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In a not totally unexpected move, Sony Online Entertainmentannounced that starting in October the highly popular DC Universe Online MMOwill switch to free-to-play.  The MMOwill begin a three tiered system that will serve as the revenue stream for thegame.  The move comes just seven monthssince the game came out in stores.
Both PC and Playstation 3 players will be able to downloadand play the game for free and have the ability to boost their account by ingame microtransactions.  The tieredsystem breaks down like this.

New players will now have access to the current gameplay in DC Universe Online(including Gotham City, Metropolis, and all current raids and alerts), with theability to create two characters, join a league and many other benefits. Freelevel players will be able to purchase downloadable game packs/updates,additional character slots, powers and more through microtransactions.

Any player who has spent at least $5 (including former paid subscribers and newplayers who have purchased $5 of in-game items) will qualify for the Premiumaccess level. Premium level players will have more benefits available to themthan the Free level player, including additional character slots, additionalinventory slots, and higher cash limits. Downloadable adventure packs,additional character slots, and more can be purchased in-game.

Maximum features and benefits are included at this level. Loaded with enhancedadditional features, Legendary access will be available for a $14.99 monthlyfee and includes all DLC packs at no cost, more than 15 character slots, morethan 80 inventory slots, the ability to form unrestricted-sized leagues, andmany other benefits.

SOE executive producer Lorin Jameson had this to say.
“I don’t know about you, but my credit card statementevery month is this amalgam of s*** of MMOs that I’m too lazy to cancel.  What we want is to offer people a way to notworry about that.  In terms of ‘Is it aresult in a drop in subs’ – absolutely not.  This is the right business model.  If I can be honest, the game ended up costinga lot more than we thought it would, and this was our preferred business modelfrom day one.  We are really seeing thebenefits of free to play, and we’re really liking it.  Needless to say we’re paying close attentionto it and maybe looking to make some surprise moves a little later.”
That was basically all they had to say for me.  Come October, I will be downloading andplaying DC Universe Online.  Since Ifirst heard about it I have been dying to play. The only thing stopping me was the $14.99 a month fee.  If you’re like me, you avoid playing MMOsbecause of the monthly fee required to play them.  The trend over the past year or so has beenmany of the popular MMOs going to a free-to-play model that allows players the flexibilityto pay for only what they want and still be able to play the game without amonthly fee tacked on.  Earlier thissummer Cryptic, the makers of Star Trek Online made the announcement that itwould also be switching to a free-to-play system by December of this year.

Collected over the weekend are a bunch of great new pictures from the set of The Avengers.  These new pics feature nearly the entire cast of the film in various action scenes and off camera moments.  Enjoy!

I keep putting this off hoping that I can get everything done at one time, but it doesn’t look like that will happen.  Making some changes to the site, some of which you might have already noticed.  First the site address has changed from its home on Blogspot to its own domain  I’ve been sitting on the domain name for a while and finally pulled the trigger and got the site forwarded there.

Next up, I’ve added some pages.  One specifically for TV and movie reviews.  There you can find the reviews I’ve done both old and new.  The second page is for new comic book releases for the week.  There you can find what’s due to be released and is usually updated every Friday.  The third page is for convention coverage.  I’m going to more and more local ‘cons and covering the big ones as they happen.  There you can find all the coverage from area ‘cons.

I am also commissioning a local artist to design a custom logo for the site that hopefully be revealed in a few weeks.  I just got all the info and source material to her this very day and I am sure she’ll get right to work on it.  I’ve had ideas about a logo for quite some time and two weeks ago I decided to go ahead with it.  I spent the time finding someone I trusted and understood the ideas I had.  I am so looking forward to seeing a first draft soon.

So I have saved the best news for last.  Starting soon, you will also be able to find my name and posts on Comic Booked.  I have accepted a staff writing position with the site and will begin posting material VERY soon.  This is a dream come true for me to actually write for a well established website about the things that I love.  I am looking forward to working with everyone there.

So that’s pretty much it for now.  Big changes for me and for the site.  What started off as a place for me to post about crap that I thought only I cared about has turned into something really big for me.  It is literally changing my life and something I never thought would happen.  I know I thank you guys all the time, but I really do appreciate everything.  Without you readers, I would not have been able to make it this far.

