Will a windows.old folder be made if I reinstall Windows 8.1? How close to "factory fresh" is a reset/refresh?

I do not have access to a hard drive and windows will not allow me to shrink my partition enough to create a backup partition to suit my needs.  In general when I reinstall windows, I use my secondary hard drive.  However, I have a large directory (~500gb) of files that my secondary hard drive can't contain.  I remember the windows.old folder being created sometimes, and I just wanted to know some things.  When is this folder created? If I choose to do a fresh install of windows 8 (not a cleanup of an existing one), will it be created, and if so, from what directories are files collected to go into windows.old.

If, for some reason, the windows.old folder isn't create when doing a fresh installation of windows 8.1, how near to "factory settings" is a refresh or a reset?

Put simply, here are my goals:

1. Completely reinstall my operating system such that I have a completely clean copy (no trace of anything in windows/ program files/ user directories that wouldn't be there on a newly built system)

2. Keep a particular directory full of files.

Intuitively I some reason think that if the directory is in the root of my hard drive, there's no reason for Windows to delete it when installing, since it's not in Windows, Users, Program Files, or ProgramData directories, but I'm sure it can't be that simple.


Question Info

Last updated February 21, 2018 Views 465 Applies to:

Windows.old is only created when you do a custom install by booting from install media.

It is NOT created by doing a Refresh or Reset.

If you have retail install media for Windows 8:

Boot from the Windows 8 DVD

Click Install Now

Accept License Agreement

When the option is displayed to select an installation type, click (Custom Advanced)

select the disk partition where you would like to install Windows 8 Click Next.

You will receive the following warning:

The partition you selected might contain files from a previous Windows Installation. If it does, these files and folders will be moved to a folder named Windows.old. You will be able to access the information in Windows.old, but you will be able to use your previous version of Windows.

(At all cost, do NOT click anything named Format or Delete or Partition. So even doing a custom install, your personal files are still preserved. Click OK

Setup will now start the installation. During the installation, your machine will be restarted several times.

When the installation is complete, you can complete the Out of Box experience such as selecting your laptop, create a username, password, your time zone. You can then proceed to download the latest updates for Windows and reinstall your applications and drivers.

You can then recover your personal files from the Windows.old folder and reinstall all your applications and drivers.


Windows Insider MVP
MVP-Windows and Devices for IT

Did this solve your problem?

Sorry this didn't help.

Great! Thanks for marking this as the answer.

How satisfied are you with this reply?

Thanks for your feedback, it helps us improve the site.

How satisfied are you with this response?

Thanks for your feedback.