4. Install any non-original-equipment peripherals you want to use on the system. Visit the OEM's and peripheral vendors' sites; download (but don't install) updated drivers, patches, etc. Place these new drivers, patches, etc. on the new partition you created in step 3.
5. Using the Win9x CD that came with your PC, copy the CAB files to the new partition. Some OEMs don't send you a Win98 CD; instead they play games with the CAB files and store them in a C:\WINDOWS subdirectory; wherever they are, find them, and copy them.
6. Run a thorough antivirus program, scan using the latest available virus definitions.
7. Make and test a Windows emergency boot floppy disk (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, Startup Disk). Check to make sure you can restart you system from the disk and access your backup files from that disk. (For example, if you store your backups on a CD-R (Compact Disc-Recordable) make sure the emergency boot disk contains the drivers needed for you to access your CD.)
8. Here's a step that's bound to be controversial: Reformat the C drive from the emergency boot disk. Do NOT reformat the partition that contains any backup files, downloaded drivers, Windows CAB files, etc. Just wipe out the original factory install. Why? Because most vendors include branded or customized Windows components, special backgrounds or screen savers and such that are basically just ads. And most have made assumptions about the way the system should be set up -- assumptions that may or may not jibe with your needs. Wiping out the factory installation lets you put back just what you want, in just the way you want it -- not the way some marketing department decided for you. Besides, with a full backup, you always can restore the factory setup, if you need to.
9. Setup Windows afresh using the CAB files in the untouched, non-reformatted partition; and install all new drivers, patches, etc you downloaded earlier so everything is operating properly. Run Windows Update; get all to-date critical updates.
10. In My Computer/Properties/Performance/File System, choose "network server" (even if it's not a server); under the Floppy Disk tab, uncheck "search for new floppy." Under My Computer, Properties, Performance, Virtual Memory, set virtual memory the way you want. (In systems with abundant disk space, I place the swap file out of the way on the second partition, and set a minimum size equal to the amount of RAM, with no maximum size set.)
11. In the networking applet, ensure that File and Printer Sharing is not bound to any TCP/IP stack. In Dial-Up Networking, make sure only TCP/IP is active, and that "log on to system" is not checked.
12. Adjust the Recycle Bin (via its properties) to a reasonable size. By default, the Bin will take 10 percent of your hard drive space, and on today's large drives, that's an insane waste of space. A mere two or three percent is usually ample.
13. Run ScanDisk in "thorough" mode on all drives, and be warned this could take a while, depending on disk size, file system type, disk speed and CPU speed.
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