There are many reasons why you might want to reinstall Windows. Perhaps it’s to clear out unnecessary junk files that are slowing down your computer. Or, perhaps it’s necessary to fix an issue that can’t be resolved any other way. Oftentimes the primary concern you have is what will happen to your data in the process.
Thankfully, reinstalling Windows doesn’t mean you need to wave goodbye to all of your important files. We’re going to show you how to reinstall Windows without losing data.
Can I Reinstall Windows Without Losing Files?
It depends on the method you use, but in most cases, you have the option to keep files that you don’t want to lose during the reinstall. For instance, if you’re reinstalling Windows using an ISO file or the Media Creation Tool, it gives you the option to reinstall Windows without losing files.
However, there are some methods that do not give you the option to keep your files. These methods will perform a clean install, which deletes your data in the process. Bear this in mind, as you may not always have the opportunity to use a method that allows you to keep your data.
I had to reinstall Windows because my computer stopped booting today & now I gotta download my entire Dropbox and get back all the programs & games I use one-by-one pic.twitter.com/gLFVbBC6rD
— Polyhex (@tylermcbride) November 11, 2018
How to Create a Backup of Drive
Even if you choose the option of reinstalling Windows without losing files, it’s always a good idea to back up your data. Backing up your data ensures it’s safe in case something goes wrong and allows you to quickly recover files after a factory reset of Windows.
To back up your data, we recommend using Backup and Restore. Follow these steps to create a backup:
6 Methods to Reinstall Windows
After creating a backup, you can reinstall Windows knowing that your data is safe. We’ve included instructions for reinstalling Windows using various methods to give you a range of options.
Method 1: Using the ‘Reset PC’ Option
The Reset PC option is by far the easiest way to reinstall Windows. You don’t need any additional storage devices to use it and it can be accessed from your Settings or the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE). It gives you two options:
- Users folder (including subfolders Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos) is preserved, allowing you to reinstall the operating system without losing data. Any apps that you installed, as well as data stored outside of the aforementioned folders, are removed. – The personal data stored in the
- – All of your data is deleted, along with any apps that you installed.
In order to use this option, your computer must have sufficient storage space. If it doesn’t, you will be advised to clear up some space before proceeding with the reset.
Follow these steps to reset your computer using the Reset PC option:
Method 2: Using the Windows Recovery Environment
When your computer is facing some issues, booting into WinRE gives you options that can help diagnose and fix problems that are preventing your computer from starting up. Here, you can also choose to reset the PC without losing some of your files, much like using the Reset PC option we used in the last method.
This is how you reset your Windows 10/11 computer from WinRE:
Method 3: Using Media Creation Tool
The Windows Media Creation Tool can be used to reinstall Windows. A copy of Windows will be downloaded from the cloud and you will be given the option to keep your personal files and apps.
Method 4: Using a USB or DVD
You can reinstall Windows using installation media. For this, you will need a USB or DVD, a copy of the Windows version you’d like to install, and a program called Rufus.
Be sure to back everything up on the installation media you will be using, as it will be deleted in the process.
This method will give you two options:
- – This option will preserve your personal data, apps, and settings. Use this option to reinstall Windows without losing files and programs.
- – All your personal data, settings, and apps will be deleted.
We will demonstrate how to reinstall Windows 10 from a USB.
Method 5: Using an ISO File
You can reinstall Windows simply by using the Windows ISO file. This is a great option if you don’t have a DVD or USB device to create a bootable device. It also allows you to choose whether you want to keep some of your data or perform a clean install and creates a windows.old folder with the previous version of Windows you had.
Method 6: Over the Network
A more technical method of reinstalling Windows is doing it over the network. You can do this using a third-party tool called SERVA. This method will require both computers to be connected to the same network.
Step 1: Finding Your IP Address
Before we start, we will need to find the IP address assigned to your computer. This can be done using Command Prompt, Windows PowerShell, or Terminal:
Step 2: Setting Up SERVA
Once you have your IP address ready, let’s proceed with setting up SERVA and installing Windows:
Step 3: Installing Windows with SERVA
Finally, once SERVA is configured, you can install Windows over the network. Before you start, you must ensure the target computer is configured to boot into PXE mode. This can be done in your BIOS.
How to Recover Files Lost During Windows Reinstall
If you performed a clean install, or if something went wrong during the reinstall of your Windows operating system, you can use data recovery software to recover lost data. Disk Drill is the data recovery tool we’ll be using. It uses an advanced algorithm to scan your hard drive and lets you hand-pick the recoverable data you want to restore.
Here’s how you can recover files that were lost during a Windows reinstall using Disk Drill:
There are times when it’s necessary to reinstall Windows. There are multiple ways to achieve this. Most methods allow you to keep your data so it’s not deleted in the process. However, there are some methods that may require you to perform a clean install.
Probably the easiest way to reinstall Windows is using the Reset PC option. You can accomplish this in the Settings menu or by booting into WinRE. Otherwise, you can also do it through the Media Creation Tool, creating a bootable USB or DVD, using the ISO file, or over the network.
Make sure you back up your data beforehand. If you were unable to create a backup and lost some of your data in the process, be sure to recover it using a data recovery tool such as Disk Drill.
- Right-click Start and click Settings.
- Click Update & Security.
- Click Recovery.
- Click Get started (under Reset this PC).
- Choose whether you want to keep your files or perform a clean install.
- Follow the provided instructions to complete the reinstall.
- Upgrade - Keeps your files, settings, and applications.
- Custom - Deletes your files, settings, and applications.
- Open Settings.
- Click System.
- Click Recovery.
- Click Go back.
- Choose a reason why you’re going back and click Next.
- Click No, thanks.
- Click Next.
- Click Next.
- Click Go back to Windows 10.