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Windows 7: If I do a custom upgrade, how do I get my files back?

20 Jun 2010   #1

Vista, soon to be Windows 7
If I do a custom upgrade, how do I get my files back?

Hi there! :)

I'm going to be a university student at Indiana University in the fall, so during orientation I picked up a student version of Windows 7 Ultimate for my HP Compaq laptop, which I bought back when Vista was brand new --I cant afford a new laptop right now, and the hardware is still good anyway. I will be upgrading from Windows Vista Basic.

My school's IT department recommends doing a "clean" install to avoid any software problems after the installation. I dont really know what the difference between a clean install versus a regular one would be, but I have the IT department's instructions on how to do a clean, custom install, instead of the standard upgrade. I want my computer to work well with the school's network, so I am fine with that.

The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is that they say custom upgrades delete all of my computer's files.

I HAVE AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE, AND DID A COMPLETE BACK UP THIS AFTERNOON. All of my information is safely stored on my external terabyte.

My only question is, how do I sync all of my files from the external hard drive back onto my computer after this is done? I want to make sure it's possible to put everything back on my compuer before I go doing this custom installation and erasing everything.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2010   #2
Product FRED

Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit

If it runs Vista, it will run 7 better than Vista ran on it.

The difference between a clean install and an upgrade is this: A clean install is when you wipe the hard drive, including all of your files (which you hopefully backed up beforehand) and then install Windows. And upgrade is when you go from Vista to 7 without losing any files or programs.

You really should not do an upgrade because things get buggy as you start to use the computer. Things won't work correctly and you'll run into a bunch of problems. Copy all of your important files onto your external drive, boot into your Windows 7 disc, wipe the hard drive using "Quick Format", and then install Windows normally.

Here's a tutorial: Clean Install Windows 7

If you have an upgrade disc, you can still do a clean installation: Clean Install with a Upgrade Windows 7 Version
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2010   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


My System SpecsSystem Spec

20 Jun 2010   #4

Windows 7 Home Premium 32-Bit - Build 7600 SP1

The Clean Install is definately the way to go. After you have backed up your files, boot your computer with the Win 7 disk. It should only take about 45 minutes to install Win 7. You will then have to reinstall your programs and you will be good to go. Win 7 is a big improvement and you will be glad you switched. Good Luck,
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2010   #5

Vista, soon to be Windows 7

Ah, thank you all so much! I knew there was probably a way to restore my files and progams, but I just wanted to make sure I knew how to do it before I went around installing new things! :)

And I am so relieved to hear that Windows7 will work better on my computer. I've heard nothing but good things about it. I know my processor and RAM are pretty low-tech by today's standards, but I'm hoping that some of my problems with running more than one application at a time will be resolved when I install this new software. :) I'm actually pretty excited!

Thanks, guys! I wasnt expecting such quick and helpful responses! :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2010   #6

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Mercuril View Post
Ah, thank you all so much! I knew there was probably a way to restore my files and progams, but I just wanted to make sure I knew how to do it before I went around installing new things! :)

Programs will need to be reinstalled.
You are welcome.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2010   #7

Vista, soon to be Windows 7

Alright, now I'm a tad bit worried.

I just installed Windows 7. It looks great. I'm sure it runs great too. Now I am trying to reinstall my files. I used the "Restore User and Backup Files" walkthrough that theog provided.

So I'm at the point where it is asking me which backup I would like to put on my computer. The external hard drive I have has backups for my dad's laptop, my laptop, and our major old family computer that no one uses anymore.

Only my dad's backup is showing up. Now I am freaking out... we have none of the same things. I have a ton of programs and documents and media that I NEED and PAID FOR, and now I cant find them. I know my backup is in the external hard drive somewhere; now how do I get it out?

I know these links you guys have given me are helpful, but the ones I have looked at arent doing the trick; can someone actually write out for me what I need to do?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Jun 2010   #8

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 10, Home Clean Install


I doubt tht your files are lost, as long as you followed instructions.

Try to find it with this.

DiskDigger | The trusted data recovery solution

For added safetu you may want to back up the external, before using diskdigger. I have not heard of any problems, but these files seem very important to you.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Jun 2010   #9
Microsoft MVP


Use the drop down file display type menu in Explorer select Details view, then order your External HD by date/time by clicking that column head.

Now find the file by the date and time when you saved your backup. Now you can use the file transfer or backup program which saved the backup for you to restore it to your new install.

If you have problems, try browsing into the files yourself and figure out how to drag them to the corresponding folders (Document, Photos, etc) in the explorer tree to the left.

It is for this reason that I never use backup or file transfer programs, just drag the folders I use to the external into one big folder named for the backup occasion. You may have to try to adapt the backup folder to use it like this if its automation fails, as it can.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Jun 2010   #10

Vista, soon to be Windows 7

Okay... so under my folder titled "(My Name)'s Backup Folder" are a bunch of files that I dont recognize. It says that some were created on the day I did my first backup and others were created just a few hours ago, when I backed up my computer again. I dont understand what these files are, but honestly, the computer is probably smarter than I am when it comes to that sort of thing. The files are made up of thousands of kilobytes --like over 600,000 kb per file. I figured those were all of my files compressed into a file that the backup program could read or something, and I didnt worry about it.

The problem is, the backup folder DOES NOT contain any of my documents, songs, video, or photos. At all. I figured they were compressed into these files that I dont recognize, so I clicked on one of the files,and it said that Windows couldnt open it because Windows doesnt recognize the file format. How can it not recognize the file format? It made the file format!


I am willing to upload my documents, video, photos, and everything else I had (I really didnt have many programs... as you can probably tell, I basically use only iTunes, Microsoft Office, and Internet) to a USB flash drive. Is there a way I can restore my computer to the software it had before Windows 7, with all my files back? Could I get my files back that way?

What am I supposed to do to get my files back?

The links you have been sending me are informative and explicit, but they are not helpful in my situation. They assume that 1: Windows can find my backup folder in the external hard drive which it cannot. It can only find my father's backup folder. And 2: My files are neatly organized into all the subfolders, which they are not. They are compressed into folders that the computer made during the backup but no longer recognizes. So basically, I cant read anything in my backup folder.

Can someone please talk me through this?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 If I do a custom upgrade, how do I get my files back?

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