A lot of people end up losing music, libraries, ratings, etc.. Or downloading new installers (Nvidia drivers are 100+MB) which can take forever depending on their connection..
A little customization of your programs and libraries can go a long way to making the headache MUCH less:
I'm going to use 3 examples of things I do, and if you have any questions or suggestions feel free to reply with them. Keep in mind this doesn't stop at these 3 examples, but I don't want to post every single little thing I do as it'd be pages worth. So I'm keeping it to media, a game, and prerequisite files:
iTunes and other media players:
I put my iTunes music into a custom folders (not "\Josh\My Music\etc...") in the ROOT of my boot drive (On non-boot drive also works the same). This is because when reinstalling Windows, it will move any files in subdirectories that it created into "Windows.old" and this requires you to fish for them and move them back out if you ever have to reinstall. But it does NOT move any ROOT folders that are not created by Windows.
So I put my music in "C:\Music" and change iTunes settings (and any other media players) accordingly, to keep their libraries in that location. I also install the media players in the directory alongside the files they're meant to play (in a sister-folder of course.) Then when I have to reinstall Windows, I can keep my ratings, songs, and even playcounts by keeping my programs in a custom location where Windows installer does not move/remove them. It also makes inter-operability a lot faster for me: When importing an audio file to render a montage, I know exactly where every file is: Regardless of the various programs that save them wherever they feel like saving them: Because I chose to control each one to my own liking.
Battlefield 3 and other games:
I actually just had to reinstall this morning, because my OS was bogging down and ruining my performance in-game on this very game. And I didn't have to download 15GB worth of install files, because I also keep my games the way that best suits me:
Battlefield 3 is a game that requires MULTIPLE programs to run, so when reinstalling Windows, you end up with fragments of required files EVERYWHERE, and often your installer is entirely deleted, making this game a "start from scratch" reinstall if you aren't prepared.
I install Origin to a custom folder (on secondary HDD, but using boot ROOT works also, just my preference to keep games off my boot drive).
I change Origin's setting from it's menu:
-Don't delete installers after install (saves me a re-download later, instead I just click install and wait 30 seconds.)
-Install games to "custom ROOT/secondary HDD directory of your choosing".
-And to save all files I can possibly change to these custom directories OUTSIDE of default Windows directories.
So when I reinstalled Windows, I simply reinstalled Origin and the respective files were left there: leaving me to activate the BF3 installer, wait a few seconds, and jump in the game.
Prerequisite files and installers:
I'm talking about DirectX, Nvidia driver installers, Microsoft VC, Java, Flash, etc.. Things you need for other programs to work:
I keep a custom directory layout here, too:
Inside this I do two things:
-Install WinRAR into a folder (as it doesn't require registry keys, and can be run immediately on new Windows install [just set file associations.]
-Save my installers and compress them with WinRAR.
Being right next to WinRAR, I just open the folder, decompress the installers, and run them. When I'm done, I delete the extracted copies and just leave the archives for next time. Saves me a LOT of download and search time, and the chance of something specific being removed from the sites I can find it on.
Keeping practices like these will help you a LOT if like me: You don't have an spare drive big enough to keep an official backup. If you have a big enough backup drive, there's really no point in doing this.
--Edit: I'm going to sum up VERY BRIEFLY a general idea of where I save things, by just typing the folder structure, which oughtta explain itself:
**(programs such as CPU-z, Furmark, 3DMark, AI Suite, EVGA Precision, etc.. Any advanced programs that affect or monitor overall system performance go here, programs such as Photoshop or Handbrake go in "Programs" as they have nothing to do with my system performance.)
And I think that about sums it up, I break subfolders down into something that makes sense to me, and this way Windows doesn't move my files when I reinstall.
Edited by dragonsdontfly, 13 April 2012 - 10:34 AM.