Windows 10 will end OS reinstall headaches

System files in place will end the nuisance of having to do multiple updates after a reinstall.

Windows 10 sign
Credit: unknown

We've all been there. After several years, your Windows installation is a mess of old libraries and half-uninstalled apps making the machine slow. Or perhaps you got a virus and needed to wipe the C: drive.

So you install Windows 7 (or 8). That takes all of 20 minutes, but the process of downloading the hundreds of updates ends up taking hours. That was my recent experience. It took about 15 minutes to install Windows 7 (SSD drive made it fast), but 3 hours of updating.

Well, Windows 10 aims to end that headache with an improved backup system that creates a recovery system that uses runtime system files that build the new operating system from files that are already on the PC.

Microsoft explained in a blog post that Windows 10 will employ two separate approaches for achieving a compact footprint. First, Windows 10 will use a compression algorithm to compress system files and reduce the Windows footprint on the install drive. That should be good for smaller-sized SSDs. 

"With current builds, Windows can efficiently compress system files. That gives back approximately 1.5GB of storage for 32-bit and 2.6GB of storage for 64-bit Windows. Phones will also be able to use this same efficient compression algorithm and likewise have capacity savings with Windows 10," the blog post reads.

More important is a redesign of Windows' Refresh and Reset functionality. In the past, you had to leave a recovery image on the PC's hard disk in case you had to do a full system restore. This would consume anywhere from 4GB to 12GB, depending on the make and model.

Instead, the Refresh and Reset functionalities will rebuild the operating system in place using runtime system files already in place. Since these files are the ones that have to be updated by Windows Update with the umpteen fixes that accumulate over time, it should mean not having to download a long list of operating system updates to reinstall after recovering your device.

While this sounds like a good idea in theory, it makes me wonder how practical it will be once it hits the market and all kinds of use cases come up that Microsoft didn't think of. Many times you do a Windows update because the system is a mess, with all kinds of Registry junk, orphaned DLLs and improperly removed apps. That's why you wipe the C: drive.

Also, wouldn't malware writers target the system files even more so than they do now? I hope some of these issues are addressed before launch, which we learned is coming soon.

Windows group chief Terry Myerson announced at the revived WinHEC conference that Windows 10 would launch "this summer" in 190 countries and in 111 languages. Several Chinese hardware makers announced that customers can bring their PCs into retail outlets so vendors can perform the upgrades for them.

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