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Yes, Virginia: A Clean Install Still Makes a Difference!

Over the past couple of days, I’ve reinstalled Windows 10 on my colleague Kim’s Lenovo T530 laptop. I also installed a Samsung EVO 840 mSATA SSD as the unit’s new boot drive. The prior occupant of that role was a three-year-old HGST 500 GB HDD (probably still a Hitachi hard disk at the time it was manufactured, though the brand is now part of the Western Digital family). I’m pretty sure most of the resulting performance improvement comes from switching from a spinning disk to an SSD, but the results of this switchover are nothing short of amazing. Where the laptop used to take almost a minute to boot, it now takes less than 10 seconds. Where it used to take almost 30 seconds to shut down, it now finishes that task in about 7 seconds.

diskpart-t530

The old partition scheme featured 5 partitions.

The real benefits from the clean install include more than just a speed boost, they also encompass the following improvements as well:

  • Vastly increased system stability: even though the previous install reported back from DISM /online /cleanup-image /checkhealth with no component store corruption, it suffered from numerous quirks and instabilities. Not the least of these was recurring issues with the Start menu (subsequent research lays responsibility for these faults on Dropbox, BTW, not MS).
  • Reduced system clutter: a clean install sweeps away all updates and applications that are outdated and/or unused.  That’s because (a) they don’t get applied or (b) because they don’t get re-installed. Once again, Ninite proved invaluable in making it easy-peasey for me to reinstall the apps that Kim wanted on her machine. The only to-dos left were for-a-fee subscription suites such as MS Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Driver sanity: I used SlimWare’s excellent DriverUpdate to bring the T530 drivers up to snuff. Despite Win10’s generally great driver handling abilities, I ended up adding or updating 14 drivers after the clean install completed. Several items, such as Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology, are not included in the base install from MS and need to be added if one wishes to use their facilities. Thanks to DriverUpdate’s outstanding automation, all I had to do was to reboot, reboot, reboot while those installs kept completing to make sure they altered system state and configuration as they were supposed to.

I did encounter a couple of gotchas on my way to completing the add SSD/clean install task list. They included an unwillingness for the OS (diskmgmt.msc, actually) to “see” the Samsung mSATA SSD until after rebooting twice following physical installation, and the unwillingness of the HGST drive to surrender its priority position in the BIOS boot order, no matter what contortions I went through with BCD editing, startup repair, and so forth. I eventually had to delete all of that drive’s partitions in DISKPART, then restore the files from a backup to the reformatted, single-partition I created to replace the original five-partition disk structure that reflected upgrades from Windows 7 to 8 to 8.1 to 10 (depicted in the DISKPART screen cap earlier in this post).

For once, the story has a happy ending. The Samsung EVO 840 250 GB drive retails for about $150-165 right now, but remains well worth the money. Even though it’s (relatively) loafing along in the SATA-2 equivalent PCIe slot it currently occupies in Kim’s laptop, it’s so much faster than the HDD it supersedes that the system performance is noticeably and pleasingly faster. Happy New Year!

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