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Tim Fisher

Reinstall Windows XP Without Losing Your Data

By April 10, 2008

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Reinstall Windows - Reinstall Windows XP Without Losing Your DataI often get asked, usually in the forum, if there's a way to reinstall Windows XP without having to erase everything and start over. Lucky for all of us there is, and it's pretty easy as long as you can dig up your Windows CD.

It's called a Windows Repair Install. A repair install is a way of installing Windows XP right over top of your existing Windows XP installation, repairing any damaged operating system files in the process. The best part is that all of your other programs and any other saved data on your computer is left alone during the process.

Repair installs don't always fix every problem - sometimes starting over from scratch by wiping your computer clean first and then installing Windows (a process called a clean install) is necessary. For many problems though, reinstalling Windows XP with a repair install is a safe, effective way to solve serious problems with the operating system.

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April 10, 2008 at 6:08 am
(1) Computerden says:

very intresting! Thanks for the post.

May 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm
(2) Lisa Wadsworth says:

I’m trying that and it’s asking for an Administrator password and i don’t know what tht is how do I find it?

May 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm
(3) Tim Fisher says:

@Lisa Wadsworth: Sometimes it’s blank, sometimes it’s the password you’ve been using. If neither works, then the computer maker or whoever installed your copy of Windows XP set it and never told you. Try that and then let me know. There is a way to reset it but it’s not easy.

September 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm
(4) John says:

If you can’t get in, use Kon boot to erase all passwords.

September 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm
(5) David says:

Does this solution also leave intact the Windows XP updates, SP3, patches, etc.? Or is at a reinstall of the original OS, but leaving programs and personal files intact? Thx.

September 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm
(6) Tim Fisher says:

@David: A “repair install” in Windows XP replaces all Windows-provided files with those from the disc. So no, it will not leave intact all the updates and service packs. You WILL need to reinstall those. Your programs and personal files will remain, yes.

March 15, 2013 at 8:13 pm
(7) richard wynestone says:

Somehow contracted the following message that crawls along top edge while screen flashes…

“Either there is not enough memory, or the screen saver has been damaged and should be reinstalled”

1. Neither installed nor engaged any type of screen saver.

Any solution(s)? tia

April 9, 2013 at 10:26 am
(8) Tim Fisher says:

@richard wynestone: Please post this in my forum.

April 11, 2013 at 10:02 am
(9) Mike says:

Hi Tim. I’ve just had my PC repaired but they had to reload XP on and used their own copy. I want to activate XP using my original product key, but it won’t accept it. If I tried a repair install using my original XP disc that came with the PC and product key originally, will this overwrite the version put on in the repair shop, and then let me input my product key? Cheers, Mike

April 12, 2013 at 11:00 am
(10) Tim Fisher says:

@Mike: No, you’ll have to do a “clean install” of Windows XP with your own disc and then use your product key. Whatever shop you took this to did you a big disservice. I’d return the computer there and make them correct this problem. You shouldn’t have to jump through a hoop like this.

May 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm
(11) Bob Greene says:

Very effective and thorough discussion of Windows XP reinstallation, but a few points bear greater emphasis, based on experience.

1. The Windows XP Home CD is not capable of doing an in-place repair of Windows XP. Only a Windows XP Professional CD has this utility.

2. During my installation, the process advised me that user accounts would be deleted, and that My Documents might be deleted. This was disconcerting (although I had made a backup) because Windows will not always link with folders and data simply copied from another drive or restored from an image.

3. STOP codes aborted the final portion of the attempted repair. Often, this indicates a lack of sufficient free space for installation, and this applied in my case..

May 16, 2013 at 11:28 am
(12) Tim Fisher says:

@Bob Greene: Thanks for the comments.

1. The XP Home CD *IS* able to do an in-place repair. I’ve done it many, many times. Are you sure the XP Home disc wasn’t a custom job by the PC maker? I’ve used both OEM (MS branded) and retail versions of Windows XP Home on CD to do repair installs.
2. I’ve never seen that. Sounds like you might have been using something other than Microsoft’s tools.
3. Very true. I have seen this happen.

August 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm
(13) David says:

Excellent comments from author and great thread. However, I concur with the previous post in that my OEM supplied CD did not provide the option to carry out a repair, only a complete new install. It did however, provide the option to change the directory name.

I did this and installed a complete additional version of XP. This at least enabled me to boot up the machine and retrieve all of my data files (now present under a different user name). I have now archived them elsewhere.

My query now is, is it possible to simply overwrite all OS files in the old directory with those from the new install? Or is it not as simple as that?

If not, how do I go about:
a) repairing the original installation (I do not have repair CD option), and
b) removing the second installation?

Many thanks to everyone in advance.



August 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm
(14) Tim Fisher says:

@David: Thanks for the comments. Sounds like there are some OEM discs out there that I wasn’t aware of. Thanks for the update.

Installing a new version of Windows in another directory is called a “parallel install” and it’s not something I often recommend, especially in newer versions of Windows, but there were certainly legitimate reasons to do it in Windows XP (mainly: the lack of other options back then). Exactly as you said – this enabled you to boot up the machine and to use your data stored under the different installation.

It’s not quite as simple as that. Frankly, the old installation isn’t being used anymore. If your data that is/was present in the old installation is now archived elsewhere, you can just delete (from within Windows) the old folder and use this new installation on into the future. In other words, you can’t repair the original installation OR remove the second installation (at least *probably* not, it depends on the problem that brought you to this place).

March 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm
(15) Carlos B says:

I know this thread is old but I’ll give it a shot anyhow.

While following the steps you provided I got to the point where there should be the option to chose which installation to repair, but it doesn’t show any istalled windows versions.

If i create a new partition and install the os anyway, will my personal files be deleted? I’ve got to mention that i only have one hdd on my pc.

Thanks for posting this article : )

March 11, 2014 at 12:14 pm
(16) Tim Fisher says:

@Carlos B: There are several reasons why you might not see that option, but as far as the disc is concerned, it means that you can not do a “repair” install. To your next question – no, if you do anything to your drive on the partitioning level, you’ll lose everything. In your case, your best bet is to get a new HD, install Windows from scratch on there, then attach this one as a secondary drive and get your data off.

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