Tech Tip: A backup checklist before reinstalling

By on August 12, 2009, 5:28 AM
Whether you're upgrading or repairing your computer, at some point in time you'll be faced with the task of reinstalling your operating system, especially in the Windows world.

As I can personally attest, most of the frustration with starting fresh comes from losing your installed programs and customized settings with them. Sure, you can create tweaked installation discs to automate the process and have all your drivers, programs and settings already in place. The problem is that most people won't reinstall Windows more than once or twice a year. When the time comes to use your customized OS disc, new versions of your programs and drivers will have been released.


Despite serious attempts to be organized, almost every time that I reinstall my OS I manage to forget something. It's a phenomenon that forever haunts me, and I know I'm not alone. But being the clever guy that I am, after years of curiously skimming my programs folder trying to determine what's missing, I've decided to create a checklist. Never again will my stomach knot up on the first Windows boot after realizing that I overwrote a year's worth of saved games.

Continue reading our Tech Tip of the Week.




User Comments: 19

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strategic strategic, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Thanks for this!

It will be very useful for people going through this procedure and not knowing what they need ahead of time I will add it to my favorites for sure!

Guest said:

Great article! Thanks.

But, what about those partitions created by vendors such as HP, Dell, etc.?

If you have the intention formatting your original HDD, you're going to loose all data, including this dedicated partition containing the operating system installer plus all software bundle that comes along with it, i.e. DVD player/recorder soft, PC Maintenance suite, demos, etc.

One question remains, for those who could help: once you create the so-called recovery disks, they will have the same content from that partition?

Again, great article. Thank you.

Have a great day!

Regards

Captain828 Captain828 said:

Great guide and I would actually add that perhaps the best thing to do is to create a full image of the primary partition before formatting, just in case you forget something.

Extra "Did you know...": the Firefox CLEO add-on makes FEBE backups fit in a single .xpi!

ravisunny2 ravisunny2, TS Ambassador, said:

Would DriverMax help to save and restore the drivers ?

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

@Guest: Typically, when you reinstall an OS you only format the partition where your old OS is located and not the entire drive. The recovery partition usually isn't touched.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Thanks! Good info. Reformatting and reinstalling an OS is like going camping. It's impossible to do without forgetting at least one thing.

Guest said:

You can backup all browsers with favbackup

http://www.favbrowser.com/backup/

poertner_1274 poertner_1274, secroF laicepS topShceT, said:

Very good writeup. Most things I already do, but it never hurts to be reassured you are doing things properly, or as others have found success.

Guest said:

@MATTHEW,

How are you? Thank you very much for the reply.

I intend to perform HDD formatting the next weekend due to an upgrade (mobo + new vibo).

Actually, I'm going to try some I could say is a little odd first: I'll install the new mobo e try to boot from current HDD, without formatting and performing a fresh OS install.

If some side-effects occur, I'll have to start from scratch.

One doudt I still have is if I use the recovery disks (2 DVDs) I created I can format HDD with no worries and reinstall Vista from these disks and all the stuff HP put in its PCs, however keeping the dedicated partition I believe contains Vista + other softs. I mean, insert the Disk 1 on the DVD drive and boot from it.

From your comment I believe that after booting from DVD drive with the recovery disks and following Vista installation procedures, at a given point I'll be prompted to select the partition I'd like to install (or reinstall) the OS, and then avoid selecting the dedicated partition, in this case a FACTORY IMAGE drive with 7 GB size from the entire 320 GB HDD. If needed, I could format the current Vista partition, preserving the FACTORY IMAGE, right?

I'm sorry I'm being a little noobie here, but I simply can't get wrong with this upgrade, especially taking chances losing important data.

Again, if anybody could help, I appreciate.

Software/Apps history tip

I have a good tip on how to retrieve all installed software from your last OS installation:

- Install CCleaner (http://www.ccleaner.com/) and then go to TOOLS menu and save a text file (TXT) with all information regarding your apps currently installed before performing HDD format. After reinstalling OS, use this TXT as your checklist, without forgetting any app you love!

Have you all a great day!

Regards

LookinAround LookinAround, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Excellent Guide! I add two points

Point #1

Would DriverMax help to save and restore the drivers ?

YES! (and just what i was going to also recommend )

Before you reinstall, use DriverMax to backup (or as DriverMax calls it, "export" all your current drivers to a folder you can save on removable media. Before (or after) the reinstall, there's no need to hunt down all your drivers. Just point the New Hardware Wizard to the drivers you've backed up/"exported" into the folder on the media!

Point #2

Regarding all your application reinstalls: Make sure you have all the activation numbers required for all your installed products that need them before you wipe out your hard drive!

Staff
Jos Jos said:

Very useful indeed... I had a similar list some time ago and perhaps one thing worth mentioning from it is remembering to back up fonts. Not as important for the average user but web developers and designers in general shouldn't overlook this - learned that the hard way back in the day.

Guest said:

Whenever I set up a new system I create a 30GB partition for the operating system files and install all my apps and store all my documents, configuration files, profiles and images on a different partition(s). This allows the OS to be updated or reinstalled without losing that data and greatly simplifies reinstalling the apps and quickly picking up where I left off. I also maintain a registration.txt file in which I record the registration info for every app installed on my system making that info very easy to find if needed. Finally, I keep copies of the latest versions of all programs I've downloaded in a Download directory on my non-OS partition so that any programs that do need to be reinstalled are the most current version.

jeffscott said:

Great tip! I've also found running Belarc (http://bit.ly/mDajl) to do an audit of my PC - including software keys - to be very helpful before wiping and reinstalling.

Cheers,

Jeff

www.twitter.com/jeffscott

electriac said:

There is a nice program SIW which prints out a list of installed programs and it even reports the activation keys.

electriac said:

SIW is included in the Downloads section.

Carlito said:

It's always good to have backup files, that's why I have my 160gb hdd partitioned in 2. It makes it easier to format without losing important files. So when I reinstall Windows, I have all my files on the seperate partition and all the drivers on the cd that came with the hardware. These cd's I keep in a cd bag/case. Although it is also a good idea to keep up with the latest drivers as they the drivers do tend to become outdated.

strategic strategic, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@ Carlito, it's good what you're doing, but if your HDD fails, you lose everything. A failsafe method would be to have a 2nd HDD with a 'mirrored' backup of your main.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

SIW was also featured as a Download of the Week in our frontpage a few weeks ago:

[link]

habbfan said:

MozBackUp

This little gem is the bomb for all Mozilla based browsers with the added benefit of also doing back up and restore on Thunderbird. I have used it things like Seamonkey, Songbird and K-Meleon, (old version it seems the newer ones made some changes that broke it). I have used this app on several generations of Mozilla browser and have multiple backups of both Fire and Thunder. It also includes the option to include your extensions for both. A true freeware gem in that the file format it saves to is a renamed zip file so digging around for a single file is quite easy to do.

http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/

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