Have You Played… Setting Up A New PC?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives noodling about PC-related experiences. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

It might just be one of my favourite hobbies. Don’t judge me.

There’s a balm to sitting down with a new PC, or just a fresh Windows installation, and gradually making everything Just So. Every application you need, every sign-in and setting recreated, every icon just so on desktop and taskbar. It’s like moving into a new house, all bare walls and chilly corridors, then gradually spreading life to it over the next few weeks. Setting the desktop wallpaper is as meaningful a stamp of identity as is choosing curtains or putting up a print.

Of course, with a new PC you don’t need to lug around boxes or worry that the lampshape got squashed by wine bottles. Driver downloads are our bin bags full of clothes, Chrome and Spotify and Office are our sofas and dining tables and washing machines.

Then Steam and itch and maybe even Origin, of course. These are the local boozers and parks and ponds, nearby entertainment when the work is done (though not substitute for really going to those places – this is allegory not shut-in strangeness). Just seeing it all take shape, the fixed ideas of what must be where in my mind becoming reality, without reference or instruction – it pleases me.

Shapes and character and most of all true usefulness emerges from the dullness of the freshly-minted Windows desktop. Making a blank, lifeless machine, with all its awful corporate defaults and poorly thought-out toggles mine, as familiar and understood and responsive as my particular demands require.

It’s a day’s project. Sure, it’s gotten quicker in these days of Google sign-ins and Windows 10, but it’s still a project. I wouldn’t want to do it every week – I’m not running away from reality quite that quickly yet – but as an annual endeavour (or more, given how frequently I managed to wreck my OS and have to start over), it’s so very satisfying.


  1. VeniVidiVincent says:

    Though there is a certain fun to be had in all of this I would like to point to the existence of link to ninite.com which gives you a check-list of installable programs so you can just go out and get a pint or somethin’

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Or if you’re a nerd, I recommend Chocolatey. Just keep a list of all the software packages you want to install and do em all in one command. There are various advantages, including being able to update everything with “choco upgrade all”.

      • dr.denton says:

        Great. That recommendation is 10 years late for me. Nowadays I just throw all my stuff into a corner and sit on boxed – metaphorically speaking.
        Except for Winamp. There always has to be a Winamp 2.95 on my computer. Don’t ask

      • Darloth says:

        Thanks, hadn’t heard of that one.

      • keefybabe says:

        I’m such a nerd I kickstartered it. Windows has needed a Linux style package manager for years.

    • Radiant says:


      • Radiant says:

        Seriously who is he?

        • Catar says:

          Hi, my name is Catar and I still use Trillian. Mostly because Google Talk died. It was the best instant messenger ever created, so of course it had to be slowly choked to death by its creator.

          • Mahaku says:

            Never got into Trillian… after ICQ there was only Skype, until today.

    • headless97 says:

      Thanks for sharing Ninite! Now that I know about it, it’s going to make setting up new PCs so much easier. I love the smell of fresh cut computers in the morning!

  2. dahools says:

    A game I have completed more times than I would like to admit over the years.

    Who says Microsoft can’t do replay-ability!

  3. tarinedier says:

    Good timing on this post after the recent one on Sim City 4 – since I have been unable to play that game on any OS but XP without horrible graphical glitches, I have been relegated to playing it on virtual machines for many years – the rolling hills of the early 2000s are well known to me.

    • Regicider 12.4% says:

      link to pcgamingwiki.com
      Always take a look there when having issues. They list available fixes, patches, widescreen support etc.

      Combines autosaving (customisable intervals), renderer choice (DirectX, Software, OpenGL), CPU priority, single CPU affinity, widescreen resolution, windowed, borderless-windowed, skip intro videos, simple mod manager and an ATI/AMD graphics card fix into a single launcher program.

      Happy SimCitying!

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    The horror! Not long ago I did a reinstall of WinXP on my parents’ old living room computer. I was quite stumped when the old cd version refused to run any browser or at least display any website, including the official Microsoft one, leaving me unable to get the SP3 update, without which a computer is just a museum piece. I had to download the executable on another computer, just to find that the old machine refuses to read any USB flash memory I had around the house… I got it to run, can’t even remember how exactly. But it made me appreciate how the last 2 pc just came basically with windows preinstalled and setting up was mostly about waiting for all the updates to apply.

