How to Refresh Windows 11 without Losing Programs (3 Ways)

You can learn how to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs with 3 useful methods and you will know the best solution to prevent losing all your programs as well as the data in Windows 11.


By Clytze Updated on March 28, 2024

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User Case

“My Windows 11 started slowing and occasionally locking up recently. The performance has degraded to the point that I have to hard power down when it locks up, it takes 20-30 minutes to power back up, I would like to reinstall Windows 11, and without losing any of my apps or data (I understand some may need to be reconfigured). How do I do that? Thank you.” 

When you encounter some serious problems on Windows 11 so that you want to reinstall the operating system, you may suffer from the loss of programs and other data. Don’t worry, this article will provide you with 3 ways to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs and data. You can continue reading for more details.

Scenarios for Refreshing Windows 11

Since windows 10, the “Refresh” feature has been integrated into “Reset this PC” as a “keep my files” option and continues into Windows 11. Refreshing Windows 11 means reinstalling and updating Windows 11 while keeping personal files and settings, but most programs will be removed. So when do you need to refresh Windows 11? We have summarized the following common scenarios for you.

  • You want to restore the changes you have made to your computer.
  • You want to fix problems caused by bad or corrupt system files.
  • You want to fix a PC that has become slow or hangs randomly.

We highly advise backing up your Windows 11 system. This precaution ensures you can revert to the previous version swiftly in case of any system issues, safeguarding your data from accidental loss. Click the link below to access your complimentary backup plan!

👉The Best Way to Prevent Losing Programs and Data in Windows 11

How to Refresh Windows 11 without Losing Programs

Then this article will introduce you three ways to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs and data. You can achieve your goal with the built-in tools or a clean installation. You can choose any of the methods based on your needs.

Method 1. Refresh Windows 11 without Losing Programs by Repair Upgrade

If your Windows 11 is bootable and all the installed programs are fine, you can use the first method which is to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs and data by repair upgrade. And you can do a repair upgrade by running Windows Setup.exe within Windows 11. You can follow the steps below.

Step 1. Download the Windows Media Creation Tool from the Microsoft official website and create an installation ISO file with it.

Download Windows 11 Tool

Step 2. Open the ISO file. At the root directory, double-click to run the Setup.exe file.


Step 3. When the Windows 11 Setup window appears, and please click Next to continue. Then this setup app will start and prepare something.

Step 4. Read the Applicable notices and license terms, then click Accept to go on.


Step 5. You will see a popup window, select Keep personal files and apps and then click Next.

Keep Personal Files And Apps

Step 6. When you see the window below, click the Install button to reinstall Windows 11. If you want to change the type of files you want to keep, you can click Change what to keep.

Ready To Install

Your PC will restart several times to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs and data. Since it will reset Windows 11 keep files and programs, it may take longer than a usual reset.

Method 2. Refresh Windows 11 without Losing Files by “Reset this PC”

In addition to the first method, you can also refresh Windows 11 without losing files by resetting your computer. You can follow the graphic tutorial below.

  • If your system can boot normally, you can go through the settings to reset your PC. Press Win+I to open Settings, and navigate to System >Recovery > Reset this PC.

Reset PC

  • If your system can't boot, you can create a recovery drive and boot from it. Then choose language and other preferences and click Next > Repair your computer > Troubleshoot > Reset this PC.

Repair Your Computer

Step 1. Then you will see a window pops up and select Keep my files.

Keep My Files


If you want to refresh Windows 11 without losing data, you should select the first option. While if you want to perform a clean install, select the second option.

Step 2. Then you need to decide to install Windows 11 by the Cloud download or Local reinstall. You can choose the way according to your own needs.

Cloud Download Or Local Reinstall


  • Cloud download will download Windows 11 system file from Microsoft server and it will use more than 4GB of data.
  • Local reinstall will use the files already present on your local storage to reinstall Windows 11.

Step 3. The new window will show the current settings for resetting the PC, click Next to continue.

Step 4. Click the Reset button to start refreshing Windows 11 without losing data. The process will take a few minutes

Method 3. Refresh Windows 11 without Losing Programs by Restoring to previous OS

If you don’t format the system drive and install Windows 11 you can retrieve the file and applications manually from Window.old folder. This method is quite easy and you need to install the OS, browse the folder and copy your needed file to the desktop or wherever you want. Here are specific steps.

Step 1. Connect the USB or DVD to your computer and boot from it.

Step 2. Select the language and other preferences.

Select Language

Step 3. Click Install Now.

Step 4. At the Windows Setup, select the C: drive and then click Next (Avoid Format).

Step 5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation and when boot to desktop and press WIN+E together to open the File Explorer.

Step 6. Go to this PC and double click on Local Disk (C:), you can find a Windows.old folder in the root directory of your C: drive. It keeps all your files from the previous installation. And you can refresh Windows 11 without losing programs by restoring to previous OS with Windows.old folder.


The Best Way to Prevent Losing Programs and Data in Windows 11

When you need to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs and data, you can choose any of the methods mentioned above to help you. While the best way to prevent losing programs and data is to backup your Windows 11 regularly.

If your system encounters any problem, you can use this system backup to restore it easily. You can select a free and safe backup software to achieve this goal. AOMEI Backupper Standard is highly recommended. As a professional backup tool, it has the following advantages.

AOMEI Backupper
Free Windows 11 Backup Software
  • Regular Backups: Backup system, files, partitions, and disks regularly.
  • Incremental Backup Option: Select the incremental backup to conserve target disk space.
  • Versatile Backup Options: Choose from different backup modes (intelligent sector backup or exact backup), compression levels, and backup services for tailored backup solutions.
  • Scheduled Backup Tasks: Set multiple scheduled backup tasks with fixed intervals such as daily, weekly, or monthly, ensuring regular and automatic backups.

Now, you can follow the steps below to backup your Windows 11.

Step 1. Download AOMEI Backupper Standard, install and launch it. Then click Backup > System Backup.

System Backup

Step 2. It will select Windows 11 system partition and boot-related partitions automatically. And you just need to select a destination.

Select Destination

Step 3. Click Start Backup to backup Windows 11.

Start Backup


  • Options: You can write comments, choose the compression level for your system backup or set email notifications.
  • Schedule: This feature allows you to set the frequency of your backup, such as daily, weekly, monthly, event trigger and usb plug in. The professional version supports the last two features.
  • Scheme: It will delete older backups to save your disk space. And you can upgrade to the Professional version or higher versions to enjoy it.

FAQs About Refresh Windows 11 Without Losing Programs


When you need to refresh Windows 11 without losing programs and data, you can select repair upgrade, reset the PC or restore to previous OS to achieve the goal. In order to prevent losing programs and data effectively, we recommend you to backup your system regularly.

The free and professional backup software can help you. You can use it to do schedule backup and it has many useful features to protect your backup. If your system has any problems, you can restore it and use your system normally.

If you want to protect unlimited computers from data loss, you can try its Technician edition. You can download this software to explore it by yourself.

Clytze · Editor
Clytze, an editor at AOMEI Technology, is passionate about safeguarding your digital world. She dedicates her expertise to empower users like you in data security and recovery. She firmly believes that everyone should have the tools and knowledge to protect their digital assets through computer backup, seamless disk cloning, and efficient file synchronization. Clytze is your trusted guide on the journey to data safety.