How to Reinstall Windows 10, Window 11 without Losing Data

There are a number of reasons why someone would want to reinstall Windows 10 on their PC or laptop. Anything from a general feeling of sluggishness in performance, fixing system problems that can’t be fully diagnosed, or even to remove things like malware, ransomware, or bloatware, there are endless reasons why someone would need to perform a fresh installation of the operating system (OS).

That said, it’s not one of the most well-known skills and can often seem daunting to the uninitiated. With so much personal and sensitive data stored on the computer, people often don’t want to risk corrupting some important files, coursework, or family photo albums stored digitally.

You needn’t fear, however, since Microsoft built Windows 10 knowing that this very eventuality would happen to so many of its users and equipped it with the ability to be re-installed without totally wiping all the user’s data away along with the old version of the OS.

How to Factory Reset Windows 10 without Losing Data

There are three ways to reset Windows 10 without losing your existing data, with each offering a near enough the same results through different methods.

Step 1: Using the “Reset this PC” option

The first option is the classic “Reset this PC” which can be found with the following steps:

This is arguably the fastest way to reset the machine, though there is one caveat. “Reset this PC” only allows users to keep files. And all user-installed apps and programs will be lost. To avoid loss of pre-existing apps, drivers and programs, we recommend backing up all important data before going ahead with this method of reset.

Step 2: Using the Advanced Startup menu

To reinstall Windows 10 using the Advanced Startup option, use the following steps

  • Click on the Start button on the lower left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Click the “Settings” on the left pane in the Start menu.
  • Click “Update & Security,” then click “Recovery.”
  • Click on the “Restart now” under the “Advanced startup” section in the right pane. Windows will restart into the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) mode. Alternatively, pressing the ‘F11’ button as soon as you power on your PC will get you to the Windows 10 Advanced Startup options. This technique is beneficial when you can’t boot your PC the usual way.
  • Click “Troubleshoot” once you enter WinRE mode.
  • Click “Reset this PC” in the following screen, leading you to the reset system window.
  • Select “Keep my files” and click “Next” then “Reset.”
  • Click “Continue” when a popup appears and prompts you to continue reinstalling the Windows 10 operating system.

Like method 1, you’ll need to take a backup of all your data before resetting, as Windows will only save your files and wipe out apps, drivers and programs during reinstallation.

Step 3: Using Windows 10 ISO image file

An ISO file, commonly known as ISO image, is an archive file that contains an identical copy or image of data found on an optical disc, such as a CD or DVD. It allows you to reinstall Windows 10 and keep files given your computer is bootable.

Here are the steps you need to follow to reinstall Windows 10 using ISO image:

  • Download Microsoft’s media creation tool to create Windows 10 ISO file.
  • After downloading the newly-created ISO file, right-click on it and select “Mount” to continue.
  • Double-click the Setup.exe file at the root directory.
  • Choose the correct option when prompted to “Download and install updates.” Choose the option if your computer is connected to the internet. If not, select “Not right now.” Click “Next” to continue.
  • Click on “Change what to keep” in the subsequent popup window.
  • Choose between: “Keep personal files, apps, and Windows settings,” “Keep personal files only,” and “Nothing,” according to your storage needs.
  • Click “Next” to install Windows 10.

Your PC will now reboot with the saved settings.

Restoring Applications after Reinstalling Windows 10, Window 11

Once you’ve reinstalled Windows 10, it’s time to restore applications.

Begin by verifying your account: Go to Start > Settings > Accounts > Your account and click the “Verify” link to get the code required to add your PC back into the saved accounts list. Once verified, log in to your Microsoft account.

To restore previously installed apps:

  1. Go to “Start” > “All Apps” > “Store.”
  2. Click on user (your) photo.
  3. Select “My Library” on the left pane to access all previously installed apps.
  4. Click the “Download” button next to the app(s) you wish to restore.

Final Thoughts

An important thing to remember, especially for first-time reinstalls, is that the process will take some time, so don’t worry if it does – it’s not a sign that the reinstallation has stalled or not worked properly.

The speed of the process will depend on a number of factors, but some of the most influential will be internet speed and the size of the files you intend to keep.

Finally, the importance of keeping backups cannot be overstated. Businesses know all too well that backups can make or break a ransomware recovery strategy and the same goes for those looking to preserve files of a different nature.

Having a backup of the original Windows 10 environment on a separate piece of hardware, like a portable hard drive, is hugely important. It can be a lifesaver in the worst-case scenarios such as if the reinstallation process fails.

It can also help to more quickly restore apps and settings with those methods that only preserve data rather than the entire environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I repair Windows 10 without installing?

Launch the Windows 10 Advanced Startup Options menu by pressing F11. Go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Repair. Wait for a few minutes, and Windows 10 will fix the startup problem.

How do I reinstall Windows 10 and keep everything?

Provided your computer can boot into Windows 10, open the Settings app (the cog icon towards the bottom-left of the Start menu), then click on Update & Security. Click on Recovery, then ‘Get started’ under ‘Reset this PC’. From the pop-up that appears, click ‘Keep my files’.

Does repairing Windows 10 delete files?

Although you’ll keep all of your files and software, the reinstallation will delete certain items such as custom fonts, system icons and Wi-Fi credentials. However, as part of the process, the setup will also create a Windows. old folder which should have everything from your previous installation.

Can I just reinstall Windows 10 for free?

If Windows 10 was previously installed and activated on your PC, you can reinstall Windows 10 at any time and it will not cost you anything ! You should just clean install Windows 10 rather than upgrading from a previous version of Windows.

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