Sunday Funnies

It’s been known for a few weeks now that Diane Lane had been signed to play Martha Kent in the upcoming reboot of Superman.  Rumors have been floating around for a month about Kevin Costner’s interest in being cast as Jonathan Kent.

Those rumors were confirmed; Kevin Costner has signed on to star in Zack Snyder’s Superman film.

I’m not sure I am okay with this.  I like Kevin Costner, I just don’t see him as the Pa Kent type.  To me Costner has always had an ego and I don’t know how he will mesh into a film where he isn’t the pivotal character.

I will say this, after doing some looking around, I think the two look great together and should at least look good in the movie.

The film’s director Zack Snyder had this to say, “Jonathan Kent is the only father figure Clark has ever had, the man who was there to help Clark understand what he was meant to do in the world as Superman. Kevin will be able to communicate the quiet strength of this rural American man who raised the greatest superhero of all time.”

The title of the film is rumored (not yet confirmed) to be Superman: Man of Steel and is slated for release December 2012.

Comics and cartoons have been always been graced with a vast selection of great villains.  Some of them range from the comically benign to the fiendishly evil.  So who is the best or worse villain out there?  The Nerd is going to give you a list of candidates and then you can decided.  Here they are in no particular order.

Megatron (Transformers)

Joker (Batman)

Cobra Commander (G.I. Joe)


Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four)

Sinestro (Green Lantern)

Mumm-Ra (Thundercats)

Darkseid (Superman)

Skeletor (Masters of the Universe)

Green Goblin (Spider-Man)

Lex Luthor (Superman)

Gargamel (Smurfs)

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Bane (Batman)

Venom (Spider-Man)

Doomsday (Superman)

Which one of these heavies is the baddest of the bad?  Vote in the poll on the left and I will post the results in next week’s Word.

The Word – 8/26/10 – UPDATED

Going to start out this week’s Word with a little rant.  I found out yesterday that there is another blog called Word of the Nerd.  It’s a three man operation that hasn’t posted anything since the end of July.  I looked over their blog and even though it may look better than mine, it isn’t as good.  I have to admit that I was a little discouraged by finding this out, but with a new dawn I am once again determined and will continue.  So don’t be fooled by any impostors, get your Word from the only source worth mentioning.  Now on to the weekly links.

This first link is something everyone should click on and go read.  The Government can now track your movements with a GPS without a search warrant or violating your Fourth Amendment rights.  Let’s not let this happen; let’s not let the United States become the totalitarian regime that some would make it.  Click here to read the Time Magazine online article.

For all you comic book geeks, here are the 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History.  Courtesy of CBR you can view the list here.  Thank the gods that Kevin Smith’s Batman wetting his pants isn’t on the list.

From one of my favorite websites Lifehacker, for any of you who use Ubuntu, a theme that makes your GUI look like Windows 7.  Check it out and download it here.

This is one of the best Xbox 360 mods I have ever seen.  This guy should work for NASA or ILM.  Check out Zachariah Perry Cruse’s Iron Man 360 mod on his blog page here.

Once again from Lifehacker; Nine Great Uses for Private Browsing that Don’t Involve Porn.  Read about it here.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be standing on a planet while it’s being destroyed?  I know it’s something I think about all the time.  If you’re now curious about it, check it out here.

Hey, did you know that you can now make free phone calls through Gmail?  Check out these two great links from Maximum PC and Lifehacker with details.

If you’re a fan of the TNT show Leverage, like me; check out this clip of the cast panel at Comic Con from YouTube.  WTF is Wil Wheaton doing there?

All you Facebook users need to check this out.  Tips on how to make Facebook act like you want it to.  Check out the article here.

This will be filed under WTF.  It’s just a damn video game people.  See what I am talking about courtesy of Geeks Are Sexy by clicking here.

Got any old, dead hard drives laying around?  Don’t know what to do with them?  Over at Lifehacker they have some suggestions for you.  Check it out here.

This has got to be the cutest, most cleaver mash up I’ve seen.  Check out Wookie the Pooh here.

