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Windows 7: What to Back Up Before Clean Reinstall?

28 Jan 2011   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 
What to Back Up Before Clean Reinstall?

Hello All,

Searched the forum but couldn't find an answer (keywords yield far too many irrelevant threads, no matter how I word it!), & so I post... newbie - sorry!

I have to do a clean re-install on my Win 7; some problems with software causing video glitches. I know I have to back up my browser & email (Firefox & Thunderbird - a no-brainer), as well as program-specific data (anything I've created stored in Program Files folders), and downloaded files, themes, etc., but what about global user data specific to individual user accounts?

Which Win 7 folders/data would you suggest I back up to my outside HD before doing the clean reinstall? I've never had a multiple-users situation before, so I was hoping that by copying the C:\Users folder out to the outside HD and then restoring it (pasting) upon completion of the reinstall I might be able to retain my multiple-user's data and settings - is this an incorrect assumption? I have a feeling it is...
Or will I have to re-create every user in the new install (add the identities one-by-one) and then reload the stored data into their newly-created folders?

I guess my question really is: where does 7 keep user-specific settings such as passwords, privilege levels, etc? I know documents, music, photos and other library items will be located in the individual user's folders, but 'global' data would be found - where?
Is there any way to export these settings before the reinstall to make things faster & easier after reinstall (hey, stop laughing!)?

Any other advice anyone might have would be greatly appreciated - thanks in advance for your time & assistance!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

28 Jan 2011   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro Preview with Media Center
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Salmon Dave View Post
I guess my question really is: where does 7 keep user-specific settings such as passwords, privilege levels, etc? I know documents, music, photos and other library items will be located in the individual user's folders, but 'global' data would be found - where?
Hi Dave, we meet again

You might get more specific answers from our backup gurus, but here's some general information to start.

First, backing up Program Files and Program Files (x86) is in my opinion totally unnecessary; you need to reinstall all software in any case (except portable apps). It's simply too complicated, mostly impossible, to "move" for instance Office installation to new Windows setup. You get some gray hair and unresponsive apps doing so.

The user specific data and settings are normally saved in %userprofile%\AppData, which is a hidden folder. Some apps store additional global, shared by every user, data to C:\ProgramData (default location if ProgramData is not relocated) which also is a hidden folder, but this folder does not need to be backed up when reinstalling because of the above mentioned reason, data in this folder is recreated when you reinstall applications.

If you want to manually back up all user specific files and folders, clean first all user accounts. You can use Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup for cleaning. At least empty the Temp folder in all user accounts, it can be surprisingly big and take unnecessary space when backing up user folders. You can open current user's Temp folder simply by typing %temp% to Windows Explorer addressbar even if you have chosen not to show hidden files and folders; it opens the %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Temp folder and you can manually delete its contents.

Windows Easy Transfer is one option. WET divides geeks in two camps: some geeks hate it from bottom of their heart, others like me have always used it when backing up user data before reinstalling. Never had any problems. Simply start WET by typing Easy Transfer to Start menu's search and hit Enter, which launches WET. It is really easy to use and pretty much explains everything you need to know on screen. Your computer before reinstalling Windows is of course the "old computer", and after reinstallation the "new computer".

I don't know if this helps you at all but I'd like to tell how I am doing my reinstalls. First I "clean up" the user accounts. Then using WET I transfer all user accounts, settings and so on to an external drive, then manually copy all user created folders not included in user folders. A clean install, update Seven until it's happy and then reinstall applications. Only when Seven is up to date and apps installed, I launch WET to transfer user files and folders back. Simple, just takes some time.

A practical tip: When you have finished reinstalling Seven and apps, before you transfer the user data back, create a system image. This way if you ever need to reinstall you can simply use WET to backup user data, restore the image (which now contains all your installed apps) and then using WET restore user data. Much faster this way.

Just called there this morning, to my Mother in Salo where she's now by my sister, she told winter is still going strong. I hope you are already used to Finnish winters

Take care!

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Jan 2011   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Hello Kari - hoped I might have the pleasure of hearing from you again!

