How to Do a Clean Install of Windows Without Losing Your Files, Settings, and Tweaks

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There’s nothing like a recent set up of Windows to clear your thoughts, however it comes at a price: it’s a must to set every little thing up once more, simply the way in which you prefer it. Here’s easy methods to reinstall Windows, migrate your necessary settings, and depart the muddle behind.

You don’t have to regularly reinstall Windows simply to maintain issues clear, however that does not imply you will by no means need to do it once more. Maybe you simply purchased or constructed a brand new laptop, or perhaps you did not handle your laptop in addition to you thought and it’s a must to do a clear set up. Maybe you simply need to wipe the slate clear for that new, recent feeling. A clear slate is good, however it additionally means you are going to spend the remainder of the weekend organising all of your previous applications, settings, and system tweaks, half of which you’ve got most likely forgotten since you set them up so way back. Here, we’ll undergo some tips about easy methods to again up your most necessary settings and tweaks, and restore them in your new system.

Part One: The Preparation

Before you reinstall Windows, you are going to need to undergo all of your stuff and again up the applications, settings, and tweaks you need to take with you. Here’s what we advocate.

Step One: Export a List of Your Programs

Before you do the rest, it is useful to have an inventory of all of your presently put in applications so you recognize what settings to again up, and which applications you need to reinstall afterward. The simplest way to do that is with CCleaner (a program everyone should have installed). Just open it up and export an inventory of your applications:

  1. Open up CCleaner (you are able to do this shortly by right-clicking the Recycle Bin and selecting “Open CCleaner” from the menu).
  2. Head to the “Tools” part within the left sidebar.
  3. Click the “Save to textual content file” button within the backside right-hand nook, and select the place you need to reserve it.

Save the file in your Dropbox or on a USB stick so you have got it after you do your clear set up.

Step Two: Back Up Your Windows Settings

Next, it is best to again up any Windows settings you’ll be able to so you do not have to do an excessive amount of tweaking after you reinstall. The finest method to do that is with Windows Easy Transfer, Windows’ built-in migration program for simply such events. It can again up app settings too, however it’s not excellent at it, so we aren’t going to make use of it for that at this time.

To begin it up, simply open the Start menu (or display) and kind Windows Easy Transfer. When it pops up, you will get an outline of what it may well do. Click Next and select an exterior exhausting disk or USB flash drive to your recordsdata. Tell it that that is your “previous” PC, and it’ll scan your customers for gadgets to again up. Click Customize to tweak the choice. In this case, we advocate unchecking every little thing and simply backing up “Windows Settings,” although you should utilize this to again up your paperwork and recordsdata too (see under).

Step Three: Back Up Your Documents and Files

Before you reinstall Windows, you will clearly need to again up your paperwork, music, motion pictures, and different recordsdata similar to you at all times would. I normally simply copy these to an exterior drive or transfer them with Windows Easy Transfer as described above, although in the event you again up your laptop frequently (which it is best to), you’ll be able to at all times simply restore them out of your backup afterward as effectively.

Step Four: Back Up Your Program Settings

Next, you will need to again up all of the settings you’ve got labored so exhausting crafting on every of these applications (not less than those you propose to maintain). Different applications retailer their settings elsewhere, however listed below are the primary locations it is best to look:

Your AppData Folder: This folder, positioned at C:UsersyourusernameAppData, is the place nearly all of your applications retailer their settings (normally underneath the Roaming subfolder). Usually you will see a folder with the title of this system or its developer, with a variety of recordsdata inside. You’ll need to again up this system’s complete folder.

Your “My Documents” Folder: You know the place that is already. If you open it up, it is best to see just a few folders for different applications in your system, which frequently comprise person settings or tweaks that you will need to save. Back these folders up individually, similar to the AppData folders.

Your Program Files Folder: Most applications will not retailer settings within the Program Files folder, however it would possibly retailer different necessary stuff, like plugins or themes you put in after the very fact. If that is the case for this system in query, it is a good suggestion to again up its folder in C:Program Files (or C:Program Files (x86)) for good measure.

Your Registry: Some applications, like Fences, retailer all of their settings in your Registry. This is fairly simple to again up: simply press the Windows key, kind regedit, and press Enter. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftware and scroll right down to this system in query—in Fences’ case, underneath StardockFences. Right-click on this system’s folder within the registry and select Export to again it up.

Games: If you play any video games, the above tips ought to work, however we advocate utilizing a program like GameSave Manager to make the method infinitely extra easy. It’ll seek for video games in your system, discover the place their save recordsdata are saved, and again up every little thing for you.

Again, totally different applications will retailer settings elsewhere, so in the event you’re not sure, do a little bit of analysis earlier than you begin. If a program has the power to “export” or “again up” its settings to a file, that may be useful as effectively.

