Installing Windows on Top of Windows - Recovery

If you reach a point where your operating system is corrupted beyond normal repairs through rescue disc, and you have absolutely no backups in place, there are still methods of recovering your files of the disk. In this guide, we will show you how to install Windows without wiping your data away.
How it works

Basically, the idea is to install Windows on top of current Windows installation and substitute it. The great thing about this procedure is that it doesn’t affect the C drive, and the only folders that are removed are Windows, Program Files and Users. Don’t worry; they are not removed from the system. Their location has changed are now stored inside of Windows.old folder found in C: drive.

What’s great about this procedure is that it is no different than your typical Windows 7 installation. So if you know how to do this, or have read our previous guides, it will be a pretty straight forward operation. The only difference is making sure that YOU DO NOT WIPE OR FORMAT any of the partitions on your drive during the installation. If you have multiple drives, you have to do your best to figure out which one has Windows on it.


You will need your Windows OEM disc in the optical drive and you will need to boot from it. Motherboards usually allow you to bring up the boot menu at startup to choose what device you want to boot from. Keys such as F8, F12 and ESC will often bring up the boot menu on many motherboards, where you simply have to pick your optical drive. Gray loading bar at the bottom indicates successful booting from CD. Once booted, you should accept the language settings and choose the Install Now option. If you have installed Windows on a RAID volume or on a storage controller that Windows does not have drivers for, you will need to go online and obtain the drivers from the manufacturer of your storage controller. If your partition is visible then you will not need the drivers.

Select your partition that has Windows installation on it and click NEXT. Windows should notify you that it has detected another installation and that it will move it into Windows.old folder, where you can access it later.

From this point on, process is automated. Make sure that you no longer boot from CD, let the system boot from the hard drive. Once complete, you will have a chance to pick your username, give the system a name and choose your timezone.

Things to Know

The point of this installation is a temporary access to your files. It can be used as the regular installation but it is not recommended.

This procedure will allow you to access raw files. You will be able to copy things such as photos, documents, videos, music and regular files.

You will NOT be able to run your previously installed programs. As almost all programs depend on registry entries in the system, these entries are now gone because new OS was installed. Therefore many programs are likely to fail when you run them because of missing information. Some can be rebuilt, while most need to be re-installed.

Also, if you had file encryption on your previous installation, you must use same username and password in order to access encrypted files. You will not be able to use them if your username is different, even if it’s just one letter. Both user names and passwords will be case sensitive in this example.

Once the Windows is installed, you can access your files and copy them over to your means of backup. If you wish to continue using this installation, you can do so by also installing all the drivers that came with your system on a CD, but it is not recommended to continue running Windows this way. You should perform a re-installation with a complete HDD wipe to make sure that if your system had viruses, they’re gone, if your system had any corrupted files that are also gone. Leaving the installation the same way exposes you to existing viruses embedding themselves into the root of the operating system once again, and before you know it you will need to perform another re-install.

It is highly recommended to create an image of your system after the fresh install, as it is easier to reload the image than it is to re-install your operating system.

If this is your first time experiencing this kind of issues, it is highly recommended to create a backup system. While this guide helps you get your files back, it is by no means the definitive answer to PC recovery. It will not always work and if you have failing hardware you might be out of luck. Always set up backups if your data is important to you. You can find additional guides on data backup inside of our How-To section of the forum.

Should you run into issues with this guide and get stuck on any of the steps, feel free to post in the Help Desk section of the forum, where you will be assisted with one of our technicians. 

*Disclaimer: AVADirect and its Staff are not responsible for any damage to software/hardware, loss of data or personal injury by following our How-To guides. These guides are provided only as an aid to help you troubleshoot system problems. If you do not feel comfortable performing these steps its always best to send in your system to a local repair shop or contact an appropriate technical support line for additional assistance.