  5. Zenicetus says:

    I do it when I have to, but I don’t look forward to it. I’m still in the process of getting everything built back up on a new computer I bought a month and a half ago.

    It used to be fun, back in the days when everything was loaded from a floppy or DVD. But with so many online purchases to keep track of now, it’s just a drag to reinstall everything and deal with accounts and authorizations. Especially for “legacy” software like the last standalone versions I own of Adobe programs. I refuse to use the new subscription versions that would no doubt be easier to reinstall.

    • Michael Anson says:

      The Adobe subscription is also cheaper than purchasing the software, easier to access for those without hundreds of dollars lying around, and laid out considerably better.

      • Zenicetus says:

        It’s cheaper than purchasing new software if Adobe was still selling standalone versions. It’s not cheaper if the CS5 versions I already paid for are still working fine for me, and all I want to do is reinstall them on a new computer.

        I understand your point, and I’ll probably go kicking and screaming into the subscription model at some time in the future. But only when the new stuff is offering something I actually need. Right now, I can get a heck of a lot of work done with the CS5 generation of Adobe products that don’t tap my credit card once a month.

  6. JagdFlanker says:

    windows gets ‘file filthy’ in relatively short order so it’s good give her a nice fresh clean install every 12-18 months, especially if you like to install/uninstall shit on a regular basis

    • Vermintide says:

      And that’s just what I love about her, such a filthy girl oh yes… All fragmented files and orphaned registry entities… So dirty. Sometimes I’ll have to spend the whole evening delving deep into her directories, giving her a damn good defrag… Mmmph.

      • invitro says:

        Have you ever been spanked with a CD-ROM? I bet you have, naughty boy!

    • plsgodontvisitheforums says:

      I call BS. Haven’t reinstalled since I got the PC in 2012 and it had Windows 7 running on it. That’s so many upgrades to Win 10 anniversary that I lost count. I overclocked my processor and GPU resulting in many , many of crashes. I pirated some obscure shit and edited and hacked the registry to no end. Still running perfectly fine.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      I’ve given up hope of ever managing files on my C: drive. If I want to know where anything is all organised file structures go into my secondary drives. My system drive is a wasteland left for programmes to shove whatever they feel is necessary around.

  7. Jambe says:

    Yay for system images.

  8. gwop_the_derailer says:

    Oh God, having to reinstall all those SDKs…

  9. dangermouse76 says:

    My favourite game is recovery of hard drive after it crashed with my end of year photo-show just around the corner. BACK-UP your shit dude.

    Have to say I do love a good install after a new build. That feeling of a non crap ware OS. Until I put all my crap on it that is.
    Lesson learned though all important files now kept on separate drive with cloud back-up.

  10. geldonyetich says:

    I recently gave this game a replay after going full SSD. It’s gotten easier with Windows boot media being creatable on a flash drive.

  11. waltC says:

    Building your own box with cherry-picked components is always rewarding…;) I’ve been doing it since 1995 when I bought my last OEM box, a Micron Pentium II system that cost $4,700! My, but how things have improved! Ha-ha…;) Thousands of times the storage space and hundreds of times the CPU processing and GPU power–and best of all, for < 25% the cost of that Micron I ordered in '95. For value and performance, nothing beats a hand-built desktop PC (which is also user upgradable and serviceable, too.)

  12. SadOldGuy says:

    I noticed that Microsoft is pushing their new Windows 10 Refresh Windows tool with articles in the usual places in the last 48 hours. Apparently more useful for fools like me that purchase a prebuilt computer than the true PC gamers as it is apparently a very good method of getting rid of bloatware.

  13. Alfy says:

    I played it too often, and have a strong preference for the sequel: “enjoying good games on a stable system”.

