I've used and installed Windows 95 (a,b,c) and Windows 98 (1st, SE) and the usual life expectancy is six months, at the most, until either it becomes unfixable or crashes so frequently you may as well reinstall (it). Scandisk would begin to report "can't find last sector on drive x:" which was untrue. The system wouldn't boot. JPEGs would be saved as BMPs, and format c: it was.

But then for a year I had a clean run with no problems and the only thing that changed was that I no longer used Internet Explorer.

I told this to one of my friends.

"Oh. you didn't know that?"

"No"

"Well how many times have you installed it?"

"Four"

"You going anywhere tonight?"

"Yes"

I nearly cried.

Personally, IE or no, back when I used it a lot more frequently I would format and reinstall every three months, as opposed to six. Now I use it once in a blue moon, so my windows partition has been known to last as long as six to seven months.

The primary reason behind this rigid schedule of destruction and re-creation was cleanliness. I am not John Q. User who just uses office once in a while. I play with shit, I experiment, and my machine ends up looking like a recently autopsied corpse. Wiping the slate clean every so often lets me keep things running at least kinda smoothly.
Now that I say this, it's gonna be the end of me, but my Windows 98SE partition has never been formatted in 3 years (this is through updates from 95-98-SE), even when I forgot that my peripherals may not work with my overclocked cpu. Doh! I play with shit, I use sound editing software, programming stuff, graphics programs. Oh, and I use IE5.

Major hardware upgrades I've done without having to reinstall:
New motherboard, CPU.
New ATA/66 PCI interface.
New Video Card (GeForce)
3rd Hard Drive

All at the same time.

It's just a matter of patience, and actually taking the time to uninstall software properly.

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