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Fresh installing Windows - best strategy in my case

I recently built a new computer, everything was now new . . except the harddrive which I kept from my previous computer.

This was my first time building a computer, had no idea what I was doing and didn't realize until now that because of the new motherboard, I would have to reformat and fresh install Windows 7. (Right now, my computer won't boot past the splash screen)

Trouble is, I don't have anywhere to back-up my old files. My one external harddrive is full from previous back-ups, but I still have one year of stuff that I haven't backed up yet.

So I've been researching and brainstorming the best way to approach this before I buy another computer part. Things like:

- Using a USB stick to load Ubuntu and get my files from there
- Buying a second hard drive, install Win 7 again there (would it conflict with my old HD since it'd have the same serial #, etc?)
- Buying another external harddrive, backup, reformat old harddrive
- I'm probably the only one on Tomshardware that has never done a partition before, but I heard that's recommended too?

Anyway, let me know what you recommend. BTW, is there any way at all to keep my computer looking like it did on my old computer with a fresh install? For instance, keeping the folders, positioning and preferences close to the same?

Thanks in advance! I think this is the last major hurdle before my new computer finally works. :)
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  1. Best answer
    If your existing HDD is 90% empty, and you only need to grab like 10-20Gb of stuff from it you can get a flash drive, load ubuntu as you said and just burn the files to a CD/dvd. or alternatively you could pop that HDD into another computer and do the same thing of burning data to DVD (say go to a friend or something).

    if that drive has majority of the files you need (over 100Gb), then since you are already short on storage, you should go ahead and buy another internal drive. Put it in, make it your OS drive and then pop in the old one as a secondary, grab files from it, reformat it and then use it for storage.

    I think that's the best reasonable course of action
  2. You can do a fresh install to an existing hard drive. Just boot from the install media and select the existing OS partition to install to. The old Windows directory will be renamed to "Windows.Old" and a new one will be created to install the new OS into. The files in the other folders will still be there and you'll be able to access them when you boot the new OS.

    The only issue is files in your "My Documents" folder which are normally protected so that only the owner can see them. To avoid that, change their protections before you install so that they have "Everyone" access.
  3. Thank you both! I've decided to just get a new harddrive. My old one is 5 years old and 90% used up so probably not enough to partition anymore. Last time I fresh installed Windows, it took me three days to put all the preferences and everything back to before, so I was hoping to avoid that but oh well. So I'll be taking AntiZig's route this time, but will definitely keep what sminlal said next time I upgrade my motherboard. Thanks again!
  4. Best answer selected by cheesemon.
  5. This topic has been closed by Area51reopened
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