Checklist for migrating old Windows to Windows 7, making a fresh install

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I’m starting to install Windows 7 from scratch, overwriting my old Vista installation. My checklist so far for the migration:

  • copy user data to separate drive
  • make a list of applications to install on the fresh Windows
  • copy applicaton-specific data from %appdata% folder, e.g. Firefox bookmarks, Thunderbird mails etc.

Something important missing? How would your Windows migration checklist look like?


I would check for

  1. Photos
  2. Anything under MyDocuments
  3. program file specifics, such as “game saves”, sometimes they are stored in program files
  4. Browser bookmarks, also write down a list of any plugins you use as you’ll need to install them again
  5. check recycle bin! this may be your last chance!

Also, try installing just the OS on the C: drive, and install all your games/apps on a separate drive, so when you re-install OS next time, you won’t have as much hassle!

A utility from Microsoft, the Easy Transfer Wizard, can aid in backing up important things that Microsoft knows about. This, of course, doesn’t handle other programs, but it does capture everything in Application Data, it seems.

As the accepted answer mentions, check out where game save files are stored, because if they aren’t stored in a typical place, you’ll lose them. (I lost my Torchlight save files when installing Win7 recently, oops.)

To build off of James’ last point, if you keep programs/games on a separate drive, you won’t be able to migrate their registry entries to a new install — some programs will run without their registry entries and recreate them on first run, but others will be corrupted and require a reinstall of the application. Games can usually be run just fine, but even then there are some which will need a reinstall.

I’d just run Zinstall and that way all your data/apps are completely backed up – and even runnable, so it’s a zero-time “restore” if you need to work on them.

Fully agree with the drive separation James suggested – my system drive only has the system. I even have Program Files on a separate partition – bitter days of crashing XP SP0 have taught me well.

Try to deactivate or deauthorize any software that might be tied to your specific OS installation. It can make re-installing those apps much less of a headache. The authorization in iTunes is one that most people seem to have.

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