- I don't install anything on my OS partition other than my OS. I install all programs to a different one. Most do not need reinstalling if I wipe out and rebuild my OS.
- I configure things to move as much off of my system drive as possible...bookmarks, email, start menu, quicklaunch toolbars, etc.
- I keep a log of everything I install, every change I make, all settings I tweak...with the dates and times....and I keep a printed out copy in a binder notebook. I also make screenshots of some stuff to make it easier to reconfigure, or so I can compare, in case something goes wrong at some point in the future. They are also printed out and kept in the notebook.
- I export all settings in any program that will allow it.
- I have a series of batch files I run as scheduled tasks that copy any files that change on a regular basis that I couldn't afford to lose that can't be moved of my OS drive. I have at least 14 backups of most things...a week's worth on another partition and a week's worth on another hard drive. I also have backups from both pc's on both pc's...meaning in some things I have 28 backups in total.
- I also burn stuff that would be hard or impossible for me to replace...and I make 2 copies...one of which I do not keep in my home. My father has a case with disks of mine...and I have one with disks of his....just in case something happened like a fire or burglary and everything was destroyed or lost, I would still have the disks I keep at his house.
As soon as I finish organizing & merging the data on this pc, that is a combination of data from 3 pc's, and my system drive's data is small enough to put on 1 dvd, I plan on making a full backup and setting up my own restore partition to make it much faster & easier to roll back or restore.
I have had experience with restoring after wiping out my OS and starting from scratch. Most of the programs didn't need to be reinstalled, just needed me to enter their keys again. A few others did need reinstalling, but they were no big deal.
When setting up my new pc, I was able to copy my entire software partition from two 9x PC's to XP, and most stuff worked just fine without needing to be actually 'installed'. In the case of the exceptions, I would rename the folder from the old install, install to a new folder, and see if the old one worked...if it does, I delete the new install folder and rename the old folder back to what it was. (This is about the best way to reinstall AOL and not lose any of your bookmarks, email, or any other customizations and/or personal files.)
Keeping a log makes it easy to reproduce the same steps I had done before and get everything back just the way I like it. It also gives me a clue as to what could have caused the problem that lead to me having to start all over again, too. It also made it easier to set up another pc with the same tweaks & settings...making it much more comfortable for me to use. It also makes it easier to reproduce things on someone else's pc, when I am troubleshooting problems they might be having and tweaking their settings to fix it.