Imagine Wesley Snipes as Geordi LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, or Yaphet Kotto as Captain Picard.  That’s what almost happened.  Read about it here.

Find out why the producers of Star Trek 2 are comparing it to The Dark Knight.  Damon Lindelof explains himself here, from Blastr.

I’ve got two great How To links for you this week.  The first deals with changing your default save folder in Windows 7, read about it here.  The second is more for the handy with a hammer and nails types.  Building a hidden home theater PC inside your entertainment center, check it out here.

The app of the week is a Firefox extension that lets you scan a file for malware before you even download it.  VTzilla can be added to Firefox to give you added security from viruses and malware.  It uses 42 of the best malware scanners to check the link to the file before you even download it.  I have used it a little and so far it’s working.  If you’d like to learn more, the fine folks at Lifehacker have more info, check it out here.


The last link for the week can be filed under “Who gives a crap?”  I normally don’t comment on celebrity news unless it is nerd-worthy; but our favorite train wreck Lindsay Lohan is suing E*Trade.  Apparently she has taken offense that their Super Bowl ad which depicts a baby named Lindsay as a milkaholic.  She and her lawyer believe E*Trade is clearly talking about her in the ad.  Now I for one thought that the commercial was one of the funniest of last year’s Super Bowl and I really didn’t put two and two together at the time because I was watching the damn game.  Please Lindsay, go away!  You can read more of the CNET article and see a video of the ad here.  Milka-what?!?!

For those of you in the Charlotte, NC area, Spandex City Comic Lounge is having an Introduction to Magic: The Gathering and Intermediate Yu-Gi-Oh! on Friday Aug 27 and Saturday Aug 28 respectively.  If you’re into either of these games, I encourage you go come out and take part in some great family friendly fun.  Space is limited so if you want to take part please go to Spandex City to sign up.  There is also the Heroclix Final Four Youth Tournament on Saturday Aug. 28 from 4 to 6.  Don’t forget to mention to heard about on Word of the Nerd and you’ll receive a puzzled look from the owner Mike.

Don’t forget that this Saturday is the first ever International Read Comics in Public Day.  Brian Heater and Sarah Morean from The Daily Cross Hatch are the driving force behind this event in an effort to promote and encourage comic readership.  They also want people to recognize comics as legitimate literature.  Check out their Facebook page for more info.  Let’s all participate this Saturday.

Well folks, that’s The Word for this week.  If you find any of the links entertaining or useful, please comment and let people know about Word of the Nerd.  Be sure to check back for how-to blogs and other postings.  I will have a new post up soon about MP3 apps that I am sure you’ll find useful.

The Nerd
The Nerd says, “A good movie will inspire you to reach for the stars”.

Okay, we’ve all done it at least once; bought a game that you thought we be the next big thing, only to find out that instead of providing you with endless hours of entertainment and kill streaks, it was a giant turd.  At this point, you’ve opened it, installed it and played it a little; it’s too late to return it to the store, so what can you do to cleanse yourself of the stink from a bad game?

Most retails stores will not even consider giving you your money back on an open piece of software, no matter how much you scream and yell.  Although I have seen it work in the past, but it can also get you banned from the store and it’s not worth taking the risk.  At best all you will get is store credit that you can then select another game and hope it isn’t a bomb as well.  Some retailers will tell you too bad, you bought it, it’s yours and you are stuck with a game you don’t want.  In most cases store credit is better than nothing, so consider your options carefully.

A lot of online retailers like EA and Steam, who offer downloadable purchases have very limited return options, but you have to act fast.  In most cases all you’re going to get is credit to purchase something else unless you have a more convincing excuse than “I don’t like it”.  Back in the day, before video games really took off as a huge money making industry, you could effectively go buy a game, take it home, make a copy and return it to the store and do the same thing again and again.  Now that retailers have gotten wise to this little scam, they put very strict return policies on software and video games.  I for one spent many late nights at work making copies of user manuals that at that time contained the copy protection of choice.  Copy protection has gotten a lot more elaborate as savvy users have found ways around each and every attempt to keep software pirates at bay.  The battle continues and sometimes honest consumers are caught in the crossfire.

