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reinstall windows without losing data programsThe Windows XP installation CD includes an option to repair an existing Windows XP installation. Using this option allows you to reinstall Windows without losing the files, personal data and programs you already have on the system. To take advantage of it, just place the CD into your CD or DVD drive on your PC and reboot the computer.

During the installation you will be prompted if you wish to use the recovery console to repair a Windows installation. The recovery console is rather limited in its use, so just press the Enter key to proceed with the installation as you would normally.

repair windows without losing files

Press F8 to continue past the Licensing Agreement.


The next screen should display a prompt asking you if you wish to repair an existing installation.  Select your Windows installation (most likely it is the only one) and press R.


how to repair windows xp

This will begin the repair and reinstallation of Windows. The installation will copy files to the hard drive, reboot the system, and then proceed just like a normal installation. Follow the prompts just as you normally would any normal Windows installation.

When the installation completes, you should still be able to access all of your documents and installed programs.

Full Windows Reinstall Without Loosing Data and Programs

I personally prefer to perform a full clean reinstallation of Windows. With the clean install, the hard drive is formatted and programs are reinstalled. If you want to use this method, you can use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard (AKA FAST).

To use FAST, you first have to run it from the old Windows installation. Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.

FATS Wizard - reinstall windows without losing programs

Tell FAST that you are on the Old Computer, then click Next.


Finally, select the location where you would wish to save the files.  Portable USB drives were born for stuff like this.  Be warned though, the drive may not be big enough.  Another option would be to save the settings somewhere on your hard drive first, and then move them over to multiple USB drives or burn them to CDs/DVDs.


Click Next, and wait for the files to be copied. If you have a lot of data, it may take quite a while for the process to complete.  Once it has completed, your settings are ready for the new installation.

Once you’ve reinstalled Windows, launch FAST just as you did initially to save your settings:

Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.  Click Next. This time when prompted which computer you are using, select New computer. Click Next.

The following screen will ask you if you have a Windows XP installation CD for creating a wizard disk.  A wizard disk can be used for loading settings from another computer. In this case, a wizard disk is not necessary since the files have been saved to another location.

Select I don’t need the Wizard Disk. I already have collected my files and settings from my old computer. Click Next to proceed.


Finally, you will be prompted for the location of the files and settings. Select the Other radio button and browse to the location where you saved the files and click Next.


The files and settings will then be copied to the new computer. You may want to install all of the same programs you had on the old computer that you intend to use, before you run FAST. This will help to ensure that your settings will work properly with them.

What tools do you use to reinstall Windows without losing data?

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  1. Data Recovery XP
    February 9, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Use this data recovery xp software and get back all the lost files of Windows XP immediately back.

  2. Data Recovery XP
    February 9, 2010 at 3:24 am

    For recovering the lost and corrupt files of Windows XP, better make a use of Data Recovery XP Software. With this efficient tool you can have the entire files back within minutes. So get try this software and have the benefits of recovering lost and damaed files.

  3. Nik
    January 24, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Brought my Dell back from the ashes of the ultimate crashdown after installing SP3.

    Many thanks for your help, Jorge!

  4. Brian
    January 13, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Does this work for Vista too?

    • Jorge Sierra
      January 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm

      Vista has some different repair options and prettier screens:

      Startup Repair
      This option attempts to repair any problems preventing you from booting Vista.
      System Restore
      If you have system restore enabled, you can restore your system to a previous restore point.
      Windows Complete PC Restore
      Restore your computer with a backup that was previously created (only available in Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise)
      Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool
      Tests your memory to see if it has gone bad.
      Command Prompt
      Provides a command prompt to allow you to copy, remove, rename files etc.

      If ever you do have trouble with Vista, I would first try the Startup Repair and then System Restore.

  5. haider_up32
    January 13, 2009 at 1:04 pm
  6. Timothy
    January 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Awesome! I actually have to do this tonight, and stumbled upon this article through Thanks!

  7. LifeLocksmith
    January 13, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I prefer one of the following (more technical) methods:
    1. Create an nLite Disc which writes to a different location the Windows; Program Files; Docuemnt and Settings
    I prefere all under a WinXP folder with OS;Programs;Profiles respectively.

    But this is only good a single time, since the next time I usually want all the things in the places I remember and like to use.

    2. So what I usually do is boot from a BartPE Bootable disk, create a system.old folder on the root of the system drive, and then move (which is actually an elaborate alias for renaming, which is cheap on time) the 3 folders (Windows;Program Files;Documents and settings) into the system.old folder.

    Both methods give me a clean start for installation without hurting any of the existing data, and not taking too much time, after the OS installation is complete I can move/delete any of the data from the old system.

    NOTE: With these methods you don't have to format your drive, so you don't lose any information by accident.

    Great article, and I hope I added my 2 cents and someone will find it useful.

    • Anonymouse
      June 11, 2009 at 10:02 pm

      Same here I also use BartPE but with unlocker to rename my Documents and Settings, Move all valueble files to a non windows folder and delete all traces of windows; Deleting it with unlocker gives me an access denied. I don't know how to do this with OEM computers though since I don't have sample which I can mess up with.

  8. Rawr
    January 12, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Use Linux. You won't need this tutorial

  9. Lonecat
    January 12, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    My tools:
    1. A linux LiveCD (Slax, Ubuntu or Kanotix usually)
    2. Rsync
    3. An external HD for backup purposes
    4. An nlite'd XP install CD (Silent automatic install)

    But I'll definetly try FAST next time. Nice one

  10. Alok
    January 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Nice post, but most of the recovery CD/DVD shipped today do not have the OS directly on them, they have the entire image of the disk. So when you restore using the recovery disk, the computer is restored to factory settings, deleting all the partitions or data that you may have.

    Is there a way to recover the image only on the primary partition (C drive) and leave the other partitions intact?

    • Lonecat
      January 12, 2009 at 3:40 pm

      If you have a install CD you could only format C and reinstall C following any way supplied here.
      If all you've got is a OEM rescue image then you have two options, one is to begin fresh, the other one may be illegal but lead to the results you want... ;)

    • Jorge Sierra
      January 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm

      If you have an OEM recover disk to restore to factory settings, I'd recommend using FAST to save and restore your data.