I had no plans of backing up Program Files or associated data since somewhere within there is the source of the problem; I believe it was installing/uninstalling a codec pack (K-Lite, specifically) which caused the graphics to go awry; when I later learned that some third-party codecs replace the original Win 7 codecs, (which work seamlessly with the OS), I uninstalled K-Lite and installed one called 'Windows 7 Codecs by Shark 007', which claims to NOT mess up the already-installed Win 7 codecs. Herein (I believe) is where I went wrong - uninstalling/reinstalling codecs cannot be good for ANY OS...
I just wanted Windows Media Player to be able to handle ALL my video playback requirements, and Shark's seems to do the job well.

I was only referring to the user-specific data - privileges, passwords, preferences, etc. - that might be contained within.

I'm sure glad I chose Firefox & Thunderbird - reinstall/recovery of those is a breeze!

Looks like I'm going to copy C:\Users folder (just to be sure I lose no files and photos, most of which are stored on the outside HD), but first use Windows Easy Transfer as you suggested. Better to be safe than sorry, and as the "Users" folder is less than 10Gb, I have more than enough room for both WET and the original folder on my outside HD.

I've been using Macrium Reflect to burn an ISO of the install and have backups with it; problem is, it's possible the original MR ISO might have the problem as well. But since it dates back to the time when I originally purchased the computer and might possibly be uncorrupted, I was considering trying that option first, then testing the graphics to see if the problems persist and hopefully 'hit the ground running' - then only having to reinstall missing Microsoft Updates and other missing software from my "Downloads" folder (which will be moved in my outside HD).

This computer came with all the associated "bloatware" (Norton, etc.) and I will have to uninstall all of that if I do need to go back to a 'virgin install'. I have the Norton-provided uninstaller in my "Downloads" folder for quick clean-up.
I also have decided to use Microsoft Security Essentials instead of my current Bit Defender - a local guru pal of mine recommended it; I removed McAfee from our also-recently-purchased laptop & have it installed there with good results. He said Windows Firewall / Security Essentials was the best combination, as they integrate with 7 seamlessly (and my BD license has only 67 days to go; difficult to say if BD is adding to my woes, so it's gonna be "Microsoft all the way"...).

What program would you recommend to create a system image? A Win 7 "restore point"? Or is Macrium Reflect OK in your book?

Thanks for your time & expertise - yes, the snow's still going strong here in your homeland; the big problems come when the thermometer rises above freezing then dips back down. It's been swinging from -15 to +2 within a 48-hour period... like a roller coaster, perhana!
Just wish it would stay on the minus side 'till springtime!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


28 Jan 2011   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro Preview with Media Center
 
 

First, codecs. Again a controversial issue; for some users codecs are the first to install, I have never installed any on Seven. I use combination WMC - WMP - VLC; WMC plays my recorded TV and DVD's, WMP my music and for everything else i use VLC Player. Have yet to find a media file that VLC doesn't play, it takes everything I throw on it.

Your are quite safe if you use WET to copy user folders, it moves everything located in Users, and then manually copying all those personal folders NOT included in Users.

Feel free to call me a Microsoft / Windows 7 fan boy (re: WET, codecs etc. all native) but also in Backup and Imaging I trust native Seven tools. Maybe I've just been lucky but since early beta days I've never encountered any problems with Windows Backup, nor with native imaging. However, I have followed Wolfgang's (senior member, knows Macrium in and out) posts about Macrium. Here's for instance one of his video tutorials. He got me interested enough to test it. It looks great, works well, is easy to use, so yes, if I wasn't using native tools I believe it would be Macrium.

MSE is a good choice. A subjective opinion, of course, an MS fan boy speaking again but for me it works. I have currently 7 physical, real Windows rigs and 6 Windows virtual machines on my home network and all of them are running MSE. I've had no malware or virus issues.

Make a big pot of coffee and begin. Remember that the three most important things in computing are backup, backup and backup. The next three most important things in computing are patience, patience and patience.

Kari

P.S. Still waiting you to send some Finnish beer Karhu or Karjala.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Jan 2011   #5

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

ME/XP/Vista/Win7
 
 

Hi Salmon Dave

Send Kari a cup tea.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Jan 2011   #6
Microsoft MVP

 

If I'm in a hurry, I just copy the active named User folder which gets everything.