  14. blind_boy_grunt says:

    Haven’t played in a while but i’m thinking about replaying on hard-mode, but even the character-creation screen is too much for me (ahh linux and it’s million distributions)

  15. Vedharta says:

    On GNU/Linux this is atleast easy peasy, i’ve been hauling around my configuration with changes and tweaks for perhaps 10 years now.

    Just `tar -cf home.tar /home/$user && dpkg -l |grep ^ii |awk ‘{print $2}’> pkg_list` and do the reverse on the new machine :-)

    • Scandalon says:

      On GNU/Linux this is at least easy peasy,…
      Just `tar -cf home.tar /home/$user && dpkg -l |grep ^ii |awk ‘{print $2}’> pkg_list` and do the reverse on the new machine :-)

      This, this is what’s “wrong” with Linux, or at least the idea of it being on a desktop for mortals. I know what all those commands are, I appreciate the *nix ethos (heck, I’m running a Solaris offshoot for my secondary comp at home), but yeah: “Easy peasy” indeed.

      • Vedharta says:

        You are that mythical person running Illumos? I stand in awe.

      • Hobbes says:

        So I had to just google what Illumos was, on account of that being one of the few things I had precisely zero knowledge about. Initially I thought “Wait, someone forked Solaris? Is this some kind of April Fools?” but no, it’s genuine. There’s a site, with a wiki.

        Now the obvious question becomes “Who” and “Why”. Is this some Zachtronics style puzzle I need to go and figure out? *headscratch*

        Oh, and yeah, that command? If what you’re typing is indistinguishable from modem line noise, then A) Props, and B) NOT EASY! :D

        (it also involved grep AND awk, you just missed sed for the full house)

        • syllopsium says:

          Solaris/ZFS improvements are now closed source, which is why there are Solaris forks, although given what Oracle did to Sun, I’ve not bothered with Solaris or its derivatives for years.

          Nice command, but Unix variant specific, and doesn’t account for system level configuration.

          • Vedharta says:

            I guess you meant to say GNU/Linux Distribution specific. But lets be honest, how many ‘*NIX’s are still relevant? OSX?

            Solaris is the biggest other one remaining and Oracle is quickly pricing it out into exclusivity as a OS you only run if you are vendor locked into hell or if they somehow convinced your upper management you need to run on SPARC T (poor you).

            AIX hasn’t seen true feature development in ages and anything else is pretty much legacy life support.

            I think i’m fine with Linux == UNIX by now ;-)

          • corinoco says:

            And of course being UNIX, one spelling error or misplaced ” and you end up renaming everything in \bin “space”, piping all drive writes to \dev\null and doing rm * in your \home folder.

    • invitro says:

      Why don’t you use compression with your tar? Your home dir must not contain dozens of gigs of text files like mine does.

  16. Hobbes says:

    I used to enjoy doing PC builds. Windows 10 came along. Now I have started to view PC builds as something I approach with a certain measure of fear and loathing (in Las Vegas).

    Now I eye each install with a slight measure of paranoia because Windows 10, a piece of software that appears to have been coded by inept howler monkeys, wants to believe it knows better than someone with a degree in cryptography, a CCNA, an MCSE (the forerunner to the new “Microsoft Certified Solutions Provider”, a horrific title if ever there was one), certs in Red Hat maintenance, and enough experience to be able to make Windows 7 do things that Microsoft would tell you “is a bad idea” but that’s because they didn’t want people rigging up the system to not wreck their SSD’s at install.

    Whilst the install is merrily handling CORE UPDATES it will, at the same time, without authorisation or suggestion, merrily start flashing up splash screens for graphics card Control Panel drivers, mouse software and everything else, even when this kind of behaviour then causes uncommanded rollbacks in the upgrade system and forces Windows 10 to start over, constantly. Or when it decides completely of it’s own accord it’s going to do a major update all by itself and you find several key peripherals suddenly stop working BECAUSE MICROSOFT DON’T CHECK IF THE UPDATE MIGHT BREAK COMPATIBILITY.

    I might, just might get a little annoyed with Windows 10. But then Windows 10 isn’t an Operating System, it’s a service. It’s the kind of service where you’re not offered any time to clean up after Microsoft is done “servicing” you, no, they just fill your live tiles with goddamn Candy Crush Saga.

