Re-install Windows by Formatting Computer Without Losing Data

Sometimes it may so happen that you need to format your computer to re-install Windows (be it any version). This may occur if your Windows operating system undergoes a stability error in course of time, or if it is seriously affected by the invasion of a virus or Malware that completely disrupts the normal proceedings of your system. Generally, formatting the drive containing the operating system and re-installing Windows does the job, since most of the causes to the problems incurred in a system lies in the System Drive itself. But at times you may need to go with formatting the entire computer if the virus or a foreign invader has already affected one or more drives in addition to the System Drive.
[See also: How to install Windows XP and Windows 7 from a USB drive.]
Now, formatting and reinstalling Windows should not be a problem if you have the Windows Installation CD/DVD, or a bootable USB drive. The dilemma starts when you have some important documents stored in your system that you don’t wish to be deleted when you are bound to format the whole computer. This is because, in such a case, all contents of your hard drive gets erased including your personal or important documents. You can always make a backup of these documents in your external storage device, if you have one. But in some cases, where the space required is more than you can provide for, this may not be the solution. Moreover, this process may be time consuming, and may pose to be a potential threat for further virus invasion.
We, here at Tech-Tips-Geek, plow 2 different methods to format your entire computer to re-install Windows without losing any data.

Method 1 : Using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard

A procedure to create a full backup of your important data before performing a full format of your computer is by using the “Files and Settings Transfer” (FAST) wizard of your Windows operating system. To execute this procedure follow the steps below :
1. Click “Start” and navigate to All Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
2. The wizard opens. Continue by clicking on “Next”.

3. You will be asked if  the computer you are using is the “New Computer” or “Old Computer”. Select “Old Computer” and then proceed with clicking on “Next”.

4. The “Select Transfer Method” window appears. Select the option “Other (for example, removable drive or network drive)”. Browse to select a drive where you want to store your important documents in the box below. Make sure to select a drive that has enough space to store the data to be safely kept, i.e., data you don’t wish to get deleted. Click “Next” to continue with the data transfer process.

The transferring or copying process starts. This process takes some time to complete. The estimated time depends upon the total size of the files being transferred and the speed of your system.

After the files are copied and the transfer process ends, exit the “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard”. Your computer is now ready to be entirely formatted.
Now, insert the Windows installation CD or DVD and reboot your computer. Perform a normal installation of your Windows operating system by entirely formatting your computer, i.e, clearing your complete hard drives of their contents (if you saves the backup to a removable disk, otherwise format only the installation drive) .
After Windows is completely installed, and the system restarts with a fresh new copy of Windows, you need to recover the files and documents that you have previously saved in order to prevent them from being deleted. To recover those files, follow the steps described below :

  • Click on Start > All Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
  • The “FAST” wizard opens up. Continue by clicking on “Next”.
  • You are given three options : <i> To create a wizard disk in ; <ii> To use an existing wizard disk ; <iii> That you don’t need  a wizard disk, since you have already stored the files to be recovered in another location. Select the 3rd option as you have previously stored the files to “Old Computer”. Then click on “Next” to proceed to the next step.

  • The “Select a Transfer Method” box appears and like in the previous scenario, select the option “Other (for example, removable drive or network drive)” as you have to recover the saved files from the location you have stored them in. Specify the drive location where you have previously saved your documents by clicking on “Browse”. Continue the recovery process with “Next”.


The files starts to be recovered as the transfer process commences. These files, that you had previously stored, are transferred from the “Old Computer” to the “New Computer”. You can now access this data normally as you did in the previous versions.
[Tip : Install all programs that are required before recovering the files using the “FAST” wizard, so that the recovered files work in order after you recover them.]

Method 2 : Using Repair Option During Installation

With your computer turned on, insert the Windows installation CD/DVD and then reboot your system. When your computer restarts, follow the instructions to boot from the CD or DVD. The Windows Setup wizard starts and Windows checks the hardware configuration of your computer for the installation process.

When the “Welcome to Setup” screen appears, press ENTER to select the option “To set up Windows now”. Make sure to not press “R” as this selects the “Recovery Console” option.

When the next screen appears, press F8 to accept the license agreement for Microsoft Software and continue.

The installation wizard searches for any previous versions of Windows located in your computer and of course it will find one, since you still have the Windows operating system in your computer. You will be optioned to either repair the selected copy of Windows that appears on your screen by pressing “R”, or to install a fresh copy of Windows by pressing “ESC”.

