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Old 5th December 2009   #1
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Windows 7 Reinstall without erasing current Win 7 installation


Windows 7 Reinstall without erasing current Win 7 installation

Anyone have any thoughts or feedback on the issue of loading Win 7 over the top of a current Win 7 installation without destroying it, essentially just rewriting damaged OS files, or re-detecting hardware?

There are two times I've needed this and I haven't been able to do it.
- One was with a Win 7 installation that was working fine and then decided not to restart.
- The other is with a ghost image made on slightly different hardware.

-----------------
More explanation:
One of my Win 7 Enterprise machines (a clean install) decided not to start up after running fine for a month or more (with no recent changes to the machine); I don't remember exactly what it did instead, but that is not the issue at the moment.

I used the Win 7 disc to try a Repair, and it checked the installation without finding a problem so it didn't repair anything, however the machine still refused to start up.

I thought I might have to reload Win 7 over the top of the current installation, as we could do with previous Win versions, writing over the OS files without wiping out the existing installation, but the Win 7 disc I have wouldn't do that, it would only do the Win 7 Repair (that isn't a reload) or a complete reinstall, apparently wiping out everything. The ability to reload the OS without destroying the existing installation has solved many problems in the past, it would be a big drawback if we couldn't do that anymore.

I remember someone mentioning there were two types of Win 7 discs, one would do an upgrade, one would only do a first install, but haven't seen any further references to this or whether one or the other might do a reload. I have done both a clean install and a Vista to Win 7 upgrade with this disc.

There is another instance when this is useful and that is when loading a ghost image created on slightly different hardware (like a different brand or size of hard drive). Sometimes a Win 7 Repair works quickly to adjust to slightly different hardware (better than other versions) and sometimes it doesn't work. With previous OS I could reinstall on top of the ghost image to re-detect hardware without damaging the image, but this Win 7 disc won't do that.

BTW: With no other brilliant ideas I finally removed a wireless networking card I had in there (which has been working fine) and moved the network connection back into this room to wire this computer directly, and it started up. I don't know if this was a cause or a coincidence.


Last edited by backroad; 5th December 2009 at 14:18.
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Old 6th December 2009   #2
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I've never run repair or needed to...If and when I run into a problem with the OS my first choice is a System Restore..My second choice has been System File Checker (SFC) - scannow...I'm not sure of SFC works in Win 7 but you might look into that.

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Old 6th December 2009   #3
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Originally Posted by Steve R Jones View Post
my first choice is a System Restore..My second choice has been SFC - scannow...I'm not sure of SFC works in Win 7
Thanks for your note Steve.

There is still SFC in Win 7, and it is useful for some issues but not others.

System Restore is only useful if the user has a recent restore point, and doesn't always work anyway for whatever reason.

And there is still the ghost image issue.

So I'm still looking to discover whether it is possible to re-install Win 7 over an existing Win 7 install without wiping it out. This simple process has saved many installations that could not otherwise be fixed except by the commonly suggested "rebuild" which I very seldom have to do (I have many complex installations). So far it is looking like the "new improved" windows repair tools may have removed this very useful capability, but I'm still hoping I've missed something.

Ron

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Old 6th December 2009   #4
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Backroad,
I'm 99% sure when you boot from the CD and go through the motions like a new install you will see an option for a repair install.
That leaves all installed programs, and documents intact and basically wipes out Windows updates, Service Packs, and installed drivers.

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Old 6th December 2009   #5
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Originally Posted by Scott Smith View Post
Backroad,
I'm 99% sure when you boot from the CD and go through the motions like a new install you will see an option for a repair install.
That leaves all installed programs, and documents intact and basically wipes out Windows updates, Service Packs, and installed drivers.
That certainly was the case with previous OS CDs (I didn't deploy Vista, only tested it, so can't speak for that), but I've been into the Win 7 CD several times with an existing 7 installation on the machine and haven't noticed that option. I'll look again on Monday when I have a test machine available.

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Old 6th December 2009   #6
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I saw it on my clean install a few days ago.

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Old 6th December 2009   #7
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Originally Posted by Scott Smith View Post
I saw it on my clean install a few days ago.
I'm not too sure what you mean by "saw it".
When my Win 7 CD loads, after the language setting, there is
Install Now or Repair.

"Repair" includes
- recovery tools which have not been sufficient to fix the things I'm talking about (does not include a non-destructive OS install) .
- or Restore from previously created system image.
so that is out for these purposes

"Install" has:
- "Custom" which installs a "new copy of Windows" and does NOT keep files, settings etc.
- And "Upgrade" to a newer version of Windows and keep your files etc which is "only available when an existing version of Windows is running"

So "Upgrade" will upgrade Vista to Win 7 IF your current installation of Vista is running. In other words if the computer starts up with Vista, the Win 7 installation CD can be run from Vista for an upgrade, otherwise that won't work either.

And the same thing MIGHT work to reload Win 7 over the top of Win 7 IF your current installation of Win 7 will run, which in these conditions it usually doesn't.

This could (and will) turn one tiny problem that is preventing the system from starting up and running (possibly one bad registry entry that would be rewritten by a re-installation) into a fatal blow requiring a total rebuild, something the XP installation disc would easily fix.

The same might also be true if you had a complete system image saved to a different drive (either with Ghost or with Windows System Backup) and the OS drive failed and had to be replaced by a different drive that the Win 7 Repair system can't adjust for (and I've already found this on several occasions--sometimes it does this well, sometimes it just won't).

In this case the Ghost image backup would be worthless without a hardware re-detection to adjust for the new drive which 7 won't do because it won't reinstall (non-destructively) from the CD unless 7 is already running which it can't.

If the system image was made with Windows Backup I don't know if the Windows Restore would be able to adjust for a different brand or size of drive without an OS re-load, but if the Repair Tools won't do it on many occasions, System Restore may very well not do it either which might make a system image backup totally worthless as well.

I was preparing to start moving people to Win 7 until I discovered this; now I will have to wait and see if there is a way around this problem.

Many of my users have very complicated installs, they are all different and can be a big pain to rebuild from scratch and re-validate all the software. If they were all pretty much the same (which many departments are) I would not be as concerned about this.

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