Files to Backup Before Reinstalling Windows

When you reinstall Windows, all of the files on your main partition will be destroyed, so you absolutely should make a backup. I suggest a complete system backup to ensure that you don’t miss anything, but here is a list of the top 10 most important files to backup if you just want to cherry pick the good stuff before you format Windows. Previously we have written about the most important files to backup, however times have changed. There are so many ways to make secure backups and so many computer backup storage options but the files are relatively the same, although they might be located in a different location.

Three System Files To Backup Before You Reinstall Windows

  1. Your Registry is one file you certainly want to backup before you reinstall Windows, especially if you have licensed copies of software and you don’t know your license key. Most software stores its license key in the registry, so if you backup the registry, you’ll be able to reinstall your software.To backup your registry, click Start and search for regedit. Start regedit.exe, click the File menu, and chose Export.
  2. Special Drivers are an essential backup if you use custom hardware on your computer. If you’ve paid dozens or hundreds of dollars for special hardware, don’t let the investment become worthless when you reinstall Windows.
  3. Executables including programs and special Dynamically-Linked Libraries (DLLs) are something else you may have gone to great effort to acquire which will be lost when you reinstall Windows. Go through the Add/Remove programs wizard in the Windows control panel before you start to reinstall Windows to see if there’s any software you can’t easily re-download.

5 Types Of Personal Information – Files to Backup Before Reinstalling Windows

Personal information is the most important thing to backup because, once you lose it, it’s gone forever. Make sure you back all of the following before you reinstall Windows:

  1. Email is probably today’s most important communication tool. Many of you use online email programs like Google Mail and Yahoo! Mail, but for all the rest of us, a through backup of our email is a top priority before we even think of trying to reinstall Windows.
  2. Web Browser Bookmarks are something I’ve forgotten more than once before reinstalling Windows. But when they’re gone, you’ll miss them, even if they are easy to recreate. Most Web browsers these days include a bookmark export option—give it a whirl before you reinstall Windows.
  3. Email Contacts are another thing I often forget to backup before reinstalling Windows. Unlike bookmarks, email contacts are not always easy to recreate—especially if you include extra information with your contacts, such as birthdays and phone numbers.
  4. IM Conversations aren’t something everyone needs to backup, but those of us who automatically log all of our business conversations should be just as concerned about backing up instant messenger (IM) conversations as we are about backing up email threads before we reinstall Windows.
  5. Music is something I thought I had adequately backed up to my digital music player until I went ahead and wiped my disk drive. Later I discovered some of my most precious older music was lost forever. If you’re not going to backup your entire music collection, at least make sure you backup your favorite songs.

Double Check This Before You Reinstall Windows

If you share your computer with anyone else, make sure you throughly check your computer for any of their stuff that needs to be backed up. It’s easy to strain your Reinstall Windowsrelationship by destroying someone else’s data. The worst thing I ever lost was several years of hand-entered accounting data—it took the person who lost it over a hundred hours to re-enter, which made me feel rotten.

You also need to double check to see if your data backup and recovery actually works.

2 More Things You Should Backup Before You Reinstall Windows

  1. Documents are where you’ve probably invested the most time in your computer, whether you’re a student or a work-at-home parent. Don’t just assume that backing up your My Documents folder before reinstalling Windows will preserve all of your documents. Use the Windows find tool to find all files with .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, and other document extensions you often use.
  2. Digital Photos and Videos are one of the things you can probably never reproduce. The photos and videos you took on your honeymoon or at your kid’s college graduation belong to events that will never recur. Just as with your documents, don’t just backup up your My Pictures folder and assume you have a copy of all your precious photos. Do a full Windows file search for files ending in .JPG and .jpeg (and .raw if you use RAW photos). If you edit your images, search for files with your image editor’s file extension.

For your most important files, you may also want to do a “dry run”. Create a new account on your computer before you reinstall Windows and import all of your old files and documents. Make sure everything is there before you finally go ahead and reinstall Windows.


  1. says

    Just place all your files in one easy to backup folder, example my documents or your “User” folder. Back up that folder, and double check if you have the important files backedup. Reformat drive and then reinstall windows. Easy as that, but might be time consuming,

  2. Dave Wiebe says

    To backup computer files you could use a usb or external hard drives. If you don’t like those options you could also burn cd’s or dvd’s. Backing up your computer files on a regular basis is a good habit not just when doing a reinstall.

  3. says

    Good advice! I backed up my email right away. Even though I use webmail, I receive it on my windows live mail program, so I can still back it up.
    Takes quite some time though.