How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data

Joe Keeley 07-06-2017

If you’re running Windows 10 and encountering a seemingly unsolvable problem, reinstalling the operating system might be your best option. We’re going to show you how to reinstall Windows without losing your personal data.


Windows 10 isn’t without its problems 8 Annoying Windows 10 Issues & How to Fix Them The upgrade to Windows 10 has been smooth for most, but some users will always encounter issues. Whether it's a flashing screen, network connectivity issues, or battery drain, it's time to resolve these problems. Read More and often it can be hard to determine where the cause of the issue lies. If your system worked well when you first got it, you might find that a particular driver, program, or update is now causing trouble. Reinstalling Windows can help solve this.

If you have your own advice or experience to share on reinstalling Windows, please let us know in the comments below.

Back Up Your Data

The process we’re about to engage in will theoretically keep your personal data, but nothing is ever certain. It’s best to have a backup just in case disaster strikes. You might also want to back up things outside your personal data, like program files or registry edits.

We’ve produced the ultimate Windows 10 data backup guide The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More , so it’s likely that all the information you seek can be found there. But let’s go through some steps.

The backup you create should never be on the same drive as the primary copy of the data. Since you’ll reinstall the operating system, your system drive will be cleaned too. Your backup should ideally be on a separate drive. If that’s not possible, you could use smaller physical media like a USB stick or opt for an online cloud storage service.



If you don’t want to have to think about what data to back up, you might want to consider creating an image of your system How to Create an ISO Image of Your Windows System Need to backup and restore Windows without backup tools? It's time to learn how to make an ISO image of your Windows PC. Read More . This will basically create an exact duplicate, which you can roll back to should anything go wrong during the Windows reset process.

Alternatively, you can pick and choose the data you want to keep and copy it over to the drive. You could use a third-party backup program The Best Backup Software for Windows Your data is fragile – it only takes one small accident to lose everything. The more backups you make, the better. Here we present the best free backup software for Windows. Read More to help you with this or you can do it manually.

What Data Should I Back Up?

To begin, press Windows key + E to open File Explorer. It’s likely that the majority of what you need will be in folders like Documents, Pictures, Videos, and the like.


You may want to consider your installed program’s application data. This can be found by pressing Windows key + R to open Run, inputting %appdata% and pressing OK. It’ll likely be sorted into folders named after the program’s developer.

How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data appdata 670x393

On a similar vein, open Run again and browse to your Program Files folder, which will likely be C:\Program Files (x86). Here you’ll find the actual installation files for your programs, so copy them if you don’t want to redownload them, but also other things like settings or game saves.

Finally, you can also back up any tweaks you made in the registry. Open Run, input regedit, and click OK to launch the Registry Editor. On the left-hand pane you can right click any folder and Export it to create a copy.


However, remember the reason that you’re reinstalling Windows. There’s no point bringing over all of this data; the problems you’re having now may reoccur. It’s fine to back it up, but be wary about what you reinstate on the other side.

Reinstall Windows

It’s very easy to reinstall Windows. You don’t need to download any software and it can all be done with a few clicks.

To begin, press Windows key + I to open Settings. Go to Update & security > Recovery. You’ll find two options here.

Option 1: Reset This PC

The first is Reset this PC header. This will reset your computer back to the manufacturer state, which means it’ll also keep any bloatware that might have been there when you first got the system. This could be things like program trials or manufacturer tools.


How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data reset this pc 670x353

This isn’t recommended, but you can use it if you wish. To proceed, click Get started, choose Keep my files, and progress through the wizard.

Option 2: Fresh Start

An alternative method is available from the same Settings window under More recovery options. Click Learn how to start afresh with a clean installation of Windows. It’ll ask if you wanted to switch applications, so click Yes to launch Windows Defender. Now click Get started.

How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data Windows 10 Start Fresh 670x290

Keep pressing Next to proceed through the wizard, noting the information at each stage. You’ll be given a list of all your programs that will be uninstalled. See our guide on how to bulk install programs How To Install & Uninstall Windows Programs In Bulk A mass installer or uninstaller can save you heaps of time. Remember the last time you set up a new computer? We are going to teach you how to do these tasks in a flash. Read More for a quick way to bring them back once you’ve reset Windows.

This method will keep your personal data and default Windows programs, along with ensuring your system is using the most recent version of Windows.

A Completely Clean System

The process complete, you’ll now be running an entirely clean version of Windows 10 with your personal data intact.

If everything worked out according to plan, you should also find a backup of your system in the Windows.old folder on your C drive. While this is convenient, this is not a backup option you should rely on! Windows 10 clears this folder after 10 days, so if there’s anything you’d like to keep for longer, move the files out.