Press “R” to select the option to repair your existing Windows operating system. Windows starts copying files to your computer hard drive.

Once the copying process is complete, you will be asked to restart your system on which abide to the request. On restarting, continue the process of installation just like you would in case of a normal one. After the total installation process is complete, you can access all your previous data along with all previously installed programs in a fresh copy of Windows.
You have formatted your computer, installed a new fresh copy Windows, removed all anomalies that were causing you problems previously, and you haven’t lost any data along with being enabled to access all of your previously installed programs. Surely, these two procedures to format your computer without losing your important and classified data are gonna be of help to you.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Hello,
    I dont understand how the method one prevents the transfered files package being deleted when the whole drive is formatted. Could you please clarify that or am I mistaken somewhere?
    Thanks,
    Liaz

  2. Liaz: This procedure helps you to backup your data as well as the settings. So you must keep the backup safe. If you can keep the backup to a removable drive, you can format your entire disk. But if the backup files belong to your local disk drive, you can not format that drive.
    Your point of view is perfect. The mistake was made by an author. He skipped a line to mention. Sorry for that. Though, I have corrected that line.
    Thanks for your great interaction.

  3. Thank you for the reply. Im currently in a dire need of reformatting while keeping lots of data while having no external drive. So I figured my best bet would be to shrink my current c drive and partition it. Then saving the to-be-kept data on the new partition while reformatting the former one.
    Could you please affirm that this method is good and wont lead to formatting both drives? (Not counting accidental failures etc)
    Thanks,
    Liaz

  4. After reforming your partitions you can treat them as natural partition i.e you can put your files in the shrinked drive and format the mother drive.It wont lead you to format the whole. Let me know if you want any further suggestion.

  5. Thank you kindly for your replies.
    I actually have one more question and that is whether defragmenting of the disk before partitioning is strongly recommended (as in it has an effect on the even allocation of HDD space) or isnt an issue at all?
    Basically I have no idea how partioning works on the actual physical drive and wondering whether defragmenting is vital.
    Thank you in advance!
    Regards,
    Liaz

  6. how can i perform method 1 as my pc is restarting ,it doesn’t show even desktop, i want to format my pc but either of methods not working

  7. Hi.
    Is there any way so that i can move the softwares unrelated to windows from c-drive to d-drive… My c-drive always pops up message “running out of memory”
    Thanks

  8. So I went through the preocess and it went exactly as noted (thank you) BUT now I have a black screen that says, “please wait” with a little Windows XP logo… been waiting nearly an hour now… I have the hourglass in place of a pointer, but the machine does not appear to be doing anything or the drives working on anything…

  9. It would go directly to partitions not this one. “The installation wizard searches for any previous versions of Windows located in your computer and of course it will find one, since you still have the Windows operating system in your computer. You will be optioned to either repair the selected copy of Windows that appears on your screen by pressing “R”, or to install a fresh copy of Windows by pressing “ESC”.”
    What to do? 🙁

  10. I am currently using Windows 7 Ultimate 64, would this work if I would like to install Service Pack 1 of Windows 7 OR Windows 8?

  11. I dont have any personal data to be saved. So now can i start fomating procedure following method 2. My laptop is compaq 610 window 7.

  12. I have my hard disk partitioned into 3 C,D,E drives and the error being shown as soon as i start my laptop is that no boot device found(C drive contains windows, all the drivers and some data)…so now if i format my laptop how will the data in C drive be safe??

  13. After the files are copied and the transfer process ends, exit the “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard”. Your computer is now ready to be entirely formatted.
    Now, insert the Windows installation CD or DVD and reboot your computer. Perform a normal installation of your Windows operating system by entirely formatting your computer, i.e, clearing your complete hard drives of their contents (if you saves the backup to a removable disk, otherwise format only the installation drive) .
    After Windows is completely installed, and the system restarts with a fresh new copy of Windows, you need to recover the files and documents that you have previously saved in order to prevent them from being deleted. To recover those files, follow the steps described below :
    Click on Start > All Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
    The “FAST” wizard opens up. Continue by clicking on “Next” .
    You are given three options : To create a wizard disk in ; To use an existing wizard disk ; That you don’t need a wizard disk, since you have already stored the files to be recovered in another location. Select the 3rd option as you have previously stored the files to “Old Computer” . Then click on “Next” to proceed to the next step.

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