But now you are stuck with a game that you don’t like and never intend to play again, what can you do?  There are a few options that offer some relief from your poor decision, but seldom will you ever recover all of the original purchase price.  Returning the game to the store for in-store credit is usually the easiest option available.  Some stores likes Gamestop offer to buy used games for store credit.  I have always found this a bit deceiving because they offer you peanuts for the game, then put it back on the shelve at almost full price so the next unlucky schmuck is the one who really gets screwed.  This practice generally works better for console titles that you aren’t going to play any more.  You can take several games in and get a few bucks to put toward the new version of Madden NFL.  I know some people who are very skilled at this practice and it works for them, it works for the store and everyone is happy.  But I have found that the mark up for “used” games generally isn’t worth it when for a few dollars more you can have a nice new unopened copy.

Another thing to watch out for is their “guaranteed to play” policy, read the fine print or else you can be stuck with a game that simply doesn’t work because of a damaged disk or some other issue that isn’t covered by their guarantee.  I have been burned by this before when a tiny, almost impossible to see crack in the disk made it unplayable in my Xbox 360.  The store would not take it back and I was stuck with a very nice looking coaster.  If you’re lucky, you have a good rapport with the people who work in whatever game store you frequent and they know you as the type not to want to rip them off.  But going up against some pimple faced douche you’re not going to have much of a chance of convincing them you’re sincere.

So there are some things you can do to make better choices when it come to buying a new game.  First and foremost, do your homework.  Make sure you either read up on the game in question or ask around, chances are someone else has played it and either says it rocks or it blows.  Don’t be too quick to jump on the bandwagon, that is usually the mistake I make; blindly following the crowd.  Don’t be too quick to buy a game you know nothing about.  For those of you who aren’t as dedicated and won’t wait in line at midnight to be one of the first to purchase the game on release day, you can always wait to see what your friends say after staying up all night playing.  One indispensable resource I like to use is XPlay on G4.  They offer great reviews for newly released and upcoming games and I must say that Morgan Webb is pretty easy on the eyes as well.  There are also various magazines that you can pick up to get the skinny on what’s new in the gaming world.  I like to stick to the free stuff, word of mouth is invaluable.

Next you can download and play a demo of the game if it’s available.  Many companies will release a demo or beta version ahead of time to either wet the appetites of potential customers or to work out any bugs in the software.  These can give you the best experience of what the game will be like before you buy it.  If you don’t like the demo, chances are you’re not going to like the game and won’t waste your money.  Companies won’t do this for all new releases and it’s becoming less and less frequent that demos are released.  For beta testers, you either have to be one of a chosen few or buy another title in order to get access to a beta test.  Sometimes it just comes down to being lucky.  One thing to be careful of is that most games have a single player and a multi player or online mode.  Most of the hardcore gamers are in it for the multi player experience.  A demo will offer either or and sometimes you can have a great single player game with a really crappy multi player mode or vice-versa.

Sometimes you can preview a game in the store before it’s released, but you might find yourself having to wait in line behind some six year old kid with sharing issues or a group of teenage thugs who are there for the day.  But you might get lucky and get to play, either way just by watching others play you could gain some insight.  Don’t count on this being available because some stores suck and the consoles are broken the majority of the time.  If you’re one of the lucky few who can attend E3 or San Diego Comic Con, you can play or watch demos of the most highly anticipated games months before they are released.  But if you can’t afford to jet cross country every July, then you’re left to more conventional means.

Then there is the tried and true method I like to call “try before you buy”.  This can be accomplished a number of different ways, some more ethical than others.  If your local movie rental store also rents video games, go and rent that sucker first.  This is usually only an option for console games, so you PC gamers are stuck with fewer options.  I rented Batman: Arkham Asylum about a dozen times before I decided to buy it.  It was a really good alternative to purchasing the game then either not liking it or not having time to play it.  I am not fifteen years old with summers off to do nothing but park myself in front of my Xbox for days on end.  I have a job, a family and all that other crap that can severely hamper my gaming time.  If your spouse monitors or even knows about the money you spend on games, then it makes it even more crucial that you make good choices when buying games.

