NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2009
Reimage – Online Service for Windows XP Repair
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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Recently one of my online technical journals had an article about a somewhat unique online service that claimed that it could non-destructively repair a Windows XP installation. The article claimed that this service could restore the software on the computer to the condition and speed that the computer had when it was new. Being the skeptic that I am, I decided to try the service and see if it really did what it claimed that it could do. I went to the website, http://www.reimage.com, and tried the service on an aging six year old Gateway computer, with XP Home (Service Pack 3), a 3.06 GHz Pentium CPU, and 1 gig of memory. When new, this computer was a speed demon which amazed me by processing files so quickly, but now it is long in the tooth, and dragging with years of software installations, uninstallations, updates, virus and other malware attacks. Now it seems to boot slowly, process data slowly, and grudgingly shutdown. Sometimes the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” appears indicating that something has gone terribly wrong, and that the computer needs to be shut down. While this computer has been well maintained with frequent malware scans, defragmention of the hard drive, maintenance of the startup files, cleaning the registry, and other tasks, it still seems to have degraded performance compared to when it was new. This malady is explicitly what Reimage claims that it can remedy.

Reimage was developed in Israel for an international market, and has an office in New York City. The principles behind Reimage all have impressive backgrounds and qualifications as well as a proven track record of personal performance. The goal of Reimage, as stated on its website, is “Reimage offers a revolutionary online, automated repair tool that empowers PC technicians to expertly service more computers more swiftly. Reimage automatically and quickly first identifies and then, surgically replaces faulty system software without compromising user data.” The company has identified that the typical computer is used for about five years before requiring major overhaul or replacement, and the overhaul process is time consuming and expensive. According to Reimage, there is also a worldwide shortage of qualified computer technicians; “To provide repairs, there are 1,250,000 computer technicians - one technician for every 160,000 faulty computers.” Reimage was designed for computer repair facilities, schools, businesses, internet service providers, and others to be able to quickly and cost effectively repair the XP operating system installed on the computer, bringing it back to its original performance. Reimage can repair the software on the computer, but cannot replace deteriorated hardware in the computer. The current build of Reimage is for XP only, but Vista (and probably Windows 7) versions are in development.

After obtaining a username and password for a Reimage repair, I rebooted into Safe Mode with Networking (Safe Mode is recommended for speed and safety; tap the F8 key at the beginning of the boot process), and using Internet Explorer, I went to reimage.com. Under the heading “For Home – make your PC as good as new” I clicked on the “Click to start a repair” link. It downloaded a file ReimageRepair.exe to my computer, which installed the preliminary diagnostic utilities. I entered my registration information, and allowed Reimage to work its magic, and diagnose and repair my software. If for some reason my computer was so badly corrupted that it was not bootable from the hard drive, Reimage offers a free bootable CD utility that will boot the computer with internet access. After the installation, the Reimage software did a thorough scan of my entire hard drive seeking any malware that may be infecting the computer. Reimage is not a substitute for antivirus software, and still suggests that antivirus software be installed, and that the antivirus software be used after the Reimage process to re-scan the computer. In my case, since I am tenacious about cyber security, no malware was found. If malware had been found, not only would Reimage have neutralized it, but Reimage also has the capability to repair almost any damage the malware had caused. According to the website, “Reimage PC repair is a web service that rapidly diagnoses operating system problems. Reimage surgically implements repairs by accessing a huge web repository of 25 million "spare" systems files and registry objects.” Once installed, Reimage runs automatically with almost no human intervention, and does not need to be monitored.

Reimage also scans and repairs any DLL and system files that are found to be corrupted or otherwise damaged, installing them while online from its library of “25 million spare parts”. In my case Reimage identified about 4000 files that it determined to be in need of repair, downloaded them, and installed them. It checked the hardware drivers for adequacy, and then checked for any problems that could cause stability problems. I was amazed to see a graph generated about the recent system issues and crashes that I had suffered in the past few months, an indication that I had stability problems. Reimage corrected any erroneous entries in the registry, updated appropriate registry entries, and installed any necessary files. After completion of its diagnosis and repair, Reimage reboots a cleaned and repaired computer. According to the website, the typical repair process takes about 40 minutes, but in my case it took over two hours. One item that I noted is that after the repair, while my computer ran well, Microsoft’s Windows Update Service identified a few recent updates that had to be re-downloaded and installed. This was not much of a problem, and only a very minor inconvenience caused by the fact that Reimage created an operating system on my computer that was like new.

After the reboot, my computer booted up appropriately and promptly, and I was very pleased to see that all of my programs and data files were intact, corroborating Reimage’s claims that it does not harm the data files on the computer. It still would be wise to have frequent backups (I do), but in my case no data files were lost. In the weeks since I ran Reimage, I have not had a single “Blue Screen of Death” or other system crash, very much unlike the weeks preceding the running of Reimage where crashes were frequent and common. My system shutdown also appears to be faster than before running Reimage.

Reimage is not cheap with a one-time home use price of $65, with a 100% money back guarantee. Reading some blogs about Reimage, where users commented on the price, it was noted that for many users $65 was a bargain compared to what a technician would have charged for a similar service, and considering the massive database of “spare parts” that Reimage has developed. I can vouch for that because just recently one of my coworkers carried his computer to a prominent local “big box” store because his computer was running slow, and the store charged him $300 in labor to clean up the operating system and software; no hardware was repaired or replaced. For him in this case, Reimage would have been a bargain, as it could have done about the same as what the big-box technician did for a lot less.

For those families with multiple computers, the marginal cost of running Reimage on additional computers is quite low, totally only $79 for three repair runs, which would fix the software on three computers. Small businesses (or big families) can get a bulk deal on Reimage, at $139 for 10 computers. Prorated at $14 per computer, the service is a bargain, considering the potential increase in performance and productivity. Schools, business IT departments, ISPs, and computer repair facilities may get unlimited access to Reimage and all of its services for $149 per month. The unlimited plan also includes premium support, where professional PC technician assistance is available. For all plans except the single use plan, Reimage can be installed and run from a USB flash drive. At my school, with hundreds of XP computers of varying vintage, an unlimited monthly program would likely save the IT department a lot of time cleaning up and improving computer performance.

Reimage claims a 95% success rate in restoring decrepit XP computers to a like-new performance state. For the few that are not successfully restored, Reimage offers a 100% refund, as well as for those not satisfied with the repair. The repairs are totally reversible, and the computer can be quickly restored to its pre-repair state, which may be necessary for some refunds.

I was very satisfied with the repair on my antiquated XP computer, and as said earlier, I have had no software crashes or other severe system problems since running Reimage, and my computer performance seems to be improved. Since the current version of Reimage is for XP only, I eagerly look forward to the potential of having a similar service for Vista and the upcoming Windows 7. While somewhat pricey for a single use, Reimage can be a blessing considering the time and aggravation of dealing with an unstable XP computer that crashes at the most inopportune times. With its money back guarantee, Reimage may be very worthy of consideration for that older XP computer that seems to crash a lot and have other software issues. If it works as well on your computer as it did on mine, it may well be worth the cost.

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