How-To: Give Your Laptop a Clean Start

Alex Castle

>> Click Here to Learn How to Decrapyify Your Laptop

>> Click Here to Learn How to Give Your Desktop a Clean Start!

Back in February, we brought you an article called Give Windows a Clean Start , which explained all the details about how to properly perform a system-cleansing reformat, without losing your valuable data. It covered important steps like salvaging product keys, deactivating apps, prepping iTunes and making backups. The original article was written for desktop PCs, and although nearly all of the techniques also work for laptops, we thought a supplement about how to install laptop drivers on a fresh Windows install as called for.

Sure, almost all laptops come with recovery discs or recovery partions, so a full reformat is rarely absolutely necessary, but there are a number of reasons you might want to do it:

1.    You want the cleanest of clean—not even a thorough decrapifying is enough for you.

2.    You want to reformat and upgrade or downgrade to Vista or XP.

3.    You’ve managed to truly, thoroughly hose your laptop beyond all recognition, and you lost your restore disc.

If one of the above applies to you and you have a retail Windows install disc, then give your laptop a clean start!. First, check out the original article for advice about saving your data, then read on to learn what software you'll need to install after your reformat.

Service Packs

Before you begin, install the service pack(s) for your version of Windows. These correct major security vulnerabilities and will go a long way toward keeping your computer from being compromised when you connect it to the internet. Modern routers have built-in firewalls that do a pretty good job of keeping your computer safe, but for the sake of prudence we recommend that you download the service pack installer (available for XP and Vista ) then transfer it to your new computer using a thumb drive.


With more specialized hardware, laptops are even more reliant on having the right drivers than their desktop brethren. With a desktop, finding the right drivers is a pretty simple matter. Want drivers for video card? Just swing by the AMD or NVIDIA support page and pick up the latest package. Sound card? Same. Peripherals like mice and webcams? They usually come packaged with the product itself, and even if they don’t you can almost always find them on the manufacturers webpage.

Things get a bit stickier on a laptop, though. Because everything is integrated—graphics, sound, peripherals—you need special drivers, designed for your laptop. So step number one has to be collecting the drivers you’ll need.

Fortunately, this is actually pretty easy. The only trick is that instead of going to the manufacturer for any of the individual components of your laptop, you want to go straight to the Laptop OEM’s site. They’ll almost always have a page where you can select your model and download drivers. For your convenience, here are links to the support pages of some major laptop makers:






There’s a problem, though… Rather than describe it in words, we’ll just post this picture:

Yeah—that’s a hell of a lot of drivers. Thankfully, you don’t need all of them. Below, we’ll categorize which drivers you’ll need and (roughly) in what order you’ll want to install them.

1.  Chipset

Generally speaking, the order you install your drivers in doesn’t matter a ton; this numbered list is more of a checklist to make sure you get everything done. However , it is a very good idea to install the chipset drivers, which control the motherboard, first. They’re the most likely to cause problems if installed out of order.

2.  Network

Assuming you want your notebook to be able to connect to the internet, you’re going to want to install network drivers. The most important is the LAN driver . This controls your laptop’s integrated NIC, allowing you to use your Ethernet ports. You should also install the Wireless LAN driver , if you want to use Wi-Fi. If you’re still stuck in the stone age, on a dial-up connection, you’ll want to install the modem driver instead. Once you’ve installed network drivers, you can turn Windows Update on and let it download the latest patches and security fixes for Windows.

3.  Adapters

Next, install the drivers for the laptop’s integrated video and audio . If you’re used to working with a desktop, your first instincts will be to go to the AMD, NVIDIA or SoundBlaster websites, but fight the urge: you want the specialized drivers available on the laptop manufacturer’s website.

4.  Peripherals

With drivers for the laptop’s guts set up, move on to the peripherals. Of course, these depend on your laptop’s exact loadout, but generally you’ll be looking for trackpad , webcam , microphone , and Bluetooth drivers . If your laptop came with any readers (i.e. SD cards, smartcards, fingerprint) you need the drivers for those, as well.

So download all of the drivers that you need, according to the above list, drop them on a USB key, and then run them on your fresh Windows install.Your laptop should be in the best shape of it's life!

Now that you're finished with the drivers, you can use what you learned from the original article to restore your old data and applications.Good luck!

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