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suppose I have a single 500G drive in my desktop PC running Windows 7. The drive contains everything - the system files, the applications, all of the data, etc.

Suppose Windows irrecoverably crashes for any reason.

How would I then restore my PC back to life? If I had a separate system partition, I'd just reformat it and do a clean install of Windows. But I don't.

What are the pitfalls of reinstalling Windows 7 on a drive that's not freshly formatted? Is it even possible?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

It is possible, all your old Windows 7 "the system files, the applications, all of the data, etc" stuff would be moved to a folder called Windows.old.

There technically are no pitfalls to doing such action, but you will definitely have to reinstall everything and then run a Disk Cleanup to get rid of the Windows.old folder because of the permissions on it that do not allow you to just delete it normally, otherwise, there is really no issue.

The Windows.old would be placed in your C:\ drive if that's where you installed the OS.

So it would typically be in C:\Windows.old.

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When reinstalling Windows, you don't have to wipe the partition. There's another option where you can let the installer move the old copy of Windows into another folder where you'd be able to retrieve your data and start from a new slate of Windows.

You won't have all your applications installed already, but its a mean of getting back all your old data. If you have Windows 7 Pro, you can use its backup and restore from a previous "backup snapshot" you have taken if you kept your system on a separate drive.

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