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Reinstalling Windows 7

If you have been instructed to reinstall the Windows operating system software on their computer by the IT Service Desk (Help Desk) or your department's IT support office, follow the directions below.

Before you begin, you will need the system software install media associated with the operating system you will be reinstalling. Typically, these are the CDs or DVDs that came with your computer, or were included in a system software upgrade purchase.

Why Would I Need to Reinstall Windows?

The Windows operating system typically does not need to be reinstalled. However, there are instances in which the files needed to run Windows properly might have become corrupted:

  • The user has installed and removed applications numerous times and a file that is necessary has been deleted or has become corrupted.
  • A virus, worm, or trojan (malware) has infected important files so Windows cannot operate properly.
  • The computer will not boot from the hard drive.

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How Do I Reinstall a Windows Program?

If a program (or programs) you are using is not working properly, try un-installing and then re-installing that program before re-installing the entire operating system. To do this, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, then double-click the Add or Remove Programs Control Panel. Highlight the program you want to remove, then click the Add/Remove button. If a message appears that refers to deleting shared files, always choose to keep the shared file(s); do not delete them. It is a good idea to restart your computer after removing the program. You can then re-install the program. If this still does not fix the problem, then proceed with the steps to re-install the operating system.

How Do I Back Up My Data?

Before you reinstall the Windows operating system, it is very important you have a proper backup of your data. Typically, your data can be found in your My Documents folder or on your desktop. You might also want to back up the folder that contains the bookmarks (favorites) of the web browser you use.

There are many different ways to back up the data on a computer. For example, you can back up data to your computer's CD/DVD drive, over the network to a different computer, or to an external hard drive connected to your computer.

Dartmouth offers a wide array of data storage and backup options for members of the Dartmouth community. Contact your department's IT support office.

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How Do I Check My Hard Drive Using Windows?

Chkdsk (Chkdsk.exe) is a command-line tool that checks volumes for problems. The tool then tries to repair any problems it finds. For example, Chkdsk can repair problems related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files, and directory errors. To use Chkdsk, you must log on as an administrator or as a member of the Administrators group.

Right-click the Start button, then select Explore. In the window that appears, click on the plus sign next to My Computer, then right-click on the drive you would like to check – most likely C:. A menu will appear. Select Properties, then click on the Tools tab, then the Check now... button under Error-checking. Click the options desired, then click Start.

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How Do I Do a Quick Reinstall of the Windows Operating System?

Note: Reinstalling Windows is time consuming and complicated and, if not done properly, can result in loss of data or computer functionality. If you have questions about reinstalling or are at all uncomfortable with these steps, please contact the IT Service Desk (Help Desk) by sending e-mail to or by contacting your department's IT support office.

Reinstalling Windows requires the Certificate of Authenticity or Product ID number. This number can be found on your Windows CD, or on a label on your computer case. (This number can also be found by clicking Start, Settings, Control Panel, System, then the General tab.)

Make sure you have a complete and recent backup of your files (My documents, Favorites, desktop files, application data files, etc.). Update the backup, if necessary.

You may not need to completely reinstall the operating system; you may be able to repair the existing copy of Windows. If you were unable to back up your documents, then you may want to try repairing the Windows operating system rather than installing a fresh copy. It is important to note that any problems with the computer that occurred due to a computer virus, worm, or trojan, or due to the age of your computer will remain on the computer, with new Operating System files replacing the old files. With a full installation, the hard drive is typically formatted which will remove any files that were compromised by a virus, etc., as well as mapping out any bad sectors on the hard drive.

For instructions on performing an in-place upgrade (repair reinstallation) of Windows 7, see Windows 7 - Repair Install

Again, if you have questions about reinstalling or are at all uncomfortable with these steps, please contact the IT Service Desk (Help Desk) by sending e-mail to or by contacting your department's IT support office.

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How Do I Reinstall the Windows Operating System?

Note: Reinstalling Windows is time consuming, complicated, and can overwrite or erase your entire hard drive, so proceed with caution.

Before attempting to reinstall Windows, be sure you have backed up all your data (My Documents, Favorites, desktop files, application data, etc.) and have all of the CDs that came with your computer handy. This includes any application CDs (Office, FileMaker, CD-burning software, DVD software, etc.). If you are at all concerned about attempting this, please contact the IT Service Desk (Help Desk) at or your department's IT support office.

Disconnect your computer from the Ethernet network, and if you have a laptop with internal wireless network capability, disable your wireless card. If the wireless card can be easily removed, remove it from the computer before proceeding. Please call for assistance with this, if needed.

For instructions on installing Windows 7, see Installing and Reinstalling Windows 7

Once you have reinstalled the operating system, you may also need to reinstall the hardware drivers that came with your monitor, Ethernet card, wireless, or other input/output devices. The software should be on media that came with the component. If you are unable to find it, you can download it from the Web site of the manufacturer of the component. You may need to do these downloads from another computer and copy the needed drivers on a CD or USB key to move them to your computer.

Before you reconnect or re-enable your network connections, you should run all the Windows critical updates while connected to a router or have firewall software installed on your computer first. This is because there are many viruses, worms, and trojans (malware) that are actively searching for unpatched computers so they can infect them or take them over for remote control by others. Windows computers are often attacked before they have finished starting up. For more information, go to Information Security web page.

If you are working with an operating system that does not have a firewall enabled automatically, the firewall software should not be downloaded to your computer from the network, but burned to a CD or USB-flash drive and installed onto your computer. Failure to follow these instructions may result in your computer being compromised with computer viruses, worms, or trojans. It is extremely important that the computer not be put directly onto the network until the operating system is fully updated with the critical updates. You can download Symantec Endpoint Protection from the Windows Software Downloads page, copy the installer to a CD or USB-flash drive and then transfer it for installation to your computer. The IT Service Desk (Help Desk) or your department's IT support office can also help.

Once all of the operating system critical updates have been installed (you will need to run the Windows Update command in the Tools menu in Internet Explorer several times to be sure), you can then download and install applications.

After installing the operating system updates, and after updating your installed applications (see Updating Your Applications), it is safe to directly connect the computer to the network.

If you have any questions, contact the IT Service Desk (Help Desk) at 646-2999, send e-mail to, or call your department's IT support office.

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Last Updated: 11/4/14