Step 6: Make Windows Your Own
Congratulations. You now have a new version of Windows, configured exactly the way Microsoft and/or your system vendor like it (or, the way they liked it at the time you bought your PC).
Now you have to configure it, remove any preinstalled junk, install your own software, and generally make it yours all over again. This is, in my opinion, the longest and most annoying part of the job, and in Step 7 I'll tell you how to avoid it in the future. But for now, do the following.
a. In Control Panel's Users applet, create log-ons for yourself and any other users. You will need to have at least one Administrator-level user.
b. Remove bundled programs you don't want. I recommend the portable version of Revo Uninstaller for this job.
c. Restore your backed-up drivers. You can probably skip the drivers for anything that came with your PC, as your restore tool likely creates a version of Windows already set up with them.
d. Download and install any Windows updates.
e. Starting with your security software, install programs you use that didn't come with the PC. Update them, and then configure them to your liking.
f. Rearrange the Start menu as you wish.
g. Select your preferred wallpaper, screen saver, power settings, and so on.
Step 7: Create Another Image Backup
No, I'm not kidding. This step isn't strictly necessary, but if you ever need to restore Windows to this computer again, you can simply back up your personal data, restore this fresh and clean image backup, and then put your data back in its place.
Remember, the restore tool restores Microsoft's and your vendor's configuration of Windows, not yours. Think of this image as your own, customized restore tool, allowing you to skip Step 6 the next time around.
Because you have not yet copied your data back to the hard drive, this image will be relatively small. Put it on a series of writeable DVDs rather than an external drive, label them clearly with today's date, and safely store them away.
Step 8: The Final Touch
With Windows ready and recoverable, restore your data from the data backup with a few simple drags and drops. In the unlikely event that that backup has been damaged, restore it from the image backup. And keep both backups around for a month or so, just in case you missed an important file.
Finally, sigh, relax, treat yourself to something decadent, and get on with your life.