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How To Reinstall Windows 7 Without Changing Your Personal Settings, Installed Programs & Drivers

Step 1: Uninstall Service Pack 1
Running SP1 can cause issues when performing a non-destructive re-installation with an installation DVD that does not contain SP1. It is thus recommended to uninstall SP1 before you proceed.
  • Go to > Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features or > Programs > Uninstall a Program.
  • In the left-hand side click > View installed updates
  • Select > Service Pack for Microsoft Windows (KB976932) and click > Uninstall.
reinstall windows 7 without losing settings

Step 2: Run Setup In Compatibility Mode

This step is optional. You can skip it and return to it if needed. The pre-installation compatibility report might not let you proceed due to the following issue:
Your current version of Windows is more recent than the version you are trying to upgrade to. Windows cannot complete upgrade.
To avoid this error :
  • Go to > Computer, right-click on the installation DVD and select > Open.
  • Right-click on > setup.exe and choose > Properties.
  • Switch to the > Compatibility tab and check > Run this program in compatibility mode for: and pick > Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) from the list.
  • Click > OK and double-click > setup.exe to launch the installation.
reinstall windows without losing everything


Step 3: Run Setup

When you run the setup.exe from the DVD, Windows will ask whether you want to allow the program to make changes to your computer. Click > Yes to proceed.

reinstall windows without losing everything

In the next windows click > Install now to start the installation.

reinstall windows without losing everything

Windows setup will now proceed with copying temporary files and running a compatibility check. When presented with the first selection screen (see screenshot below), select the first option to > go online and get the latest updates, then > accept the license terms and press > Next to continue.

how to reinstall windows 7


Key Step: Select Upgrade Installation Type

Select > Upgrade when asked which type of installation you want.

upgrade windows 7

You are not actually upgrading, but rather installing the same operating system over your existing installation. However, since you selected upgrade, your files, settings, and programs will be left alone. The installation takes about an hour and will re-boot your system several times during the process.

how to reinstall windows 7

Finally, you will be asked to enter your product key and after going through a few basic settings and re-starting Windows one more time, you will finally be able to log into your refreshed old account.

how to reinstall windows 7

When you first log into your account, you will also be asked to activate your account. Do this immediately to prevent restrictions.

Aftermath: Run Updates, Upgrade Internet Explorer & Install SP1

Several things were changed when your system was upgraded. You were reverted to the Service Pack version on your installation DVD (likely pre-SP1) and Internet Explorer was downgraded to version 8 (in case you were running IE9).
Go to > Start > Control Panel > Windows Update or > System and Security > Windows Update and click on > Install updates. You will have to reboot and go through this process several times to bring your system up to date. If you don’t see any updates, click on > Check for updates on the left-hand side.

reinstall windows 7 without losing settings

The entire update procedure took me around 90 minutes, which was a lot faster and a lot less hassle than a complete re-installation.

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