What files should I backup before migrating to Win7?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader John B. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have read with great interest your recent articles on Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7:

I understand that migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 requires a fresh install of Windows, which means I will have to re-install all my programs, files, etc.

Here are my circumstances:

I want to backup my C drive, and it's roughly 320 GB full. The C drive has Windows XP plus all the programs I've installed over the past few years.

I want to make my backup as small as possible. This will reduce the time it takes to create the backup and also reduce the storage space required to store my backup. Question: what files should I backup on my C drive before I start my Windows 7 installation? "

My response:

Great question.

The worst case scenario is that you go to access your backup (after you've installed Windows 7) and the file you need to extract isn't there because you didn't back it up. The simple solution therefore is to backup everything on your C drive.

Not Everything on C Drive Needs to be Backed Up

Perhaps up to 50-75% of all data on your C drive can be re-installed (from media) or downloaded online and does not need to be backed up. For example: MS Office can be reinstalled from DVD.

That said, the rest of your C drive will contain data you'll want to keep, including: images, documents, contacts, bookmarks, and computer-generated configuration files. These files can need to be extracted from your old Windows XP backup and re-injected into the new Windows 7 system. This will allow you "re-inject" all your old settings (example: importing your emails, email filters, bookmarks, and similar).

I will explain how to re-inject data into Windows 7 from XP using a generic approach in another article.

Reducing The Size of Your Image Backup

For now, here's what you can do to reduce the size of your image backup:

  1. Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Add / Remove programs in Windows XP and uninstall the programs you do not need: such as games, and programs you do not use any more. This process may take an hour or more and you will likely have to reboot the PC a number of times. Do NOT uninstall any program you use regularly as the folder where it is stored may contain vital data you may need to extract later.
  2. If you come across a program in the Add / Remove programs in Windows XP and aren't sure whether or not to remove it, the safest bet is to leave it alone and move on to the next program in the list.
  3. After you've removed all the 'junk data' off your PC via Add / Remove programs, check your harddrive for errors. To do this, click My Computer, then right-click C drive, and choose Properties. A new window will appear. Go to the Tools tab and click "Check for Errors", then click "Automatically fix file system errors." This will ensure your drive is error-free before you start the backup.
  4. Next, use Acronis True Image 2010 and make a backup of your C drive. I highly recommend you store the backup onto an external harddrive, or another (separate) internal drive with enough storage to house your backup. If you don't own Acronis True Image, you can get it from our website at 25% off. Details here:


Tip #1: as a rule of thumb, the harddrive you store your backup on must be as large as the hard drive you're backing up. For example: if your C drive is 320GB, your backup drive must be 320GB or greater.

Tip #2: To make the backup go as fast as possible, do not use any compression. This option is selectable in the dialogue window after you click "Backup" from within True Image. This will literally shave hours off the backup process if you're backing up a lot of data.

Tip #3: Segment your backups into chunks, say 4.7GB each. This is particularly useful if you plan to archive your backup permanently on single-layer DVD media, which is 4.7GB in size. This option is selectable within True Image after you choose "Backup."

That's all for now. I will answer more questions during this week and next, and up until December 21st when our 25% sale on True Image is over.

Reminder: Get Acronis True Image 2010 at 25% Off

A reminder: our sale on Acronis True Image 2010 will get you 25% off the retail price -- expires December 21st, 2009. If you are upgrading from a previous version of True Image we have a discount for that as well (details here). If you have never owned True Image before, now is the perfect time to grab it while it's on sale!

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