There are services such as Gamefly that work a lot like Netflix.  You put the game on your want list and they send it to you.  You get to play as much as you want, then either return it or you can buy it at a discounted price, some will even then send you the original box and manuals.  The downsides to this method is new titles aren’t always immediately available and if you don’t act quickly you could have to wait days or sometimes weeks until a copy is available.  Another being as with Netflix, you have to pay a monthly fee to belong to the service.  If you play enough games, then it’s more than worth it, but if you’re only a casual player, the recurring cost may not be worth it to you.  Weigh your options then decide which way better fits your lifestyle and wallet.

Now comes the methods that skirt the thin gray line of ethics.  Some gamers choose to download an illegal or pirated copy from the Internet either by bittorrent or some other file sharing means.  This carries some risk that you may deem not worth the risk.  Companies are going to greater and greater lengths to prevent online piracy of software.  That being said, the excuse of “I planned on buying it after I tried it for a while” usually doesn’t wash with them.  They love to make examples of people by slapping them with outrageous fines and sometimes even jail time.  Although users in the United States are seldom brought to any kind of legal punishment, governments of other countries are cracking down rather heavily on file sharing sites and the people who run them.  You’re taking a risk of getting slapped with a huge fine if you get caught, so don’t say you weren’t warned, software piracy is illegal in the United States.  Another huge risk is the possibility of being infected with a virus by trying to install the game.  You’ve given permission for the software to be installed so often times your anti-virus pays it no mind if it’s infected with viruses, trojans or malware.  It’s risky any way you go, so you need to be extremely careful if you’re going to thumb your nose at Johnny Law.  The FBI certainly won’t come crashing through your windows and haul you off to prison.  They will politely knock on the door, present you with a search order, then take your computer or console off to be examined.  Now is when you hire a lawyer and pray.

But if you’re just stuck with the thing and you simply can’t get rid of it, your last option could be Ebay.  Keeping in mind that one man’s turd is another man’s jewel, put an ad on Ebay and let fortune decide the outcome.  Who knows, you might get lucky and two people will get into a bidding war and pay double what you originally paid, however that is unlikely, but it might get it off your hands while recouping some of your money.  Hopefully this has given you some insight to avoid making costly mistakes when it comes to buying video games.  Most of us just suck it up and deal with the knowledge we bought a crappy game.  It sits on the shelve collecting dust and every time I look at it, I’m reminded of my poor decision.  So until next I blog, play hard, play fair and have fun.