    Windows 10 can *burn*.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Say, dats a noice computer youse got there, it’d be a pity if someone installed Windows 10 on it.

    • LuNatic says:

      The anniversary update actually fixes a fair chunk of these woes. Once Win 10 is installed, manually download and install it straight away.

      Remember, XP and 7 had plenty of issues on release too. They got fixed over time.

    • melnificent says:

      They do give the option to disable the driver updates. But like most things in windows 10, it’s in a non-obvious place trying it’s hardest to stay hidden.

      Control Panel > Devices and Printers > right click your machine > Device installation settings > NO.

      In an effort to trick you into reenabling driver updates it’ll complain about enhanced icons if you just click the message… it’s a trap. It turns it back on silently.

      edit: I only found this out because windows 10 kept updating the drivers for my g27, even though the newer drivers don’t work.

  17. pistachio says:

    I’d love to wipe the no doubt gigabytes of trash strewn around my sdd. Especially since I havent really kept up with which files windows keeps where. c:\ProgramData for example? No idea if it contains critical files. Haven’t bothered to sift through all 96 directories.

    Problem is it will probably take anywhere between 2 to 10 hours to fully configure all libraries in Visual Studio, even with utilities like cmake. Simply too much hassle and I don’t even need it for work.

    I’d love to reinstall windows but it is no longer fun if you can’t afford to break stuff.

    If there’s a safe method for refreshing windows 10 without breaking installed stuff, please tell me. Don’t even know the windows 10 activation key because I upgraded (although I probably won’t need it if I do things right, or do i?).

  18. obscured021 says:

    Just take an image when you have it setup the way you like it.
    I had to restore a system image last week using reflect, I store my latest image on my 2nd SSD and it took less than 5 mins till I was booting back to my own desktop.

    • Zenicetus says:

      For me it’s not about getting the files back on a new system. That’s easy. It’s wanting a fresh install to remove accumulated DLL rot, and then all the re-authorizations when DRM’d software detects that it’s been moved to a new system.

      That last part is especially hard when older versions of paid software are made difficult to find, re-download, and re-authorize by software companies (looking at you Adobe, Magix, EastWest and others).

  19. Spacewalk says:

    It’s too easy these days, it’s become dumbed down.

    • Geebs says:

      The Mac port has always been pretty bare-bones. Plug into wall and hit the on switch? Hardly a compelling feature set.

    • keefybabe says:

      I miss when you chose your own jumper switches after levelling up.

  20. fish99 says:

    The bit I enjoy the most is building a new PC. Taking delivery of the parts, openning up all the boxes, fitting it all together and connceting everything up (and hopefully it all works). The software installation involves too much waiting to be much fun, especially installing and updating windows.

    The final part, seeing games running better on your new hardware, that’s very rewarding.

  21. phenom_x8 says:

    Yeah, I’ve just played this game recently after my 8 yrs old motherboard in my beloved AMD phenom II x4 840 w/ 4*2 GB DDR2 RAM system died without warning. So, I build my whole new system again from scratch(skylake build, waiting for Zen actually, but still no sign of it in short time), except for the PSU and Case (its another exciting games for me, yayy)
    Its quite fun, thankfully I have my Win 7 SP1 DVD installer complete with the latest update laying around and most of my programs installer (don’t call it apps,please!!) inside my external hard drive

  22. AmazingPotato says:

    I am doing this right now. RIGHT NOW! There’s always an initial “Hmmm, I think I do actually still prefer my old PC/laptop” until I realise that, holy cow, this new one ACTUALLY RUNS MODERN GAMES. Saints preserve us! Up yours, old computer – it’s ebay for you!

    • kalzekdor says:

      What’s an “old computer”? I’ve had my computer ever since highschool over fifteen years ago. Well, at least in the ship of Theseus sense, there’s not a single component that remains from those days (including the case, I replaced that about five years ago). Replacing a machine wholesale is hard for me to wrap my head around.

  23. spectone says:

    I used to be a computer technician so I have done it hundreds of times.

