Reinstall Windows Without Losing Data (HOW TO)

by on December 18, 2012

reinstall windows

Windows is running slow or you just need to reinstall the Windows. If you have to do this and sometimes it is necessary, here’s how to make the process as safe and easy as possible.

1. Back up what you need

For this, EASEUS Todo Backup lets you clone your hard drive.

Be sure to create an emergency boot disc with EASEUS or whatever program you want to do the cloning. Without that, you may not be able to recover from a disaster.

Having a second backup of your data wouldn’t hurt, especially since you are about to erase the original. If you don’t already have another up-to-date backup, create one with whatever backup program you regularly use.
2. The Windows Reinstall

If your PC came with a recovery partition on the hard drive, find the instructions for booting into the repair environment. Watch the screen as you turn on the computer; it might show a message such as ‘Press F10 for Repair’. If it doesn’t, check the manual or call technical support.

If your recovery tool is a disc, boot the PC from it.

Either way, follow the prompts.

Remember that Windows will need updating. The patching will happen automatically, but if you want to get it out of the way, launch Windows Update and take care of it.

You will have to reinstall at least some of your drivers. You can go back to the discs that came with your PC, printer, scanner, and so on, or you can download newer versions off the Internet. Alternatively, you can install the drivers off the clone you made before reinstalling.

Revo Uninstaller lets you purge every last trace of an old app.

Now that you’ve cleaned Windows of unwanted applications, you have to reinstall the programs you do want. Start with your security tools, and go from there. Don’t try to install two programs at the same time, and if an installation requires a reboot, don’t put that reboot off. Just do it.

Once everything is installed, take some time to make Windows your own. Pick your wallpaper, change your power and screensaver settings, and so on.

3. Restore Your Data

Now it’s time to bring back your data. If you used an actual Windows 7 retail or upgrade DVD, the data is in a folder called C:\Windows.old. If you used a manufacturer’s recovery tool, your files might be in a special folder off the root, perhaps called C:\Backup. Otherwise, your data is no longer on your hard drive.

If the folder doesn’t exist, you’ll have to get it off of the clone or image backup. Create a folder on the internal drive called Backup (it should be C:\Backup). Plug in the external drive with the clone, and copy the contents of that drive’s User folder (Windows 7 or Vista) or ‘Documents and Settings’ folder (XP) to C:\Backup. Once the copying is done, remove the external drive (properly, of course, through the system tray’s removal tool). Leave Windows Explorer open to the C:\Backup folder.

Whether you needed to copy the data from the external drive or not, you should now have a Windows Explorer window open and displaying multiple folders–one for each user logon. For convenience’s sake, I’m going to call this window the Backup Location.

Open a second Windows Explorer window, and navigate to C:\Users (Windows 7 or Vista) or C:\Documents and Settings (XP). I’ll call this window the Proper Location, because it’s where your data should be–and eventually will be.

Do the following for each user:

Drag the folders you want to keep.
Open the user’s folders in both the Backup and Proper Locations. You will see additional folders, mostly the same ones, inside each. Drag some of the folders from Backup to Proper.

Which folders should you move? The obvious ones are Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. Their names may or may not be prefaced with My. XP users needn’t worry about the lack of Music, Pictures, and Videos folders–they’re inside Documents.

You should absolutely not move AppData (Windows 7 and Vista) or ‘Application Data and Local Settings’ (XP). These folders are hidden, so it’s likely you won’t see them, anyway.

Use your own judgment about other folders. Just remember that the folders you don’t move aren’t going away immediately, so you can always correct that mistake.

Be careful when you merge folders, or you might accidentally overwrite something important.
You’ll get several error messages as you move the folders. If Windows asks, yes, you do want to merge folders. Replacing a file with one that has the same name is also probably safe, but use your own judgment.

That process will take care of your documents, spreadsheets, pictures, music, and so on. Application data (Firefox settings, Outlook data files, and the like) is more complicated. Each application has its own way of handling the task, so I can give you no general instructions.

Just remember that you still have this data in your Backup Location, and you can restore it when you need it. You’ll find it in the AppData folder for Windows 7 and Vista, and the Application Data and Location Settings\Application Data folders in XP. All of these folders are hidden, visible only if you tell Windows Explorer to display hidden files. See “Back Up, Restore, and Migrate Firefox” and “Back Up and Restore Outlook” for instructions involving two popular programs.

Eventually you’ll be able to delete your Backup or Windows.old folder. But don’t rush. Wait until you are sure it has nothing that you’ll need again.


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