Ten things you should do before and after re-installing your OS

Update: Post edited to correct errors  on 26th October 2009.

Re-installing an Operating system is a nightmare for many people, since people always tend to lose data, forget to take backups, and they almost go blank after they re-install. I have faced a similar situation, when I was new, however, if we plan our re-installation well, I can bet you will never tend to lose your data.

In this DIY ( Do it yourself ) article, we will learn how to manage things before and after installing your OS. If you are at the point to reinstall your OS in near future , read these first!!

#1 Backing up files

If you have a habit of saving all the files in My Documents, this should be your first step. Check out all possible folders like My Documents, My Pictures, My Music and My Videos, and copy whatever is required to some other folder. If you fail to copy the data, you might lose it as it exists in same drive where you will install the OS.

#2 Save Your Configuration and Profiles

Most of the software’s provide users with an option to backup profiles or software configuration. If you plan to re-install the software again, it is always recommended to backup your settings and configuration and store it on a external drive.

#3 Saving all your Download Folders and Files

If you download and store files in your operating system drive, don’t forget to copy it to an external drive or to some other partition. It is always advisable to store downloads in a partition, which does not include the operating system file.

This will save you time when it comes to re-installing your OS.

#4 Rethink Partition Size.

If you have a huge hard drive with a single partition, it is always advisable to create multiple partitions to store files. This will help you the routine of copy pasting files whenever you want to re-install your OS again.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista provide users with an option to create partitions from free space on the harddrive without using any external software. You can refer to a tutorial on how to create partitions from free space in Windows 7 & Vista.

#5 Note Down Things you Need to Install

Whenever you install a new OS, you might also have to reinstall software again. Make a quick list of software you want to reinstall, so that you can quickly install them again. Here is a list of things that you might might help you out.

  • Antivirus and Spywares
  • Browsers and addons.
  • Office Suites
  • Media Players and updates.
  • Rest of the things.

#6 Reinstall OS and Software

Install all the drivers and software you require after reinstalling your system. Sometimes installing drivers may require to restart the PC, so try and finish all the installation process before you start exploring the new OS.

#7 Copy the backups and Organize Them

In the first step, we backed up all the important files and folders. Once you have reinstalled your OS, you can copy those files back to the computer. Here are some tips to organize your files, so that you don’t have to move them back and forth, every time you want to reinstall your OS.

  • Divide things into different categories. For example, pictures, music, documents and others if you require.
  • Create folders in drive where the OS is not installed.
  • Now sort the files which we backed up in first step and put them into the respective folders.

Instead of saving files in the default folders, it is recommended to save them on a non OS drive, as this will save you time when it comes to reinstalling a OS.

#8 Import Your Software Profiles and Settings

Use the software configuration and profile settings you created in step 2 and import it back using the tools provided by the software. Doing this will restore the software to the state it was in before reinstalling the OS.

#9 Creating a Restore Point

If you are using windows, use Restore facility to create a restore point. This will help you out in case your system does not work after installing some software or is not working for some unknown reason.

#10 Double Check everything

This last step is for your assurance. Double check all the things and backed up files. If you are done with them and sure you did not miss any of them, you can safely delete the backed up folders and files. Keep this list handy so that you will be able to reinstall your OS without much hassle.

With my experience, I have followed the list for a long time now. It really helps in saving my time and data all the time. Most of the data loss in computers occurs when users reinstall their system, these steps will help you avoid those Oops moments in future.

Do you have any tips which you use in this situation? If yes do tell us in comments so we all can share and save things.

This is a guest post written by Ashish Mohta. He blogs at  TechnoSpot.net where he writes about Technology, Tips and Software. If you want to receive regular updates, then  subscribe to his blog.

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Keith Dsouza

I am the editor-in-chief and owner of Techie Buzz. I love coding and have contributed to several open source projects in the past. You can know more about me and my projects by visiting my Personal Website.I am also a social networking enthusiast and can be found active on twitter, you can follow Keith on twitter @keithdsouza. You can click on my name to visit my Google+ profile.

  • #1 Backing up files, should include that “the backup of files on desktop should also be taken”.