However, since I don't believe in importing AppData (which is a corruption path into a new clean reinstall) to save space I normally copy each of the active User's active folders (Documents, Favorites, My Pictures, Videos, etc) over to external.

To reimport, open each folder, on Organize tab Select All, drag file group to exact corresponding folder in explorer tree to left, don't release left click until folder tree stops expanding and it says "Copy to Documents," etc.

Again, importing AppData is a corruption path which can partially defeat the purpose of getting a clean reinstall since bad settings are often causing problems to begin with.

Tips to get a purrrfect reinstall: re-install windows 7
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Jan 2011   #7

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Kari View Post
Make a big pot of coffee and begin. Remember that the three most important things in computing are backup, backup and backup. The next three most important things in computing are patience, patience and patience.

Kari

P.S. Still waiting you to send some Finnish beer Karhu or Karjala.
Hi Again Kari,

I've been using Foobar 2000 for all my audio due to its' light weight, handling of virtual every audio format known, its' conversion and replay gain leveling capabilities (didn't see any such feature on VLC - ?), and the ability to handle streaming audio (the Mrs. likes to listen to Iskelma on the net). But a quick check of VLC Player tells me that seems to be a better way to go, as it (most importantly) seems to provide the video codecs I was looking for from Shark 007's program. I download lots of .flv's from YouTube to convert for our handicapped son's iTeddy player, & a standard install of WMP can't handle them without additional codecs, but it appears VLC will - I'll go with your recommendation (but will retain the option of reinstalling Foobar if necessary; leveling all MP3 audio files to 89.0dB using per-file or per album info is a feature I have come to rely upon - no need to constantly be reaching for the playback volume control).

I have to agree that more & more I'm also becoming a MS fan boy, as with 7 it seems they've made major improvements in many areas. When I had to buy a new PC I feared 7 (I believed WinXP SP3 to be a bug-free OS; didn't want to become a beta tester for 7!); I have come to LOVE it! And my local guru, Esfand Shayan (an Iranian friend from language school & also a former developer for MS) recommended MSE which is why I gave it a try on our laptop. I like its' simplicity and the fact that you can tell it what percentage of system resources it's allowed to use. BitDefender and their user's forum folks helped me get rid of a nasty virus a few years ago (I had been using AVG free), hence my loyalty to them. But 7 appears to be quite a streamlined system, and Windows folks appear to have hit upon (IMHO) a winning system that's integrated extremely well. Third-party products (with a few notable exceptions) have the tendency to muck up what is already a 'well-oiled machine'. Seems the folks who would know best about how to protect their OS would be the manufacturer (who else would know where the weaknesses are & handle them while operating seamlessly with the OS - no competition for system resources...), and you can't beat the price!

So here's my plan of attack: first try the Macrium Reflect backup from November (since I have it & it works) to see if I had installed any codecs at that point. If so, then it's back yto square #1, armed with more knowledge thanks to you and the other nice folks in this great forum!

Coffee, time & patience - good thing I have a good supply of Juhla Mokka (always buy it 2 packages at a time when it's on sale - keeps for more than a year perfectly in their most excellent packaging, which can also be recycled into heavy-duty shopping bags!).

And About those beers: sorry, but they're too heavy for the post ("we's jes po' foke"...) - how's about some Reissumies?

Ted
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Jan 2011   #8

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
If I'm in a hurry, I just copy the active named User folder which gets everything.

However, since I don't believe in importing AppData (which is a corruption path into a new clean reinstall) to save space I normally copy each of the active User's active folders (Documents, Favorites, My Pictures, Videos, etc) over to external.

To reimport, open each folder, on Organize tab Select All, drag file group to exact corresponding folder in explorer tree to left, don't release left click until folder tree stops expanding and it says "Copy to Documents," etc.

Again, importing AppData is a corruption path which can partially defeat the purpose of getting a clean reinstall since bad settings are often causing problems to begin with.

Tips to get a purrrfect reinstall: re-install windows 7
Hi Greg!

Thanks for the tips and the most useful link - the LAST thing I'm in is a hurry!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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