Taking the Pain Out of Reinstalling Windows

Mike Halsey MVP
Mar 5, 2011
Updated • Dec 27, 2012

Sometimes there's nothing you can do when your copy of Windows is malfunctioning other than a complete format and reinstall.  This is always a pain, but how can you take the pain out of the process?  Here's my own guide to taking the pain out of reinstalling Windows from scratch.

Part 1 - Preparation

  1. The first thing to think about is do your files and data reside on the same hard disk or partiton as Windows?  How will you know. 
    1. If you click on your log-in name in the top right of the Windows Start Menu you can then right-click on any folder (your Documents folder is a good choice though any should do)
    2. Select it's Properties from the context menu that appears and see where its physical location is.  If it is C:\Users\ then formatting your hard disk will also wipe these files.  You can do two things it this point...
      1. If you have a hard disk or partition in your computer with enough space to move the files there you can select all these folders
        1. Right click on them and select Cut.  NOTE: This works on Windows Vista and Windows 7 ONLY.
        2. Navigate to the hard disk or paritition where you want to move them
        3. Right click and select Paste.  This will move all your files permanently away from your Windows installation, securing them in the event you're forced to reformat your windows disk.
      2. Alternatively you should make sure you back up all your files to a seperate internet or external hard disk
      3. If you are using Windows XP, back up your Internet Favourites in your browser
      4. If you are using Windows Calendar and/or Windows Mail in Windows Vista or Microsoft Outlook, back up your files
  2. The speedy way to install software is to have it all available on your hard drive (not the partition on which Windows itself is installed) and run it from there.  Installing software in this way will be much faster than running it from a disc.
    1. If you have spare hard disk space on a second hard disk or partition in your PC, copy your installers to it.  This could include your copy of Microsoft Office.
    2. You should go to websites such as www.apple.com/itunes, www.microsoft.com/security_essentials, www.ccleaner.com, www.spywareterminator.com and http://download.live.com to get the latest versions of any software you need in advance.  Store these on the same separate hard disk or partition.
  3. Are you connected to the Internet via Wireless?  If so you need to make sure you have a copy of your wireless LAN driver available.  Any other driver Windows should be able to download from Windows Update after reinstallation, but if you can't get online, Windows won't be able to check for drivers. 
    1. If you have the CD with your Wireless LAN driver on, keep this handy.
    2. If you don't have the driver download it from the manufacturer's website.  You can find out what driver you need in Device Manager by looking for your Wireless driver in the Network section and noting the make and model.

Part 2 - Reinstallation

  1. You are now ready to reinstall Windows in a trouble-free manner.  Reboot from your computer from the installation disc for Windows and reinstall, reformatting the hard disk or partition where Windows is
  2. When Windows is reinstalled, after it has installed your hardware drivers, run Windows Update to check for better drivers.  You may need to do this two or three times, rebooting after each set of updates
    1. Check in Device Manager for any missing drivers.  Right-click on them and select Update Driver to download the latest driver from Windows Update.
    2. For drivers that cannot be installed from Windows Update (which in Windows 7 should be zero) you will have to download the latest driver from the manufacturer's website or install it from the CD supplied with your PC
  3. If you have moved your files and data away from Windows using the steps above, repeat those steps exactly so that the reinstalled Windows can see your files in your user folders.  If not you can copy your files and data back from your backup
  4. You can now reinstall each piece of software from the store you created on your hard disk.  Try to avoid having too much software installed, and try to avoid having anything in that duplicates a feature already in Windows.  The less software you have installed, the more stable Windows will be in the long-term

That's really all there is to it, apart from printing this page out first of course!  Now you will have a cleanly installed copy of Windows installed.
The reason for writing this is that many people think that performing a clean reinstallation of Windows is an arduous task best done by professionals.  It really isn't very difficult and shouldn't take, especially with Windows 7, more then a couple of hours maximum from start to finish.  Happy reinstalling all.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.