I'm using Windows 7 Ultimate version for a month. I was wondering what files/folders should I backup off my hard disk before I reinstall Windows 7. With Windows XP (the version that I was using last 8 years), I would need to reinstall XP once every 3/4 months. Of course, I backup files/folders of the partition which I uses as system drive before formatting it. Beside that, encrypted files/folders in other partitions should be backed up in unencrypted format. Is there anything else that should be backed up off hard disk?

I use an older 160 GB SATA hard disk (internal) as backup drive and a newer 320 GB SATA hard disk for OS, and all other files. For backing up data I use Synchredible.


I'm a big fan of imaging the whole hard drive so you can't forget anything. If the new install goes horribly wrong (hardware incompatability, etc), you can just re-apply your old system back from the backup (fast). When you install the new operating system, mount the image as a virtual drive and start copying your documents, etc.

Some data is more difficult to recover from a backup so you should consider these ahead of time:

  • A list of software on your system and where you can reinstall from (web site, CD (with keys), etc)
  • Configuration settings for specific programs
  • Registration keys
  • Drivers
  • Email
  • Web favorites/bookmarks

Essentially, I run through each program installed on my system one at a time and note any possible customizations or specific data I need to recover when I do a fresh install.


Windows 7 has absolutely awesome built-in backup capabilities. Just type "backup" into the start menu search box and it'll show up (backup and restore). You can make a full system image, backup libraries, and/or backup specific directories outside of your libraries. When I recently migrated from the RC to the RTM, I backed up my libraries, backed up my user profile, and then took a system image just in case the new install went horribly wrong. When I was done with the reinstall, I just plugged in the external HDD the backup was on, opened the restore wizard, and told it where to extract the backups to. From there it was easy to copy things to wherever I wanted them. I'd recommend using this tool.

I did have to reinstall all applications, so as robert suggested above, make sure you have your activation keys backed up somewhere, and make sure you have install media for all the apps you need. Bookmarks, email and program configurations can be backed up and restored. Just make sure you include the %userprofile% folder in your backup.


You don't have to back anything up. If you do a full "clean" install of Windows 7, it will keep everything on your hard drive, except for:

  • C:\Users
  • C:\Program Files
  • C:\ProgramData
  • C:\Windows

which get moved to:

  • C:\Windows.old\Users
  • C:\Windows.old\Program Files
  • C:\Windows.old\ProgramData
  • C:\Windows.old\Windows

to make way for the new clean versions of those folders. Vista did the same thing during full install - it leaves everything in place, except for tucking away those four folders out of the way.

But if you insist on backing something up to external storage, then backup


All your documents, files, torrents, downloads, e-mails, favorites, rss feeds, Skype conversations, Messenger pics, porn, and application data are stored in there.

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