The Internet is full of how to articles on how to rebuild or reload your operating system; some of them good, some of them not so good, some of them too complex for novis users.   I rebuild my PCs at home on a regular basis, because a clean PC is a happy and healthy PC.  I also build and rebuild PCs at work all day long for various reasons.  It is a process I’ve repeated hundreds of times with many different operating systems on various PC makes.  Sometimes it’s easier to just wipe it out and start from scratch than to take time to troubleshoot a nagging problem.  And let’s face it, if you want to truly be certain you’ve gotten rid of a virus, then a rebuild is the best way to go. 
Over time your PC becomes cluttered with temp files, cookies, unused software or other crap that will slow down the performance.  Many people get frustrated with this and up spending money needlessly on a new PC or they turn to less than reputable software that claims to clean up and speed up your PC.  These programs usually promise a lot more than they deliver and leave you in the same boat, or they further infect your computer with other malware or spyware and make the situation worse.  Remember the old saying “knowledge is power”.  Retail stores such as Best Buy and the now defunct Circuit City charge an absolute fortune for simple work that you can do yourself.  This practice by these retail chains really gets my blood boiling because they are preying on the uninformed consumer and they love an uninformed consumer.  They charge outrageous fees to do work that any PC user with a little bit of knowledge can do themselves.  The people they hire to do the work that they claim to be elite computer gurus are no more than amateurs with slightly more knowledge than your own.  For some it is their first job in the field and they have little or no experience.  Some even take the opportunity to snoop at the contents of your computer for their own ill gotten gains.  This is certainly not true of everyone out there, but more often than not, just like with car mechanics, there are some that use the customers’ lack of knowledge against them. 
Now be warned this is not a wham, bam, thank you man kind of procedure, but it’s not as hard as you might think it is.  All it takes a little bit of prep work and some time.  You don’t have to be a PC genius to do your own PC maintenance.  All you need is a good working knowledge of things and someone willing to help you if you run into problems.  I am going to walk you through it and if you’re eager to learn, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and maybe a little bit of money.
Locate and identify drivers and software
The first thing you want to do is make sure you have drivers for the hardware in your computer.  It’s best to do this ahead of time, otherwise like my brother Mike always does, you’ll realize that you don’t have your network card driver and can’t get to the Internet to download one without it.  This usually involves him calling me to help talk him through finding his network card driver.  Network card, video card and chipset drivers are the most important to have, you can usually download the latest version of other hardware drivers once you get the PC to a working state.
Most PCs like Dell, HP, etc. come with CD or DVD disks that have the drivers on them.  You need to make sure you have these disks on hand before starting your rebuild or you’re going to be spending a lot of time trying to find them later.  Sometimes the OS isn’t clear about what device is missing a driver and you can really make a mess of things by guessing and installing random drivers until you find the right one.  So have your drivers on hand is a good basic rule to stick to.  Another good rule is once you have them all together; put them in a safe place that you can get to them easily.  Go buy yourself a cheap CD disk binder and keep them stored there, but don’t misplace the binder.
Another set of files and disks you want to have on hand is your software.  The OS disk is the most important because if you don’t have it, then you’re dead in the water.  Like the driver disks, most OEM PCs come with a disk that contains the OS that came installed on it.  It’s also a good idea but not required that you have the latest service pack for your OS, it will save you a little time when you’re downloading updates later in this process.  Often times the basic software titles that came with the PC are also included.  Hopefully you kept these disks and have them available.  Any other software not on a CD or DVD or any other kind of storage medium such as software you’ve downloaded and have stored on your hard drive we’ll cover in the next step.
In addition to your software disks, you will also need any license keys, serial numbers or authorization codes needed for reinstalling your software.  Having these is very important because if you don’t it will bring your rebuild to a grinding halt in some cases.
Backup your files
Back up procedures is a pretty lengthy subject, but it’s necessary to this process so I’ll try to get you through it as quickly as possible.  This has got to be one of the most important steps we’re going to cover, so pay close attention to what I am going to tell you.  This also applies to times when you’re not rebuilding your PC.
Back up your files, back up your files, back up your files.  I cannot stress it enough.  One of the things I hear the most from people is, “My computer got a virus and I had to reload the OS, is there any way you can recover my files?”  This is the time I clench my fist and through gritted teeth I politely say “No”.
We are in an era when people have music, pictures, text documents and everything else stored on their PCs.  Some people have the sum of their existence stored on their hard drive.  Financial records, resumes, email, calendars, address books and more.  No one writes anything down anymore because it’s easier to type it and store on the PC.  No one really bothers to think about losing that data until it’s too late.  Having a good back up plan and system worked out ahead of time is a really good idea.  There is nothing more frustrating than losing music that took you time and money to accumulate or family pictures that are irreplaceable.
