By Lily / Last update April 25, 2023

Can I Just Reinstall Windows 10 without Losing Files?


Can I reinstall operating system without losing files?

Hi there. I have an issue with my laptop and I was told to resolve that issue, I'd need to reinstall Windows 10. I don't recall where I put my CD, but I have my product key. My question is, if I reinstall Windows 10, will it delete the data on my laptop or do I have to back it all up into a hard drive?

- Question from Microsoft Community

Does Reinstalling Windows Delete Files?

When you've tried many solutions to fix system errors and none of them actually works, it may be the time to clean install Windows 10 and get all problems sorted out. But does this process delete your important data? Can you reinstall Windows 10 without any data loss?

Well, it depends on the approach you take:

By using Repair Install, you can choose to install Windows 10 while keeping all personal files, apps and settings, keeping personal files only, or keeping nothing.
By using Reset This PC, you can do a fresh install to reset Windows 10 and keep personal files, or remove everything.
By running clean install without formatting existing partitions, your data won't be deleted, but will be moved to Windows.old folder in the root directory of C: drive after installing.

In short, you definitely can, and have different methods to reinstall Windows 10 without losing data. 

Reinstall Windows 10 Without Losing Data

If you are pretty sure that all your files and applications are in good condition and have nothing to do with the problem you are facing, then you can choose a way to reinstall Windows 10 without losing files and programs. 

To do that, Windows will scan your C: drive and place all your personal data aside. And when the installation is complete, Windows will put these files and settings back.

If you are using a genuine Windows 10, the operating system will automatically get activated after the reinstallation.

How to Reinstall OS without Losing Data on Windows 11/10

As mentioned above, there are 3 different methods you can choose to reinstall the system. You may choose any of these methods according to your own needs after learning the details. 

Method 1: Repair install Windows 10/11 without losing any data 

If your Windows 10 can boot and you believe all the installed programs are fine, then you can use this method to reinstall Windows 10 without losing data and programs. If one or more of your programs are damaged, you'd better keep personal files only.

1. Download Windows Media Creation tool from and create an installation ISO file with it.

Create Installation ISO File

2. Double click to mount the ISO file (for Windows 7, you need to use other tools to mount it). At the root directory, double-click to run the Setup.exe file.

Run Windows 10 ISO File

3. When the Windows 10 Setup is ready, you can whether to download updates or not based on your needs.

Windows 10 Setup

4. In the What needs your attention screen, click "Change what to keep" option.

What Needs Your Attention

5. Then, you will access the Choose what to keep screen, you have three options, namely, "Keep personal files, apps, and Windows settings", "Keep personal files only", or "Nothing". Choose the first option and click Next.

Choose What to Keep

6. Here you will go back to the What needs your attention screen. Confirm the option you select and click "Refresh".

This may take a while because it will spend extra time scanning your hard drive and moving files. If you just want to keep your files where they are, then try the next method.

Method 2: Fresh install Windows 10/11 without losing personal files

Windows 10 provides the feature "Reset this PC" to help you solve system problems by resetting your computer to factory settings. During the process, you can choose whether to keep your personal files or not.

1. Open Reset this PC from computer or boot.

>> If it's a working computer and still bootable, please go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC and select Get Started under Reset this PC option.

Reset this PC from Windows

>> If not, you can create a recovery drive and boot from it. Then choose your keyboard layout and press Enter > select Troubleshoot > Reset this PC.

Reset This PC

2. After selecting Reset this PC, you have two options, "Keep my files" and "Remove everything", select the first option. It will remove apps and settings but keep your personal files where they are.

Keep My Files

3. Then, in the Ready to reset this PC window, it will tell you all the changes during the process. Confirm it and click "Reset".

You can also reset Windows 10 from command line. The process is shown below:

1. Type “cmd” in the search box and press Enter.

2. In the listed results, right click on the Command Prompt and select "Run as Administrator".

3. Type one of the following commands in the command prompt window and press Enter.

  • To reset Windows 10 to factory settings, type systemreset.

Reset Windows

  • To install Windows 10 and new updates, type systemreset -cleanpc.

Refresh Windows

Method 3: Clean install Windows 10/11 without losing data

If you prefer installing Windows 10 without losing data from USB drive or installation disc, you can choose to upgrade Windows 10 using this method. Before you do, you need to make sure your C: drive has more than 16GB of free space.

