Ended up doing an early image restore. Went fine. Used Macrium, even though I had divided it into two partitions (which is hard for Macrium, it put Humpty back together and then I divided it up later). Other image software can reinstall to a smaller spot, but Macrium is so good, I wanted to give them a chance. Remember, it is an early image, so only about 5 Gigabytes .. oh, those poor pagefiles, always trying to force a couple more gigs of junk.
My c:/ and d:/ (user data) had all been copied over to an external drive en masse before this was done, just to be safe. Using PMan from Parted Magic. Also very simple. For the re-partition I used Mini-Tool Partition Wizard, a very highly regarded freeware program.
Last time I had a similar problem, in 2009, I had to do a full OS restore. And that is a hassle. First you have to have the CDs, then you have to get the Internet up (I had a built-in driver problem.). Or spend $90 to have the guy in the shop do it, presuming your system is all fine with MS with a serial#. Lots of annoying possible little uggies that you only want to experience once, or zero.
The early images I did on that last OS reinstall one were a huge help. For most daily usage I do not believe in images, because if your system is clogged or mal-ed, the image will be clogged. You bomb out every couple of years, then do an OS reinstall at that point. Start clean and lean.
(I am not talking about the techie experimenters here, who have different needs, and for whom an image restore can be a daily need.)
However, for normal personal use:
** I strongly recommend redundant images (e.g. Macrium, DriveImageXL, Paragon, Easeus, two at least, the techie below Windows ones are fine also) after any OS reinstall and with any new system. ***
(Make the recovery CDs, too, since things change there and you know it should match).
The reason for the redundancy is that images are not fool-proof.
One image, or group, right after you have the internet up, drivers, etc.
And another one or two after you have your basic programs reinstalled.
A day or two later, still with a very light system.
Then, you should back up your data, of course, but in anything other than a disk crash or BIOS destruction, you can get the totally current data, at the moment of crash, the way mentioned above. Thus you do not have to "over-backup" anything but critical daily data. I will conjecture that 95% or so of crashes and lockups are OS corruption and/or malware, only a small percent are disk crashes (and for that monitoring, I like Hard Disk Sentinel from Bits, but .. you never know).
Oh, my system runs a ton better now. The 50-100 Firefox tabs barely make a dent. Exactly why ? Good question. Much less loading, services and programs. And yes, the registry is "clean". This is my recommended way of registry cleaning
. Any other reasons ? Not sure. I do have the current versions now, like Firefox 11.