Semi-Annual purge

I asked a question on a forum and a random guy left a passing comment. It went something along the lines of, "You could always install a fresh copy of the OS, just backup your files." The concept was alien to me.

This was in the era of XP and Vista, I was still a teenager and my naive self used the same install for months and years at a stretch. Tiny hacks all the way from defragmenting drives to purging temporary files and religiously updating drivers hadn't worked. Neither did limiting startup processes.

Although great advices, they never quenched my thirst to see the snappier desktop I so longed for. So I decided to give it a go. Only potential downside? The responsibility of having to back up my shit. The lesson was a valuable one and in hindsight, that was a welcome inconvenience.

So I started what I call a bi-annual refresh. A new copy of the Operating System every few months. Here’s basically a run-down of what I do when I first log in.

  • Download Firefox - despite some of my gripes (bugzilla) with the software, it has been default for far too long. The sync works amazingly well and takes care of everything else.
  • Get myself a copy of Everything - because Windows search is still catching up.
  • Head over to Visual Studio Code’s website and get a copy. Following it up with getting git, npm, python, node, java, blah blah blah...
  • Within VSC - is a great extension for backing up and restoring my installed extensions, themes and settings. A simple click and it does the rest of the work for me.
  • I usually don’t bother with the UI but toggling the dark mode system wide is crucial.
  • Now that Windows ships with a night-light built in, I decided to leave flux off the list. Although it has been my friend for years and I wholeheartedly support the software.
  • In theory I would go and manually toggle privacy settings. But I’m lazy. Thankfully there are some talented programmers who made programs to do just that for me. I’ve cycled through some and settled on “Shut Up 10”. Does what it says and gets me through quickly.
  • Photo Viewer has been forcefully banished. This is unfair and I must revolt. I do so by toggling the values of photoviewer.dll and bringing it back to life.
  • The video player that comes built in is...let’s just say not my cup of tea. Media Player Classic has an open source fork called MPC - HC which supports a great number of codecs.

My shit is backed up with Duplicati to manage the offsite backups, it comes with a command line tool which can pull random chunks from the storage bucket, decrypt them, and check the file hashes against expected values. Oh and there’s monthly images of my computer's primary drive replicated offsite. The whole process is ridiculously easy and takes about 30 minutes - from starting to create a USB installation media to the last backup restore.