With that being said, sometimes backing up files is a little more difficult than some people realize because they don’t know what to back up.  Software these days store data in places you may not think to look in.  There are also all kinds of things beyond just personal data and music you might want to back up.  I will try to cover this in as much detail as I can without giving you a migraine.
Step one, create a folder somewhere on let’s say your desktop and name it ‘Backup’.  You’re going to find all your data and either copy or move it to this folder.  I would suggest you copy rather than cutting and pasting the data in case something goes wrong in the transfer.  It is better to be safe, than sorry.  Knowing where your data is is crucial.
Let’s first cover your profile.  This is the area of your PC where the OS stores the majority of your files.  Since Windows 2000, Microsoft has made the user profile more and more prevalent and even more critical.  All types of information is stored in your profile.  This generally isn’t a good practice because a large user profile can slow down boot times considerably.  But we’ll save that subject for another lesson.  Some people tend to just back up the entire profile and that will certainly work, but you often have information that you just simply don’t need.  The most commonly used and missed areas in your profile are located in the My Documents folder.  This folder often has subfolders that have music, pictures and videos.  You want to make sure you get these folders in your backup plan.  You also want to get the Favorites folder, this has all of your Internet shortcuts and if you’re like most people, you have a ton of them, so back this folder up also.  You will also want to grab the Desktop folder and any other folders you may have created that contain data you want to keep.  For those of you who have Windows Vista or Windows 7, the “downloads” folder is likely to have some files in it so don’t forget it.  Microsoft also has a tool called the User State Migration Tool.  This is a handy little program that will locate and back up any data you want it to find.  It is also a good alternative to hunting around yourself trying to find your data.
Next you will want to go into whatever program you’re using for email and make sure you back up your email, calendar and contact list.  You will have to rely on your own knowledge for this because there are simply too many variables to give you a concise list of instructions.  Most programs have a way to back up or archive your email and other info.  If you’re using Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Mail, you can easily archive everything into separate files; add these to your backup folder. 
Now comes the time when you have to really think about what’s on your PC.  If you have games, iTunes, Firefox or anything that might store settings or other data you want to keep, you will need to go searching for that data.  Most games these days store settings and saved games in your profile, so you won’t have to look far to find it.  Apple iTunes also stores its data and files in your profile and is usually clearly labeled.  Make sure you go into iTunes and reauthorize your account from your PC.  You can only have 5 PCs authorized to a single account and if you mess up and don’t do this, you might find it difficult to get your iTunes working again once you reinstall it.  For those of you will a Dell PC, there is a folder labeled ‘Dell’ in the root of your Windows or C: drive.  You might want to consider including this in your backup.  This is where Dell stores the drivers for your PC and will save you some time trying to locate your drivers.
Once you have all your files and data in one place; the folder you created on your desktop, back that thing up to a CD or DVD or flash drive or any storage device of your choice.  Be mindful of the size of your back up folder and choose something big enough to hold it all.  Once you have your files backed up, label your backup including the date and keep it safe.
Prepare and reload your OS
Now you’re all ready to start the rebuild process.  You’ll want to locate your OS CD or DVD, put it in the appropriate optical drive and reboot your PC.  For this we’re going to assume that you are using some flavor of Microsoft Windows, probably Vista or Windows 7.  I am also going to assume you know how or have already set your PC to boot from the optical or CD/DVD drive.  You can do this by either changing the boot order in the BIOS or with a key stroke during the boot process.  Once you’ve started the PC booting from your OS disk it will take a few minutes to load.  It is a good idea to unplug your network cable from the back of your PC.  During certain points of the install, your PC will be vulnerable to hackers and viruses.  With no anti-virus installed you are wide open to attack, unplugging your network cable will keep you safe until you install an anti-virus program.
You will probably be required to answer a few questions and click through a few screens prior to the OS beginning to install.  Some operating systems will ask you for the registration code before proceeding with the install so remember when I told you to have all your software codes and serial numbers?  Now is when you will need them.  There is an important step at this point that you’ll need to make a decision on; the decision to partition your hard drive.  Most of you won’t need to do this, but for those of you that want to partition your hard drive, now is the time to do it because doing after the OS is installed is a lot more difficult.  Windows 7 creates two partitions on your hard drive during the install.  One partition is called “system” and is usually around 200MB and the other is labeled “Windows” and contains the remaining space of your drive where the OS will be installed.  Once you have gone through this the OS will begin the install process and you can kick back and either watch, or go make yourself a sandwich.  Depending on the OS you’re installing and the specs of your PC, this process can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes on average.
Installing Drivers