  24. racccoon says:

    Love this game I use this when I start at level 1
    Use powershell via “command prompt with admin rights” copy all, paste and hit enter..
    Copy And Paste Into Command Prompt (Admin)
    After typing in powershell and waiting for a while
    Copy & Paste these that you want, any amount into Command Prompt.
    a let it remove them.

    Get-AppxPackage *bingweather* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *photos* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *people* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *bingnews* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *bingfinance* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *windowsmaps* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *3dbuilder* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *getstarted* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *windowsalarms* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *windowscamera* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *officehub* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *skypeapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *zunemusic* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *windowscommunicationsapps* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *getstarted* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *zunevideo* | Remove-AppxPackage
    Get-AppxPackage *onenote* | Remove-AppxPackage

    • kalzekdor says:

      I had to stop myself from rewriting that as a loop that iterates over an array of strings…

      • Vedharta says:

        also one of those globs seems amusingly dangerous:

        Get-AppxPackage *photos* | Remove-AppxPackage

        so what happens with a package like csphotoshop6 ? I’m sure the user doesn’t want that removed :-)

        • kalzekdor says:

          Well, I gathered the purpose was to remove all the pre-installed apps that were bundled in the fresh install, first thing after booting for the first time. User installed apps like photoshop wouldn’t be around to remove at that point.

    • corinoco says:

      Oooooh. I love me some PowerShell! Can it do the same for the annoying OneDrive? No, dammit MS all my stuff is on GoogleDrive! Get over it!

  25. PsychoX says:

    A few times. I wouldn’t consider it a game. Frustrating at times. Not fun.

    Well I guess that describes most games. So maybe it could be considered such.

  26. Premium User Badge

    buenaventura says:

    link to linuxfromscratch.org . I think that might scratch your itch for a LONG time :)

  27. zat0ichi says:

    This seems like a good place to winge about win10.
    Started out well with little or no drama. New skin and I could see how badly dx12 worked with tombraider.

    Last 2 updates though. Programs misbehaving. Avg threw a fit, plex joined in.

    Browser slow downs.

    What did they do!

    Apparently there is a build for enterprise systems that has all the crap taken out and no forced updates

  28. Captain Iglo says:

    Windows Update is pretty much the worst level in this game. It’s a series of dumb MMO-style fetch quests, except the fetching is really slow no matter how good your equipment is. You also need to restart the game after every batch of fetch quests.

  29. Veles says:

    This is actually the bit I like the least about building a new PC. Love plugging all the hardware in and stuff but after that I just want it to work.

  30. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    Yup! I prefer the Linux variant of this game, but I’ve enjoyed it many times in many forms. I particularly like that it forces me to keep my junk organized.

    Relatedly, Windows’ “my documents” has become the worst thing in the entire history of the world, so I always keep a separate “home” folder I can actually control. Unfortunately, devs’ bad Windows habits are starting to spread to Linux, with more and more Steam games creating their own non-standard, non-hidden folders right in the home folder, which really, really cheeses me off. *shakes fist at otherwise perfect Devil Daggers* Gonna have to start making bug reports about that…maybe even write a few nastygrams if nothing changes.

  31. hpoonis says:

    Generally, I don’t have a problem with a fresh install. I do have a big, sad, fuck microspasm fit with win7 not having any collective update package since service pack 1.

    The entire win7 saga should have rung bells as subsequent versions of the desktop OS have reduced the amount of configuration and administrative functionality available to the average user. The future is not set but it definitely looks bleak. Each iteration of windows OS narrows the amount of local freedom, trades ease of use for data mining, and forces people to a specific platform version with new software being written purely for the directx libraries.

    I was a keen fan of win98, hated winme, thought XP was the dog’s bollox and stayed with it until 2006, will keep win7 as long as possible. My (brief) experience with win10 horrified my sensibilities to the point of psychosis, with their shitty cortana, enforced updates, data tracking and, primarily, the fact that they hounded my desktop for months before I decided to eradicate the incessant update messages. Once I decided to install it broke stuff to the point that all network functionality was dead and therefore rollback to win7 was not available.