1. Insert your installation disc and boot from it. If you do not have one, you can download the Windows Media Creation tool to create one.

2. When it loads, select the language and keyboard, then click "Next".

3. Click "Install Now".

4. Type your product key or skip it. Usually, your computer will be activated automatically when it's connected to a network if your install the same version of Windows 10 as before.

5. Select the installation type "Custom".

6. At the following screen, just select the C: drive and click Next to proceed. Then, wait patiently until the installation complete 100%.

Clean Install Windows 10 without Losing Data

As long as you do not format the C: drive in the Setup, you will not lose your data, but they are moved to another location. After the installation, you can find a folder Windows.old in the root directory of C: drive. All your files are saved there.

After copying all your needed files out from Windows.old folder, you can use Disk Cleanup to delete the Windows.old folder to free up disk space.

NOTE: Reinstalling The OS Isn't Always The Perfect Solution

Though there are several methods to choose from, they all have some shortcomings in practical use. For instance, the first method will keep your programs, but won't fix problems caused by them. And the other two methods can only keep your files, so you have to spend time and effort reinstalling these apps. 

In fact, free backup software configured with regular OS backup task may help you avoid such problems. This way, even if your computer fails in any way, you can use this system backup to restore your computer without losing data. For simplicity and effectiveness, I strongly recommend you AOMEI Backupper Standard to protect your Windows 10/11 PC. Here's why:

✦ It enables you to backup files, partition, system or even the whole disk in a simple manner.
✦ It can save you from manual operation with the scheduled backup on daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
✦ With the incremental backup mode, it will only backup changed files instead of all files, which greatly reduces the risk of the backup disk full issue. 
✦ You can change the compression level, split backup images, use Microsoft VSS service and intelligent sector backup as you like.
✦ It supports multiple Windows operating systems, such as Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista.

Download this software right now.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP

Getting Started: System Image Backup Required

If you want to recover your computer easily and quickly without losing stored personal data and installed apps, you could create a system image backup with AOMEI Backupper in advance. Let's get the detailed steps below.

1. Launch this free backup software, click the "Backup" tab on the main page, and then choose "System Backup". 

System Backup

2. Select a destination location to receive the backup image. You can backup to any location (folder) that Windows detects, including external hard drive, NAS network location, local storage, etc.

Backup Location

3. In the left bottom, click "Schedule Backup" to configure scheduled backup settings if needed. After that, click "Start Backup" to start the operation.

Start Backup

💡 Notes:

  • A single backup will only backup the items in the system partition when you create the backup task, and changes made later will not be included. Thus, if you don't want to lose any important data, it's suggested to create an automatic backup in Windows 11/10.
  • You'd better create a boot device in advance. Thus, you can restore from bootable CD/USB when your PC fails to boot. 
  • If you upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional or higher editions, you can create a special recovery environment for backup/restore without booting Windows. Just go to Tools > Recovery Environment to enable it.

Create Recovery Environment

Next Step: Restore Windows 10/11 without Losing Files

1. Run AOMEI Backupper. Click "Restore" and "Select Task".

Select Task

Note: If your computer refuses to boot, you can boot it from the bootable drive you’ve created and AOMEI Backupper will load up automatically.

2. Choose the system backup task you created before.

Select Backup Image

3.  Tick "Restore this system backup" and click "Next".

Restore Entire Backup Or Partition

4. The program will select the original system drive(s) as the destination place automatically. Click "Start Restore" after your confirmation.

Preview Restore


To reinstall Windows 10 without losing data is surely possible using these three methods mentioned above, and it can fix system issues that your computer may have. But, honestly, it's not perfect. And it is obvious that restoring from a backup is easier and more convenient to solve Windows issues.

The basic version AOMEI Backupper Standard is enough to prevent unexpected disasters, such as system crash, disk failure, and virus attack, etc. But if you want more advanced features, such as differential backup, automatic backup cleanup and universal restore, you need to upgrade from the basic version. 

If you want to protect unlimited computers within your company, AOMEI Backupper Technician is worth a shot. The inbuilt AOMEI Image Deploy tool allows users to deploy/restore system image file on a server-side computer to multiple client-side computers over the network. What's more, you are able to create portable AOMEI Backupper that can run from a removable device on any computer. You can download this software to explore more features!