    • Jerry

      Don’t forget – backup email and address books.

  • Thanks for the tips. I was about to reinstall my XP.

  • Ya, I agree with Manav, desktop is one place where we save many items. Nice article.

  • This is a great post. A few years ago i used to reformat one machine or another at elast every 3 months and alsways forgot to back up one thing or anohter.

    Hand list to keep ;o)

  • I’ve also posted on my blog about programs that i install on my machine after i reinstall XP. You can see the post HERE

  • Pingback: How to organize files and folders ? [ Podcast ]()

  • Manav Thanks for pointing that out. I forgot to mention for sure. :D

  • Thanks Nirmal, This had been a long due thing I wanted to write but used to always forget

  • I plan to change my OS to windows Vista…So, this article is very proper for me at this moment. Having something lost during the OS re-installing is really annoying. Thanks for the advice.

    • Great Magie, Do tell us your experience using this list and if you find something interesting and something which can be added to this list we will do when you tell us.

  • The big one here is to remember what drivers you need. I’ve screwed myself several times by not checking brands and models of hardware and then starting the OS reinstall and then not having a way to get online and download what I need.

  • Hi Ashish,
    I think we should also
    – note the software setting, such as the period of automatic update for the antivirus, or the display setting in windows control panel, etc.
    – preparing driver that maybe needed. My soundcard driver was not available in the OS so I had to browse in the internet.

    • Hi Maggie,

      You can include but then there are lot of settings which will be needed to take care of like even taking backup of your Browsers settings. If any body can go that level its great

  • The ten points, may look unimportant in the beginning during casual look but are highly essential ones especially for those who had problems during and after installing their OS. I myself went through such hardships for not following those important steps during the OS installations. Worth reading.

  • As for backing up, have any one tried Norton ghost before? If so what’s your feedback on it?

    • I have used it long time back. Its the best you can make a backup with. After you finish off the installation just make a backup right away and use it next time

  • very good checklist…Magie’s experience was also helpful…gues he had very few hiccups in his transition to vista…

  • As the good Murphy said: “If something can go wrong, it will.” No matter how thorough you are, you are bound to forget something – such as first de-registering your copy of Dreamweaver with Adobe before re-installing it with the same key.

    With hard drives being so inexpensive I firmly believe in either cloning my current installation to an old scrapped drive – or (preferably) buy a new drive for the new installation. This way you can always go back and get that one thing you forgot.

  • Annoyed techie

    #4 makes absolutely 0 sense… you can’t just repartition your drive so you have more space.. sorry but it just doesn’t work that way.. you could buy a new hard drive.. but not just repartition the old one unless you have some seriously screwed up system where there are many many partitions on one drive..

    also this needs to be proof read.. badly..

    • hi @Annoyed sorry for the problems, this post was written a long time ago. I have now proofread and corrected most of the issues in it. Thanks for you feedback

      • (not so)Annoyed techie

        phew thats better thanks :)

        but one more note on the partition.. Personally I would agree with 2 partitions but no more unless there are some very specific circumstances.. any more then 1 partition for the operating system and 1 partition for storage is over kill and because of how partitioning works you will actually lose some space..

        but thanks for fixing this up.. i’m sure it definitely helps people out who haven’t done clean installs before

  • Jelquing J.

    It happens to my home pc all the time. and everytime I need to reinstall I hate the day I met a pc. The above steps are very appreciated. But is there another automated method to do all that for you?

  • Sheri

    What if you didn't back anything up. Couldn't get even to a command promt to do that? Is it all gone?

  • One thing I have found extremely useful is Syncplicity {Free}. It saves me time so I don’t need to create last minute backups by saving all the specified folders (Within the amount your account has) on an external server and allows you to sync it with other computers.

    With this I can generally just go to my PC and just format the drive pretty much straight away as I know the software I want to download and I sync the settings already so I can just automatically use them with my other machines.

    • The program can be found at http://www.syncplicity.com/

    • Yes, I too use these Sync softwares like Syncplicity and DropBox to keep my files synced across devices without having to copy paste them to an external HDD. This is definitely a time-saver.