Once your PC has installed the OS and rebooted for the final time you’re left with a nice clean load on your hard drive and are now ready to begin installing service packs, drivers and updates.  There are various schools of thought as to the order to install hardware drivers.  And although I believe that there is an order you should stick to, I have had few problems loading drivers out of the recommended order.  So if you are in doubt, you can play it by ear.  If you have the latest service pack for your OS you’ll want to go ahead and install it first.  It will install a fair number of OS updates and hot fixes and will save you a lot of downloading time when installing updates later.  If your OS has already installed a driver for a piece of hardware you probably won’t need to overwrite what has already been installed, but it is a good idea to install the latest drivers from the manufacturer.  Sometimes the signed drivers from Microsoft aren’t ideal.  It is also a good idea to keep certain pieces of hardware current with the latest drivers; your video card for example.  Follow the order I’ve listed below.  If prompted to reboot by any of the installs, do so before proceeding to the next.
1.       Service pack
2.       Chipset driver
3.       Network card driver
4.       Video card driver
5.       Sound card driver
6.       TV tuner card driver
7.       Mouse and keyboard driver
8.       Any remaining hardware drivers
Installing anti-virus and OS updates
Now that you’ve got your hardware up and running you’ll need to install an anti-virus program.  If you don’t already have one there are literally dozens of choices.  I generally recommend Microsoft Security Essentials because it works well with nearly every version of Windows, it does a good job against viruses and spyware and most importantly it’s free.
There is something that needs to be said about anti-virus software.  This is the one area that people are the most lacking in keeping up with.  A good and updated anti-virus program is absolutely necessary if you spend any time at all on the Internet.  Keeping your anti-virus updated is not difficult and you should make sure at least once a week that yours is current with the latest updates.  Nearly all of them can be set to automatically update itself on a schedule you can determine.  For those PCs that came with an anti-virus preinstalled:  these are usually only 60 to 90 day trials at which time require you to purchase them in order to receive updates.  Many people leave it at that and don’t ever check the anti-virus software again, never realizing or ignoring the warnings when the trial runs out.  This leaves them wide open to viruses, malware and spyware.  They are left with a false sense of security that they are protected against viruses and the like.  So make sure you install a good and reputable anti-virus program.  Another important thing to remember is that you should only install but one anti-virus program.  Having more than one does not increase your level of security.  Most often one program will report that the other is a virus and will cause all sorts of mayhem on your PC.
Now that you have your anti-virus software installed, go ahead and plug your network cable back in and update the anti-virus program, rebooting if prompted.  Once you’ve updated your anti-virus software you’re ready to begin downloading updates to your OS.  Assuming you are using Microsoft Windows, there is usually always an icon in the start menu to Windows Updates, or you can go to  Once you click on it, it will open Internet Explorer and take you to the Windows Updates website.  When presented with a choice of an express or custom install, choose custom.  Once there, you will be presented with a list of critical and recommended updates for your OS.  For novis users I recommend installing everything listed, but not all at one time, first start with the critical updated listed at the top, once those are done keep working your way down.  Depending on how many updates are available at the time, this could take a while, especially if you do not have a fast internet connection.  Here is where having the latest service pack could save you some time, but don’t worry if you didn’t, the update site should have the latest one listed for you.  Remember to reboot each time when prompted.  You will have to keep going back to the update site until there are no more updates listed.  If you get a message telling you that certain updates did not install, don’t panic, they will the next time you go back.  You’re now in the home stretch.
Clean Up and other software
When Windows has finally finished installing all of its updates you should be left with a nice shiny new PC load ready to install your preferred software on.  Now is the best time to make little settings adjustments and preferences such as wallpaper, mouse sensitivity, menu preferences, etc.  Once you’ve got everything the way you want it you can begin installing other software. 
At this point, a lot of experienced users like to make an image of their hard drive in this pristine state.  It’s not necessary unless you want to save yourself the trouble of going through all of this again the next time you want to rebuild your PC.  Personally I do not like to do this because the image file or files created are usually rather large and you don’t want to store them on your hard drive.  I have a sick sense of what I find fun and rather enjoy rebuilding my PCs. 
A good rule of thumb is if you plan on installing Microsoft Office, now is the time to do it.  Once installed you’ll need to go back to the Windows Update site and get all the latest updates for your flavor of Office.  You can certainly install Office before you download any of your OS updates, I do not like to do that, but it will not harm or disrupt the process.
You can now restore your data from the backup you created and begin installing other programs or games or any other software you choose.  You have a nice fresh install on your PC and it should be running nice and smooth without all the clutter accumulated over months of Internet surfing and programs you no longer use.  I hope this tutorial is helpful to you.  If you have any questions or just run into a snag and you’re not sure what to do next, feel free to email me at