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David Baxter

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No-reformat reinstalls for all Windows versions
by Fred Langa, Windows Secrets
Newsletter January 9, 2014

A nondestructive Windows reinstall completely refreshes the operating system but retains your user accounts, data, passwords, and/or installed programs. This type of repair takes a fraction of the time required for a standard, full reinstall — and it's much, much easier to do.

I've covered nondestructive reinstalls for previous versions of Windows in several earlier stories.

See, for example, the July 14, 2011, Top Story, "Win7's no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall." The process for Vista is nearly identical. For Windows XP, check out the 2006 InformationWeek article, "XP's no-reformat, nondestructive total-rebuild option."

Reader William Searle wondered about this capability in Windows 8.

  • "Is there a Win8 version of the 'no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall?'"
Indeed there is, William. Microsoft made it easier than ever and built it right into the operating system; it's nondestructive for your settings and user data and for native Win8 apps downloaded through the app store. (From-disc apps, however, might still have to be reinstalled the old-fashioned way.)

Here's how to access the Win8 version of the reinstall process.

Open the Win8 Charms bar and click Settings (the gear icon). At the bottom of the Settings bar, click Change PC settings. On the PC Settings page, select General and then click the Get started button under Refresh your PC without affecting your files (as shown in Figure 1).

W20130117-LL-Refresh.png
Figure 1. Win8's built-in version of a no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall is always just a few clicks away in the PC Settings menu.

The next screen tells you exactly what the refresh will do. Read it carefully. For example, it notes that applications you installed from disc or the Web will be removed. (Apps downloaded from the Windows Store are retained.)

It's taken a long time for this capability to become a standard item in Windows, but it's great that it's finally there!
 

niknet

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Non-destructive re-installations can be useful for corrupted system files or for getting your data back from a corrupted system however if your system is infected, this will not solve the problem. There are better options for fixing corrupted system files or registry problems such as running system file checker, sfc /scannow from an administrator command line or the windows all in one repair tool available from http://www.tweaking.com.
 
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David Baxter

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Be careful using "all-in-one" repair tools like the one from tweaking.com. It "repairs" with a very broad brush which may end up doing some damage on some systems.
 

niknet

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This is true, however the tool allows you to select which repairs you would like to do and re-installation is a much broader brush.
;)
 

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