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How to reinstall your Windows 10, format the drive and reset everything - without losing your programs and files

Learn how to refresh your computer: do a full backup of your programs and files, wipe and reset the drive, reinstall a fresh Windows 10 - and then restore all your programs and files right back.

In this article, we will learn how to reinstall Windows on your PC, a do a complete system wipe and refresh - while still retaining your programs, profile, settings, documents, pictures, music, movies, favorites, wallpaper and everything else.

A Windows wipe and reinstall is a useful procedure in many cases. It could be a virus infection, a Windows Updates failure, or just Windows 10 becoming too slow or problem-ridden for use. In these cases, PC repair professionals would sometimes recommend backing up the computer, wiping its hard drive and reinstalling Windows, and finally recovering from backup.

Traditionally, this has been a cumbersome process, and the recovery was partial, files only, losing all programs, settings, personalization, profiles, passwords etc. In this article, we'll see how to do the whole backup and recovery without losing anything!

How to Backup your Windows PC

The first step in a reinstall like this is to back up everything you've got. After you reset the system, your programs and data will be gone, and you will need to restore them to get back to normal. The product we will be using for this is Migration Kit Pro, which allows to easily back up, and most importantly easily restore programs, settings and files after reinstalling Windows (even if you are switching to a different Windows version!). Alternatively, you can also use any 3rd party backup product that can perform a full system image backup, although that would only allow you to restore files, not programs.

How to backup your Windows so that you can restore programs, settings and files after the reinstall

Before we begin, the most important part is to have a full, complete backup of your computer. This is crucial - without this step, you will lose your programs and data if you wipe the system clean.

  1. Download and run Zinstall Migration Kit Pro on your computer.
  2. Migration Kit Pro
  3. Use its 3rd option, "Moving from Machine to Container".
  4. Select the C: drive on Source selection, and select a place to store your backup container (it's just a big file) in the Target browse selection.
  5. A good place to store the container is a USB external hard drive, but any place which is outside the computer we are wiping will do fine, such as a network drive, another hard drive in the computer etc.
  6. Start the backup process. This should take a long while, and you will see a message confirming that the container has been created successfully.

Your stuff is now safe, and we can proceed to resetting Windows on this computer.

How to Reinstall Windows

Once you have your backup, it's time to perform the actual Windows wipe and install. There are several ways to do it:

Option 1: If you are on Windows 10, it is quite easy to reset it, and you don't even to wipe the drive. Here's how:

Reset Windows 10

  1. Open Start Menu, and select "Settings" (top-left).
  2. Go to the Update & Security menu.
  3. In that menu, select the Recovery tab.
  4. There, look for "Reset this PC", and hit Get Started. This will open the Reset wizard.
  5. Select the option to Remove everything.
  6. Follow the prompts until the wizard starts wiping the computer.

Once done, proceed to the "Restore your programs, settings and files from backup" section.

Option 2: If you are not on Windows 10, or the built-in Reset process does not work for some reason, try using the PC Manufacturer's Factory Reset option. Each PC vendor has different instructions on how to do that. Typically, you need to restart the computer, and then hit one of the function keys (F2, F8, F9, F10, F11, F12) to access the manufacturer factory reset menu. Then, follow the instructions to completely reset the computer to factory state. Once done, proceed to the "Restore your programs, settings and files from backup" section.


Option 3:
If all else fails, you can manually install a fresh copy of Windows 10 on the computer, wiping the previous installation. Here is how to do that:

  1. First, we’ll create a Windows 10 USB installation drive. Here is how:
  2. On any working computer (you can do that on the one you will be wiping), download Microsoft’s Windows 10 Media Creation Tool
  3. The tool is available here:
    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=691209
  4. Once you download it, plug a blank USB stick into the computer.
  5. Then, tell the tool to create an installation media on that USB stick (DO NOT press “Upgrade Now”, since that would upgrade the computer you are doing this on).
  6. Once the tool is done, take the USB stick and plug it into the computer that we are wiping and reinstalling.
  7. Reboot the computer that we are reinstalling so that it runs from the USB stick and starts the Windows 10 installation process.
  8. In the installation process, tell the tool to do a Custom install, and then use the wizard to wipe the existing Windows, and reinstall a new, fresh copy of Windows instead.

Once done, proceed to the "Restore your programs, settings and files from backup" section.

How to Restore your programs and files from backup

  1. Once you have your fresh new Windows installation, it is time to restore your programs, settings and files from the backup you've made before.
  2. To do that, run Zinstall Migration Kit Pro and use the 4th option, "Moving from Container to Machine".
  3. Selective restore
  4. Point it to the backup container you've created in the first section, and it will restore everything, including programs, settings and files, to the new Windows.
  5. If you don't want to restore everything, you can also exclude some programs / folders you don't want to recover.

That's it - you have a successfully reset your computer, and got all your programs and files back where they were!

Ready to go?

Ready to backup your Windows, wipe it and then recover your programs and files? Get Zinstall Migration Kit Pro here.

Any questions? Need guidance? Looking for help with your Windows reinstall, backup or recovery? Our expect techs are standing by!

Contact us by email (support@zinstall.com), phone (877.444.1588), or chat (bottom-right corner of this page).

We are looking forward to assist you.