    I run win10 in a virtual machine with spurious information. I will also, at some point, run that though a VPN so as to obfuscate my ip details also.

    Fuck microspasm and the whore they rode in on.

    Weaned on UNIX, died on windows.

  32. Risingson says:

    There was a point in ny life when I got thirtymuch and my nieces STILL called me “to set up tgeir computers”. I cannot help being angry at that: they were born with computers, they lived with them even more than me, they are in their 20s and yet they ask me for help to get a windows installation? They have even more tools that I got and we are not talking about linux and those magic spells above: Windows, just windows. And here I am, 38 and whenever I go back to Madrid for holidays I am the only man in the world that can do a windows installation.

    Once I said ” cannot you see the heteropatriarchal shit behind this?” But I’m afraid they did not get it.

  33. bonuswavepilot says:

    Many, many times, over the years, through the gamut of variants since ’95. (Must admit I never had to install 3.11, although I did tinker with it).

    As others have said, I prefer the linux flavour of this game these days, but still find myself having to do an install when windows gets crufty or I buy a new laptop that needs to be upgraded from 8 to 7. My favourite level is the one where you have some obscure hardware weirdness that requires unusual steps in the install process and whose success you can’t judge until after seeing the ‘This edition of windows is easy and shiny! You will love your windows!’ message that comes up while installing, so as you trial-and-error your way through a frustrating half-documented process you get to read about how easy it is, over and over again…

  34. Premium User Badge

    buenaventura says:

    I recently did a fresh install of Xubuntu 16.04 (Long Term Support release, maintained into 2019) thinking that OK! I am NOT gonna redo anything else now, I am gonna get this all like I want it, and then I do not have to do it again for a LONG time! So I did, I now have many games neatly installed, many programs neatly configured, beautiful backup systems in place, all speedy and nice with with all extra crap removed, and so many nice neat games to play, but… Now I just want to try Manjaro, or Arch… What if my graphic card works much better under Arch, with new fancy AMD-drivers? What if it’s really smooth? Why is it so alluring, everything now works fine? It is somehow related to an urge to clean and tidy, which I do too little of IRL I guess, but IRL tidying is just boring and gets messy instantly anyway with two kids. Bah.

    I think it’s so fun since it often involves problem solving with the terminal, which just makes you feel awesome. It is not super frustrating (like windoze problem solving, just shoot me) since it is often nicely documented and often quite logical. Nice edit button btw!

  35. melnificent says:

    I played this game over the weekend with a new board and CPU. Everything worked first time, even windows upgraded to Pro as there was a licence with on my motherboard.

    Even better, because I didn’t reinstall windows from scratch the windows store broke so completely that I can’t load it or any of the apps that it won’t let me remove.

    I then tempted fate by overclocking the CPU, but even that’s working fine and my 4770k is sitting happily at 4.4ghz on air.

    What happened to dip switches and missing drivers? I miss hunting around for a day looking for the stupidly obscure audio driver that existed on one website for a week.

  36. haloperidol says:

    I seriously thought there is a game about reinstalling your computer. There should be one.

  37. specialsymbol says:

    Oh yes, this is my favourite experience. I had tons of fun setting up Windows 98 and, despite its deterministic nature, getting a new error message each time from the PC. I met with a friend to do this and we had a lot of fun trying to find out why something doesn’t work (and next time does, but something else fails).

    Fun fact: Installing Windows 7 from USB 3.0 will make you switch the port at some point in during the process as the USB port currenty used stops functioning until the next reset. That cost me blood and sweat to find out.

  38. gbrading says:

    I kind of enjoy it when I’m doing it but it’s not something I want to do more than once every 3 or so years. And of course if something goes wrong it’s hell on Earth. The bit I enjoy is installing a game, firing it up and seeing how much better it plays than it did on your last computer. I remember I did that with Crysis more than once (because Crysis still looks damn good even today).

  39. Regicider 12.4% says:

    It’s easier than ever now. Just do a Windows Restore and then download all useful apps on offer that you need from the excellent Windows Store.
    All your films and music available to re-download in their respective apps’ built-in stores too!