It’s inevitable.  At some point you will need to start with a fresh OS install because …

  • you will need to upgrade your entire computer because it’s old
  • your hard drive will fail
  • your Windows files will get corrupt
  • your machine will outlive your operating system

I just went through the process because I have a good machine but my operating system had reached end of life and my machine was getting clunky and hanging a couple times a week, forcing a reboot by holding down the power button (not good).

My drive and memory tested good without any issues.  I have a 1TB drive that was 80% full and a 2TB backup drive so I can keep at least 2 generations of backups on it.

So, here’s what I did …

Manual Backup via Copy Paste & Export

  • backed up my personal folders, which included documents, photos, music and video (I did not back up 90% of the movies and TV series that I had downloaded but elected to free up that 400GB of space)
  • backed up my business folders … I have a folder(s) for every company with which I do business and my own company folder(s)
  • backed up user libraries, my documents, my downloads, my music, my pictures, my movies, favourites
  • backed up the folders where I store software and program installation files
  • backed up my email and manually copied the Outlook PST folder just in case
  • exported my email address book into a CSV file
  • login to my Google account with a gmail address and turn on synch in Chrome so they saved my Chrome  settings and bookmarks for me on the cloud
  • waited a one day cooling off period to make sure I had not missed anything (and I did remember a couple of things that I forgot) then I reformatted my hard drive and installed the new operating system.

Manual Restore via Copies, Installs & Imports

  • Immediately secure the machine with Windows Defender and Malware Bytes Premium (same as before)
  • Copy backed up MS Outlook Files to appropriate folder and Install Office (my emails all showed up but the email accounts did not so I had to manually re-add all of the email accounts that I have, which is several)
  • Import my email address book
  • Install Chrome, login to Google and re-synch. Like magic all of my bookmarks and settings were imported from the cloud. Then I turned synch off.
  • Restored the customer folders for recently active clients only (two years)
  • Restored my personal folders
  • Install other programs I had backed up but only as required and Import any settings that I had Exported. Some of the software was too old and vendor is no longer accepting the key etc … BAG O’ SNAKES!


  • If you plan on installing and using a program again, check to see if it has a feature to Export your settings. That came in very handy for programs like Chrome, FileZilla, C-Organizer (my daytimer which goes several years out, including annual birthday reminders for several people)
  • Setting up my email accounts was a real pain because I have more than 10 due to the nature of my work
  • I noticed when I was poking around in my backup of User/AppData and User/Application Data, some of the folders were missing. When you are doing manual copies and you see “file permission” messages, make sure you know what you are skipping if you click “skip”.  Click “continue” instead.
  • This was a 4 day job from start to finish, (sometimes I did other stuff when copies were taking place), and I still don’t have all of my programs installed
  • People who want their computer “transferred” to a new machine or want their hard drive replaced or a new OS installed need to realize that $200 labour is very reasonable and that’s just to wipe it clean, install the new operating system and give you a backup of your old drive (if your drive hasn’t failed)
  • If I was to invoice myself for the time spent so far, my fee would be well north of $1000 and I still have programs to re-install when/if I need them

It’s very time consuming but I feel fresh, like I just shaved and took a long shower!!!

and so on…