I just bought a new laptop (Gigabyte P34G) and am looking to "do things right" this time around. First, what is the best way to remove all the bloatware on the laptop? I know that manually uninstalling programs is an option. It doesn't seem ideal though as there will be some cruft leftover. Is there a way to perform a clean install of Windows after exporting drivers? I have a desktop computer and 32 GB flash drive, so I'll be able to create restore media if I need to.
Also, in the future I want to be able to restore my laptop to a pristine state as semi-routine maintenance. What is my best option for doing this? Are there any ideal options for both removing the bloatware and having the ability to restore my laptop in the future?
You can't really do a clean install of Windows unless you buy the disc (retail or OEM) because if you attempt to do a factor reinstall it will simply reinstall all the crap you don't want.
I would simply uninstall the bloatware you do not want. Install all programs you want the laptop to always have and update everything to the latest version. For example, I always use Excel so I install it and update it. Download CCleaner to clean the Windows Registry. It will give you an option to make a back of the things it will delete from the Registry in case it actually breaks something. If a program doesn't work properly or if Windows behave oddly you can then do a restore. I have used CCleaner for several years and I never had a problem with so for I don't bother making a backup.
Next step would be to delete all the temporary files which Ccleaner can do for the most part, like Internet Explore and FireFox cache. However, it does not clean everything since it tends to leave things in the temp folder which is:
C:\Users\<Your User Name>\AppData\Local\Temp
Note: The AppData is a hidden folder so you need to set Windows so that you hidden folders will be displayed. This option is found through the Control Panel in "Appearance and Personalization" \ "Folder Options" \ "Show hidden files and folders"
I don't care about hibernation so I disable it. It also uses round 3GB - 4GB of storage space. Click the following link to enable \ disable hibernation:
Next up is to delete \ clean up system files. Basically when you update Windows with a service pack, that service pack is kept in the system folder so that if you should ever want to uninstall the service pack you can simply do so. Most people do not uninstall a service so it is not necessary to keep. Right click the C: drive and click "Properties", in the General tab you should see a "Disk Cleanup" button. Click to run and you will shortly see another window. You should then see a button for "Cleanup system files". Click it so that it can check to see if there are any to delete. It should appear as Windows Update Cleanup. Check off the box (and any other boxes), then click "OK" to delete.
The last thing to do is to move the PageFile off of the C: drive. Most people partition the single hard drive that the laptop comes with so that you have a C: and D: drive. Important stuff should be on the D: drive since a factory restore does not touch the D: drive.
Most laptops should have a program to allow you to create a Recovery Disk. At this point in time that is what you should do. Anytime you want to do a clean restore, use the the Recovery Disk image that you just made that way to don't have to bother installing programs you will always want to have on your laptop.
Lastly, if there is a game that you always want to play (like some Sims 3 fanatics) then install the game(s), and then create another Recovery Disk image.
I simply tell them to install the game on the D: drive. There is no need actually backup the installed game itself. When you install a game, data is written to the Registry which is on the C: Drive and it is part of the disk image you created. As long you do not actually delete the game on the D: drive, the game is still playable immediately after you restore the image of the C: Drive.
One thing to keep in mind is that game save files are saved to the C: drive under your username so you need to backup that data on to the D: drive so that your progress will not be lost. Once you have restored Windows, then move those files back to the C: Drive.