If you like, you can reinstall your old programs and bring across the data that you backed up previously. However, remember to be choosy with this. There’s no point putting everything back to how it was after you just reinstalled Windows.

Not interested in keeping your personal data and looking for even more ways to reset Windows 10? Check out more ways to reset Windows 10 and reinstall from scratch 4 Ways to Factory Reset Your Windows Computer Want to know how to factory reset a PC? Here are the best methods to reset a Windows computer. Read More in our guide.

Have you ever needed to reinstall Windows and keep your personal data? What method did you use to achieve that?

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Data Backup, Install Software, Restore Data, Windows 10.

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  1. MFM
    June 3, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    The title was a tiny bit suboptimal. It did say data, and certainly clarified this in the article body... but probably everyone has wished there was something similar to the old XP nondestructive install that allowed saving programs, apps and data without having to do a backup. Certainly, I read this hoping that I would learn something new about windows 10, but, alas, what I though I already knew was confirmed.

  2. PaulAndrewAnderson
    December 11, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Hey Joe, I have a question, and perhaps a topic that could be covered by MUO. Since there are still no reputable laptops with Linux on them (I've searched online over the last year), save Dell and they are just too pricey, once you get into the i3 & i5 processors and SSD's. But I decided I'd buy an Acer Swift 5, 14" Full HD, 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7200U, 8GB LPDDR3, 256GB SSD, w/ Windows 10 OS (6 bills on Amazon). I'm going to wipe that OS and replace it with Linux Mint. However, since I'd have the licensed Win-10 that comes with it, I thought I'd save it, just in case I ever wanted to reinstall it on the same laptop. The question is not how to create an ISO for Win-10 (assuming this is still valid: //, but the licensing part of it. If I wipe that system, right after the ISO is created for that unit, does doing that negate the license?

  3. Ashley
    November 16, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    MUD, I have a problem related to this article.
    I bought a cheap laptop, an HP Stream, which only has 32Gb SS Storage.
    For all I wanted, this should have been okay - I store all personal stuff on a USB stick.
    BUT Microsoft are continually sending updates that clog up the on board storage to the point where now I cannot access anything on the browser - it just keeps saying "not enough storage space".
    I have set settings to "Do not allow any updates" but it seems to have continually gotten worse.

    Question: (Assuming I work through this current article and reset the computer to "new" condition); How can I stop Windows sucking in unwanted updates every time I go online?
    And how can I stop the irritating messages that keep telling me there are update needed to be downloaded (even though I don't want them) ?

    Someone suggested that the reason for a small capacity storage space was because so many people now store on the Cloud. But if updates are clogging up what storage is available then the idea is useless.

    I wonder if other people have bought these low storage laptops and had the same problems I'm having.

  4. Brian Wall
    September 2, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Where is the bit tha\t shows how reinstall windows without loosing your data as per your headline. All the options you quote from the Microsoft help files will loose any software and its data, setup and so on that you installed to the desktop.

    You are lucky not to be sued for misrepresentation.

    • Ashley
      November 16, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      Did you read the article properly, Brian?
      Almost the first thing it says is "BACK UP YOUR DATA".
      Then proceeds to tell you to back it up onto a USB stick or similar so that you don't lose data.
      So what did you misunderstand? Where is the misrepresentation?

      • Brian Wall
        November 17, 2017 at 5:14 pm

        What I was misled by was the headline "How to Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Your Data". You DO loose your data! Anyone reading that would assume that your method retains data.

        And backing up your data won't stop you loosing all the programs and software you installed. Nowhere do you explain that would happen.

    • MFM
      June 3, 2018 at 4:10 pm

      Briain, I agree that the title was suboptimal. It did say data, and certainly clarified this in the article body... but probably everyone has wished there was something similar to the old XP nondestructive install that allowed saving programs, apps and data without having to do a backup. Certainly, I read this hoping that I would learn something new about windows 10, but, alas, what I thought I already knew was confirmed.

  5. Squalle
    June 14, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Oh, if only it was this easy. My laptop has been running great for the last few months. Then I get the dreaded "start window/action center/(insert other affected function here) won't open" bug. So I figure, eh, I'll just "reset", no problem. To that, I get "There was a problem resetting your PC". Fine. Quick google search and bam, I need the "media creation tool". No problem. Download, burn to dvd, restart, follow the prompts. Cake! Oh wait... big blue screen (which we all know is never good in windows) "Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart. We'll restart for you." Well, THANKS Windows. That's obviously the only part I really needed help with!