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Reinstalling Windows 7. List of things to backup?

Hello,

I'm gonna reinstall Windows 7 Ultimate on my Dell Vostro 3500 laptop and would appreciate if you could recommend the files/folders that I would need for seamless transition.

I've already made copied Documents, Music, Pictures, Desktop, Dell Drivers folder (in C:).

I've synced my Google Chrome using dashboard but also exporting the bookmarks just in case.

Any comments/insights would be highly useful.

Thanks.
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gam8
Asked:
gam8
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8 Solutions
 
John HurstBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Everything you need is in your user profile. Windows does not keep anything on your behalf anywhere else.

What I do is copy the individual things into a backup drive. I like to keep things separate (especially Outlook files). When I am satisfied I have everything, I copy the whole user folder into another place on the backup drive for good measure.

If you opt to use Easy Transfer (Windows), test it first.  

... Thinkpads_User
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gam8Author Commented:
Hi,

Yes, I'm copying everything into an external HDD. My bad for not mentioning it earlier.

Thanks for your time.
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Run5kCommented:
My standard folder list to backup within a user profile:

Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Favorites, Music, Pictures, and Videos.

As far as drivers are concerned, it would probably be a good idea to backup the following folder to either a DVD or external hard drive:

%SystemDrive%\Windows\System32\DriverStore

Just in case your reload procedures are missing any obscure device drivers once you are done, you can easily open Computer Management with admin rights, navigate to Device Manager, highlight the unknown device(s), right-click and select Update Driver Software.  Then, you can navigate to the root of your previously saved DriverStore folder and the device  should install gracefully.
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Nathan KaufmanCommented:
Depends on the software you have on your computer.  If you use QuickBooks then I would recommend backing up that database.  The other thing to consider is if you use any kind of e-mail software, like Windows Live or Outlook.  You'll want to back those up too.  Any games you have saved you'll probably want to backup as well.  Each of those items could be stored in different spots depending on what you have.  Most of your files are located in the User directory, and you said you already backed those up.  I'd also recommend getting an online backup such as Carbonite or IDrive, for future backups.  Main reason for an online backup is it's at a different location than your computer.  If something should happen to your house, such as a fire, flood, other natural disaster or computer getting stolen.  Your data is located securely online and you can get that data back.
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gam8Author Commented:
Thanks run5k.. I'll copy that folder. Never knew it.. Great tip :)

Thanks Nate. I'll consider online backups shortly.. I'm glad I don't use Quickbooks/Outlook etc.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
sometimes you, or programs, or any number of other reasons can put files where you don't expect them.  So, play it safe - backup EVERYTHING.  How?  EASILY.  Download the FREE utility - DISK2VHD - and create a VHD of your current install (save it to an external USB drive).  You can then EASILY mount it in Disk Management and access whatever you may have "forgotten".
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nobusCommented:
all good suggestions above - my 2cents : there is no "standard list" to backup, it depends on the applications installed.
Applications (or yourself) may choose  to store their data anywhere
so look for the installed applications in control panel, and check where they store their data.
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RGRodgersCommented:
As an alternative, I would pull the drive and load Windows 7 onto a new drive.  I would connect the old drive using an external case.  That way, it serves as its own backup and you can copy anything you need from it.  Also, you are starting from a brand new drive.  Just a thought...RG
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Given the cost of drives and time it takes to backup, if I'm doing this for a client on-site, I agree with RGRodgers.  BUT, if you can make a VHD out of it, then it's essentially the same thing as duplicating the drive into a file so there shouldn't be a need to do that.  These days, before I wipe any drive, I create a VHD of it then wipe it.  THE VHDs are only a few MB larger than the total used disk space, so if it's a 250 GB drive with 50 GB used, only a 50 GB VHD is created.
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gam8Author Commented:
Thanks nobus. I saved the settings of PotPlayer, MPC etc. I'm looking into other apps that I use.

Nice tip, RGRodgers. That's what I did last time, when I changed my HDD. It was much easier :) Thanks.

Thanks leew. I created a VHD and it was just 48 GB after I deleted the data (songs, etc) from C: Great tip. :)

So I should choose "Attach VHD" under "Action" in DiskMgmt, right? I tried to mount it just now but I'm unable to see it under "My Computer". Is it because of this:

 VHD
Once I re-install, I should be able to access this VHD as a drive, right?

Thanks a ton everyone for your time. You've been a great help..
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gam8Author Commented:
Once I re-install the OS, would you guys recommend taking a snapshot with Norton Ghost so that it's easier to just load that up in the future?

If there's any other easier/more efficient program out there, I'd love to know..

Thanks again.
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John HurstBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I use Ghost to snapshot my own machine. If is fairly efficient, but my machine compressed is 150Gb.  Still in all, I like Ghost and it works well. .... Thinkpads_User
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RGRodgersCommented:
A good discussion regarding signature collisions, with some cautions: http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2011/11/08/3463572.aspx

...RG
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gam8Author Commented:
Thanks Thinkpad and Rodgers.

I'll look at the link, Rodgers..
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
In this case you did what you SHOULDN'T do.  Mounted a copy of the disk while running the OS.  The idea is to create the VHD (storing it on external media), then WIPE AND RELOAD Windows.  (Reformat the drive), this will erase the signature and you won't have a collision.
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gam8Author Commented:
Thanks leew.. That's what I thought. Good to know that I won't have the signature issue when I re-install the OS.
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nobusCommented:
oh - before erasing the drive, best download the drivers you'll need also, to avoid problems
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gam8Author Commented:
Thanks nobus. I've made a copy of "Dell Drivers" folder in C:

As mentioned by run5k above, I've also copied the "DriverStore" folder. Hopefully these two are good enough.

I'm installing right now and if I don't run into any more issues, I'd close this thread first thing tomorrow. Thanks again everyone for your time and responses.
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nobusCommented:
they should do - but i prefer the latest downloads
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gam8Author Commented:
@nobus: Thanks again.

@leew, tried mounting the VHD after installing the new OS but it still shows the same error (signature collision) message as in the picture above.  Guess, I have to look into the link given by Rodgers.

Good thing I had backed up the actual files and did the "easy transfer" method too.
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