’t have the drivers you need (e.g. SATA) so you’ll be screwed.

Try using Spybot Search & Destroy from safer networking. Spybot seems to catch a lot of stuff Norton can’t.

If it’s a worst case scenario, try running chkdsk. If you see several hard drives listed, and you only have one, that’s the hidden restore sector. Consult your manufacturer’s website for how to access it.

All that came with the computer was a Toshiba AV tool which I could never get to run.

Assuming that it’s still possible to create a restore disk, and I’m not sure it is, would it be advisable to do so at this point? Given the purported degree of corruption–and given the issues I’m having there’s no reason to assume the Geeks are exaggerating–how could I expect it to be able to produce a clean restoration disk?

To wipe and restore the OS the Geeks want $130 and I may have to do that, but I’m also looking into whether I can get a replacement copy of Vista-64 (or possibly an upgrade to Win7).

You have the Vista license. Go borrow someone else’s actual disk. $130 just to reformat and reinstall is ridiculous. You could actually go out and buy the new disk. If you have to spend money, go get a (licensed) copy of Windows 7. I’m sure you can get an OEM version pretty cheap.

The restore discs (3 DVDs) are created from the recovery partition files. They will restore it back to the factory configuration, wiping out your current installation. Viruses will be gone.

Look under Programs, Toshiba, Recovery, Recovery Disc Creator.


Turns out I did get a recovery disk and I have been able to roll the system back to its out-of-the-box condition–no Geek Squad, no $130 to pay. Needless to say, the Geek Squad is notorious for charging exorbitant amounts of money, just to connect a couple of cables and plug something into the wall. I did use them once to set up a wireless network, but only because I didn’t want to run even the relatively small risk that something would go wrong and the set-up turn out to take longer than I expected. At the time I was moving into a new place and didn’t want to get stuck on a computer issue.