Adopt a Clean Slate with your Computer

A computer is a key part of our photography practice. It is worth keeping it healthy.

We all rely on our computers, whether you are a photographer or a digital artist. Keeping it in a healthy state is critical.

Over the years I have found that one of the keys to having an effective computer is to, on a regular cycle, do a complete reformat and reinstall of everything on the computer. This means backing up all your key data and then doing an operating system re-install doing a clean format of the disk first. Then reinstall the applications you need and then restore the files you need.

On Windows computers I see this as an important thing to do at least once a year. On a Mac about once every year to two years seems to be right.

There are many benefits from doing this. Some of these are:

  • A chance to review just what applications you have installed;
  • Removal of any virus or spyware that has somehow got past your anti-virus software;
  • A complete defragmentation of the hard disk;
  • Encourages you to update all your drivers to the latest versions and is also a good time to check for firmware updates.

In my case, recently, my Macbook was starting to run applications slowly, not helped by my tendency to have many open at the same time. I had also held off upgrading it to 10.5. I had taken my desktop to that a while back. So it was time to backup everything and do a full reinstall and upgrade.

To backup I copied everything over onto an external drive so I had a fully bootable duplicate. I then did an install with a full reformat of the disk. On the Mac things are helped by a Migration utility that will copy over just what you need. I had it recreate my main user account, with email, etc, but to not copy applications and other things over. I then manually copied over what I needed and reinstalled applications that I wanted, installing some new ones, like CS4, that I had trouble installing before because of testing the beta versions. This is a perennial problem for software and hardware testers.

By creating a complete bootable backup of my old system I could, if I needed to, simply either restore the old machine state or reboot to it for some time to get some work done while I was sorting out issues with the new setup. Windows users, of course, have their own way of making a bootable system backup.

The result is a laptop (in my case) that is running noticeably faster, is far more tolerant of lots of open applications and more available disk space. It also seems to have slightly better battery life, undoubtedly due to better management software in the new operating system version. I also know I have the latest printer drivers and such installed.

Over the years of running both Macs and PCs I have found that Windows machines benefit from this being done much more often. I know my next task like this is my daughters Dell laptop. I may take it Vista now that there have been enough cycles of bug fixes, drivers released, etc.

Practicing good computer hygiene means giving your computer a good cleanout every so often. Schedule it.

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