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Reinstalling Your OS? You Need to Back Up

There might come a time when you need to reinstall your operating system. Perhaps the original install has become corrupted or you’re moving from 32bit to 64bit. Although the process of reinstalling your OS is relatively easy, there’s one important step that you should never miss out: backing up your data.

It’s true that your operating system isn’t tied to your personal data, but if you have that all on the same drive then reinstalling that data will wipe everything without a trace. Though not to be confused with a factory reset, it’ll achieve a similar effect – no personal data will be left on the computer and you’ll have a system that is purely default.

Some people will have their hard drive on a separate partition on the same drive, but backup is still necessary for this. A reinstall of the operating system could wipe this out and it isn’t worth taking any risks. Your personal data is valuable and should be treated as such.

In fact, this extends beyond personal data. Everything ever placed on your hard drive will be wiped, which includes installed programs and customisations. Our computers are set up just how we like them and to be confronted with a fresh system can be quite shocking – suddenly our icons are gone, colour schemes changed, user accounts gone and so on.

When deciding what data to back up, this needs to be a consideration. Many personal backup utilities will only collect your personal user data by default, but it could be that you want to extend beyond this. For example, if you have a slow internet connection then you could want to create temporary second copies of large program files – it’s much quicker to do offline transfers than redownload them again.

It’s actually a great time to think about what sort of data you’re storing and whether there’s anything to get rid of. Unless you’re continuingly on top of your data, it could be that you’ve collected a lot of excess data that you just don’t need any more. Use this time as a spring clean and get rid of the stuff that’s only going to weigh your clean system down. There are probably loads of files lying around, like temporary internet files or remnants of old programs, which will be nuked when you fresh install the operating system.

If you’re not looking to reinstall your operating system, but rather do an upgrade (like from Windows 7 to Windows 8), then it isn’t actually guaranteed that your data will be wiped. In fact, it is possible for that data to be successfully transferred across by itself. But, again, why would you take that risk? It is best practice to assume that something will always go wrong when your data is concerned – that might be pessimistic, but it instils good practice to always keep multiple copies of your data. That way when the inevitable does go wrong, you’ll be prepared and can reinstate everything with relative ease and forgo the headaches that incur with data loss.


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