How do I reinstall Windows without losing my files?

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This document will assist you in performing a "non-invasive" reinstallation of Windows XP


Required equipment

  • Computer with a previous installation of Windows XP
  • Windows XP installation media - must be full version, not an upgrade. Disk must also be the same version of Windows (i.e. XP Pro SP2 reinstallations cannot use XP Pro SP1 or XP Home discs).

Before you begin

Make sure that your data is backed up. Data backups can be saved to CD-R media, DVD-R media, another hard-drive (internal or external), or to another computer. Also, it is recommended that any files stored in the /My Documents, /Program Files, or /Windows directories are backed up as those folders will be deleted and reinstalled.

Beginning the installation

Put the Windows CD in the CD ROM. If you have a floppy disk for your SATA hard-drive or RAID controller, now is the time to put that media into the system. Now power up the computer. You should see a black screen which reads "Press any key to boot from CD...". Press any key on the keyboard to continue. You will enter a blue screen with information at the bottom of the screen. The main thing to look for during this part of the process is a line of text reading "Press F6 to install 3rd party SCSI or RAID driver". This is only necessary if you are utilizing a SCSI hard-drive, SATA hard-drive, or a RAID controller. If you are using any of these technologies, continue to the next section "SCSI & RAID drivers". Otherwise, procede to the "Windows Installation" section.

SCSI & RAID drivers

To install a SCSI, SATA, or RAID driver, press F6 when prompted by Windows. At this point, Windows will continue to gather system information, then bring up a screen mentioning that Windows could not determine the type of disk that you are wanting to install to. Your choices will be to either press 'S' to specify a disk, press 'enter' to continue, or press 'F3' to exit. Press 'S' to specify your disk. Windows will now scan the floppy disk for drivers. A listing will be provided (only 4 can be displayed at a time - extra drivers will require scrolling down) from which you can choose your driver. To find out which driver you require, contact the hardware manufacturer of your motherboard, SCSI controller or RAID controller. Press enter to select the driver, and continue to the next section "Windows Installation".

Windows Installation

Windows will now prompt you to continue (enter), enter recovery console ('R'), or exit ('F3'). Press 'enter' to continue. You will now be asked to accept the EULA (End User License Agreement) by pressing F8. Read over this document - should you agree to the terms, press F8. On the next screen, Windows will scan for a previous installation of Windows. Should one be found, you will be provided the option to repair the current installation by pressing 'R', to continue by pressing 'enter', or to exit by pressing 'F3'. Press 'enter' to procede.

The system will reboot multiple times during this process (this is normal). The installation at this point will look and act just like a standard installation of Windows XP. Provide the installer with the information it requests, and soon you will be back into Windows XP.


Verify that your files are still functional. Some drivers may need reinstalled, as well as some programs may need reinstalled. However, any other files on your hard-drive will still be available as well as any settings you have set up. Reactivation of Windows may also be required at this step. It is recommended that you first enable your firewall, then attempt to activate over the internet. If Windows should prompt you that it cannot activate over the internet, choose to call Microsoft at (800-Microsoft) and explain to the representative that you just reinstalled Windows on a Machine that it was previously installed on.