Once you discover the folder(s) wherein a program shops its recordsdata, copy that folder to your Dropbox or a USB stick. I additionally wish to put a textual content file with that folder indicating the trail to the place it was saved. For instance, if I had been to again up Pidgin’s settings, I would again up the .libpurple folder in my AppData and the Plugins folder in Pidgin’s Program Files. I would then create a textual content folder that famous the place every of those two folders got here from, so i do know the place to place them once I restore them afterward.

Repeat this course of for every of your necessary applications, and it is best to have every little thing that you must reinstall them afterward with out shedding your settings. This sounds prefer it’ll take awhile, however it should not—it solely took me a couple of minutes to again up all of the necessary settings from my favourite applications.

Step Five: Create .Reg Files For Your System Tweaks

If you are an intense tweaker, you’ve got most likely edited the Windows Registry to allow some awesome under-the-hood power-ups, like hiding items in Windows Explorer or speeding up the Windows taskbar. The best approach to again these up, says Justin Garrison, is to avoid wasting a .reg file for every tweak in your Drobpox or USB stick. That method, everytime you reinstall Windows, you’ll be able to simply double-click in your .reg recordsdata to put in these tweaks immediately.

Most of your tweaks most likely have already got .reg scripts floating across the internet, so do some Googling to see if somebody’s already created one. If not, you’ll be able to at all times perform a little analysis and create the file yourself too.

Part Two: The Restoration

Once you’ve got received every little thing backed up, it is time to reinstall Windows. Insert the Windows set up disc and boot up from it, or use Windows eight’s Reset choice within the settings to begin from scratch. Once you’ve got received a recent set up of Windows, it is time to restore all of your stuff.

Step Six: Restore Your Windows Settings

Before you do the rest, it is a good suggestion to revive these Windows settings we backed up earlier. Reopen Windows Easy Transfer in your recent set up, plug in your USB drive together with your saved switch recordsdata, and this time select “This Is My New Computer.” It’ll restore your Windows settings and your person account that you simply backed up, alongside together with your Windows settings so you do not have to seek out all of them once more.

Step Seven: Reinstall Your Programs

Next, it is time to reinstall all of your applications. This can take awhile, however you’ll be able to velocity up the method with just a few instruments:

Ninite: Ninite continues to be considered one of our favourite instruments for putting in applications shortly. It does not have each program on the market, however it’s an incredible begin. Just examine off all of the applications you need, and Ninite will create an all-in-one package deal to put in them in a single fell swoop. Be certain to take a look at the Lifehacker Pack for Windows, too, which has its personal customized Ninite installer for our most really useful applications.

Chocolatey: If you are extra of a command line geek, Chocolatey is a useful utility that brings Linux-style package deal administration to Windows. With a few well-placed commands, you’ll be able to set up a ton of applications directly, bypassing the necessity for all these separate installers. Again, it does not have each program possible, however it does have fairly just a few to get you began.

Portable Apps: If you are uninterested in downloading installers on a regular basis, you would possibly need to strive utilizing moveable apps as a substitute. Portable apps basically allow you to carry all of your applications and settings over to a different laptop with no set up required. You’ll nonetheless have to look out every app your self, however after you do it as soon as, you will by no means need to do it once more—each clear set up from right here on out might be a lot faster since you’ll have already got half your apps able to go. Check out our guide to portable apps for extra info.

Once you’ve got put in the majority of your favourite applications, you might must open up that textual content file we received from CCleaner earlier to select up any stragglers that are not in Ninite. Install no matter you need, and once you’re carried out, transfer onto the following step.

Step Eight: Restore Your Documents and Program Settings

Once you’ve got reinstalled your favourite applications, it is best to restore your paperwork, music, motion pictures, and different recordsdata (in case any of your applications rely upon them—like iTunes, for instance). This ought to be fairly simple: simply restore them to the identical place they had been earlier than (e.g., put your music again in C:UsersyourusernameMusiciTunes, or wherever you had it positioned).

Do the identical factor with the app settings you backed up earlier. Open that folder and restore the folders to their authentic areas in AppData or Program Files (within the case of AppData, it is best to overwrite any recordsdata which are already there). When you begin that program, it ought to inherit all of your previous settings and it is going to be such as you by no means left!

Step Nine: Restore Your Registry Tweaks

Lastly, restore any registry tweaks you had. That means double-clicking in your .reg recordsdata that had app settings or Windows tweaks saved inside, and redoing any registry tweaks that you simply could not put right into a .reg file. Remember, you might must restart this system in query (or restart your laptop altogether) for the registry tweaks to take impact.


It looks like a protracted and drawn-out course of, however you would be shocked. I had all my settings copied over in a couple of minutes, and was up and working with most of my favourite applications not too lengthy after reinstalling—it is a lot, a lot sooner than setting every little thing up from scratch. Of course, in the event you like setting every little thing up from scratch, be happy to do this too. This is only a nice compromise between doing a recent set up and maintaining all of your settings that you do not need to arrange once more.

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