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I want to wipe my hard drive before I install windows 7. What should I backup and how do I do it?

So I was able to get Windows 7 as a student. I have a desktop with XP that I want to wipe so that I can start out again without all of the commercial clutter that came with my computer originally. However, I have several years of documents, music, and pictures that I would like saved as well as software and the settings from my browsers. How do I ensure that I can get my all of old data on the new machine?

And if you think this is a terrible idea and think there is another approach feel free to share.

Answer
Answer
Custom Clean Install Steps

Times to use:
Moving from XP to 7, or unsupported in place upgrade paths (ex: Vista Home to 7 Pro)
Moving from a 32 bit Windows system to a 64 bit system, or changing languages
Don't want to do an in place upgrade, or you want a fresh/clean install

You can use an Upgrade or Full Windows 7 disk to do a custom clean install. This will remove all your programs, but you can save your files and settings to an external storage before doing so. You will have to reinstall all your programs after installing Windows 7. Here are the steps:

1. Run Windows Upgrade Advisor to see if there are any known issues that might affect the installation and whether you can install the 32 or 64 bit version of Windows 7.
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/downloads/upgrade-advisor

2. Backup all your files and settings to avoid losing docs, photos, and other information. Windows Easy Transfer is a free tool to copy files (not programs) from your PC, and then transfer them back after you install Windows 7. If you don't want to use Windows Easy Transfer, you can copy your files to a USB drive, or CD/DVD. Note: Easy Transfer will not work when changing languages, or when going from 64 bit to 32 bit (it will work going from 32 bit to 64 bit).
http://windows.microsoft.com/windows-easy-transfer

3. Locate the installation disks and any associated product/license keys for all your programs because you'll need to manually reinstall all programs. If you downloaded some programs from the Internet you can redownload them.

4. Insert the Windows 7 DVD into your PC. When asked "Which type of installation do you want?" click "Custom (advanced)." Note: 32 to 64 bit requires you to restart and boot from the DVD.
  
5. After Windows 7 is installed you can use Windows Easy Transfer (or another backup method you used) to restore your files & settings, and use your installation disks to reinstall all your programs. Then you're done - enjoy Windows 7.



Have Questions About Installing Windows 7?
FAQ - Common Windows 7 Installation Questions & Answers
MCC 2011

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Last updated September 30, 2019 Views 5,440 Applies to: