Tech Tip of the Week: A backup checklist before reinstalling

By Julio Franco ยท 19 replies
Aug 12, 2009
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  1. 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.

    This week's tip: A backup checklist before reinstalling
  2. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    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!
  3. 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!

  4. Captain828

    Captain828 TS Guru Posts: 287   +10

    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!
  5. ravisunny2

    ravisunny2 TS Ambassador Posts: 1,986   +12

    Would DriverMax help to save and restore the drivers ?
  6. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,333   +101

    @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.
  7. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,718   +860

    Thanks! Good info. Reformatting and reinstalling an OS is like going camping. It's impossible to do without forgetting at least one thing.
  8. You can backup all browsers with favbackup
  9. poertner_1274

    poertner_1274 secroF laicepS topShceT Posts: 4,172

    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.
  10. @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 ( 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!

  11. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    Excellent Guide! I add two points

    Point #1
    YES! :grinthumb (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!
  12. Jos

    Jos TechSpot Staff Posts: 3,073   +97

    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.
  13. 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.
  14. jeffscott

    jeffscott TS Rookie

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


  15. electriac

    electriac TS Member Posts: 21   +16

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

    electriac TS Member Posts: 21   +16

    SIW is included in the Downloads section.
  17. Carlito

    Carlito TS Member

    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.
  18. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    @ 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.
  19. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 7,674   +990

  20. habbfan

    habbfan TS Rookie


    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.

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