In the world of technology, nothing feels better than a fresh install of your operating system. Everything is so pristine and runs so smoothly.
Until you do a fresh install, you never realize exactly how much "cruft" is actually hanging around on your system. Everything ranging from copy-protection drivers that are hanging around even after the product they were protecting was uninstalled, to stray DLL's after spyware uninstalls, to temp files dropped in inappropriate folders, to system tray applications that don't want to leave.
It's a shame that it's so difficult to do a clean install nowadays. After backing up your necessary files, you format your C: drive and install Windows XP. Then, if it's been less than 120 days since your last install, you have to call Microsoft and verbally promise your first-born son to activate. Then you have to install the latest drivers and security updates for your software. Order on the drivers can make a difference as well. I know that on my home system, if I don't install the Hyperion 4-in-1 drivers before I install the latest Catalyst drivers, my video card runs dog-slow.
Then it's a matter of reinstalling the necessary applications. Office 2003 has the same "wonderful" activation requirements as Windows. Visual Studio .NET 2003 doesn't have the activation (thank god), but takes the better part of a day to install due to the slow-ass installer. (I started the install before I left for work today in hopes that it would be finished by the time I got home.)
There is one thing that Microsoft could do to make this process easier, but I don't think that they're going to do it. In Longhorn, give us the option of making a "driver recovery CD." We run the application, and copies of all of our current drivers are placed on the CD. Then, the next time we install Longhorn, it asks us if we have one of those CD's. That way, our SATA drivers, video drivers, etc., all of the drivers we need that don't ship with Windows...all will be installed for us automatically.
Nah...idea's too simple. Never happen.