The Best Way to Reinstall Windows Without Losing Data

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At some point during the course of your computer’s use, you will find yourself in the unenviable position of having to reinstall Windows. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps important system files got corrupted or disk errors or viruses caused your system to become unstable.

This is all a result of wear and tear on your PC. When that time comes, you will have to not only know how to reinstall windows, but how to reinstall windows without losing data. Here we refer to a fresh install of Windows and not simply an attempt to repair a few files.

1. Your Vendor’s Restore CD

The first step in knowing how to reinstall windows is to locate your vendor’s restore CD–otherwise known appropriately enough as a rescue or boot disk. Windows comes with its own rescue CD as well. If that’s the only one you have at your disposal then locate your operating system’s instructions below.

Rescue CDs are not all alike. Some give you rescue functions as well as important software drivers for your computer. Others are more basic, only allowing you the ability to reformat your hard drive. Don’t reformat your hard drive without backing up your personal files to another medium first! Your personal files are those located under ‘My Documents’ in Windows. The exact location of your personal files and folders varies from one operating system to another.

In Windows XP, for example, you will backup everything in C:Documents and Settings. In Windows 98 and ME, you will backup C:My Documents. More instructions follow below for your particular system. If you have any other folders where you’ve stored personal stuff back those up as well.

2. Windows 98 and ME CDs

With Windows 98 and ME you don’t want to just reinstall windows without backing up important system information. This information can be found in your Windows folders.

First create a new folder on your C: drive and name it oldWindows. Then use Windows explorer to navigate to your Windows folder. Once there, locate the following subfolders: All Users, Application Data, Desktop, Favorites, Local Settings, Profiles, SendTo, and Start Menu. Copy these folders to the oldWindows folder you created.

Now it’s time to reboot. Restart Windows with your boot disk Upon startup select Start computer with CD-ROM support. Drivers will begin loading so go ahead and insert your Windows CD-ROM.

To reinstall windows properly you will need to delete your directory tree so type c:windowscommanddeltree /y c:windows and press the Enter key. After that you need to invoke the Windows setup installation procedure located on your Windows CD. Type your CD drive letter and then type setup.

Next get into the DOS prompt from Windows and type

xcopy c:oldWindows*.* c:windows /s /h /r /c.

This will restore all important system information.

3. Windows 2000 and XP CDs

If you have Windows 2000 and XP you need to know how to reinstall windows properly as well. Insert your Windows CD and boot your computer. Upon startup you will see Press any key to boot from CD.

After clicking you will come to the welcome screen. Press Enter, then press Escape to start a restore. From the menu options select C as your current partition and then l to delete the Windows folder. Enter temp as your user name when prompted. Reboot and you will be logged in as temp.

Next you will restore your personal files. Windows 2000 users should login as temp, then Administrator and then back to temp again. Then navigate to C:Documents and Settings and you will see an Administrator folder and one with Administrator: computername.

From DOS type cd documents and settings and then press Enter. Type xcopy administrator*.* administrator.computername /s /h /r /c, substituting for computername your folder that was appended to Administrator earlier. Your personal files will be restored.

4. For Both Windows XP and 2000

Windows XP and 2000 users need one extra step to know how to reinstall windows correctly. Create a new folder on your C: drive and label it oldData. Then go to My Documents and Settings and copy all of the folders for each username to oldData.

In Control Panel go to User Accounts and create a new account for each of these users–use their names as spelled out under their Documents and Settings folders. If you’re using XP ensure that at least one account has Administrator privileges.

For each user on your computer, log off and log in with that user’s name. Then login as Temp and drop down into the DOS command prompt interpreter. Now type

xcopy c:oldData*.* “c:documents and settings” /s /h /r /c

Then press Enter. Go ahead and confirm that you want to overwrite files. When you’re done, log off and then login as each user. Each user’s Documents and Settings should be restored.

5. Finishing Up

After you install windows you need to install other software too, like drivers and Windows Updates from Microsoft’s web site. Check for any graphics drivers that you may need to install from a vendor CD.

Look for all of your old personal files and make sure that they are all there. If not, check the C:oldData folder and move the files to the correct location. Once you are absolutely sure that you have everything you can delete both the oldData folder and the Administrator folder.

Conclusion

It may have come as a surprise to you to learn that you can reinstall windows without having to wipe out your hard drive. With a fresh install of Windows you can restore to your computer the speed and efficiency which it had when you first bought it.

A fresh install will do wonders for your computer’s performance and will be better for your system than a simple repair. In order to save your personal files you simply need to create temporary folders as we outlined in this article and restore them back into the new installation.

Source by Gary Hendricks

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