Sometimes I feel like a mid-1990s Windows Update

Remember Windows Update in the mid-1990s? You know, when updating Windows was horribly unpredictable?

You know. When there was at least a 50-50 chance that installing that update would cause all sorts of havoc with your computer—even (especially?) rendering some of your programs completely unusable—and it would take undoing that update or installing another patch to put things back to normal.

Yeah. That’s sort of what things are like these days.

The actual Windows Update is much more reliable now (for Windows 7, at least); it’s the other parts of life that feel like a throwback to the dark days of Windows Update Hell. Address a problem in one area, and a new problem pops up somewhere else; what used to work smoothly now requires extra effort and workarounds.

In the late 1990s, my folks chipped in to buy me a new desktop computer for Xmas. Windows 98 was the popular choice at that time, but, since Microsquish had been stating for quite some time that they intended to eventually migrate everyone to Windows NT, I opted for Windows NT as the operating system for that new computer.

When it was running smoothly, NT was great. I liked knowing that I was working with a more robust operating system than 98.

When it wasn’t running smoothly, it was a nightmare. The mysterious spontaneous drive letter reassignments were particularly frustrating, but it was the dreaded Blue Screen of Death that usually led to hours of teeth-grinding work to fix whatever was happening.

Eventually, whenever such problems would occur, I’d simply gather my information and Windows NT and Word install disks, then erase and reformat my hard drive—and reinstall everything from scratch. (I had two hard drives in this computer, so loss of data was not something I particularly had to worry about.)

I figure I did this about six times over a two-year period. The first three or four times were out of necessity—i.e., the system simply stopped functioning properly, and starting with a clean slate was the easiest course of action. The last couple of times involved getting the drive-letter assignments the way I wanted them. After that, I was able to leave well enough alone.

By that point, I could get the whole job done in about three hours.

Sometimes I wish I could clear everything off and reinstall myself from scratch. Instead, I’ll just have to keep applying updates and patches until things start running more smoothly again.

(9 February 2014)