Reinstalling Windows Without Losing Settings

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There may be situations in which you need to reinstall Microsoft Windows to troubleshoot a problem possibly related to file corruption or accidental deletion of files from the Windows directory or the Windows SYSTEM subdirectory. In most cases, it is not advisable to simply reinstall over an existing Windows installation because with that procedure, some files may not be properly updated.

Installing Windows to a new directory ensures a "clean" installation; however, any modifications to Windows initialization (.INI) files or the registration database (REG.DAT) are lost with such an installation. Also, programs that install files into the Windows directory, such as Microsoft Word for Windows and Microsoft Excel, cannot run from the new copy of Windows. Any Windows-based applications must be reinstalled under the new installation of Windows. Furthermore, any customization of Program Manager groups, desktop colors and wallpaper, screen-saver settings, and other user-defined environment settings must be re-created.


Use the following steps to reinstall Windows 3.1 without losing current settings, such as .INI and REG.DAT file modifications, customized Program Manager groups (.GRPs), and other desktop settings.

  1. Install Windows into a new directory, such as C:\WIN. Verify that Windows runs from this new directory.

    If Windows ran during installation but does not run from this new directory, something has changed on the computer, or file corruption has occurred since Windows was installed. The following causes should be considered:

    • Changes to the path
    • Deletion of files from the Windows directory
    • Low conventional memory
    • File corruption
    • Hardware failures
  2. In this new installation, rename the .GRP files using .GRN, the .INI files using .INN, and the .FOT files (located in the Windows SYSTEM subdirectory) using .FOZ. Rename the REG.DAT file using REG.DAN. To do this, quit Windows and type the following commands at an MS-DOS command prompt:
    rename c:\win\*.grp *.grn
    rename c:\win\*.ini *.inn
    rename c:\win\reg.dat reg.dan
    rename c:\win\system\*.fot *.foz
    NOTE: The *.FOT files have an internal direct path to the *.TTF files, which if copied to the old C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM subdirectory, can create problems with the fonts after the C:\WIN directory is removed.
  3. Remove the Read-Only attribute from any files in the C:\WINDOWS and C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM directories. Copy all the files from the new installation into the original Windows directory (C:\WINDOWS) by typing the following at an MS-DOS command prompt:
    attrib -s -h c:\windows\*.* /s
    attrib -r c:\windows\*.* /s
    xcopy c:\win c:\windows /s
    If Windows now runs from the C:\WINDOWS directory, the reinstallation has been successful, and no settings were lost. To save disk space, delete the C:\WIN directory from File Manager or from MS-DOS version 6.0 or later using the DELTREE command. Also, delete files with the extensions .INN, .GRN, and the file REG.DAN in the C:\WINDOWS directory, and the files ending with .FOZ in the C:WINDOWS\SYSTEM subdirectory.

    If Windows does not run, continue with the following steps.
  4. Rename the original .INI files using .INO, and rename the .INN files using .INI as follows:
    rename c:\windows\*.ini *.ino
    rename c:\windows\*.inn *.ini
    Edit the PROGMAN.INI file and replace all occurrences of C:\WIN with C:\WINDOWS.

    If Windows runs now, the problem is being caused by a corruption or improper setting in one of the original .INI files. The best solution is to back up all data files from Windows-based applications and then reinstall the applications. This ensures the correct WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI, and directory settings for each application. Note that you must re-create any customization of Program Manager groups and desktop settings.

    To free up disk space, delete excess files as shown in step 3 above.
  5. If Windows does not run now, back up all application data files and reinstall the applications under the new Windows installation after renaming the .INN, .GRN, .FOZ, and REG.DAN files as follows:
    rename c:\win\*.inn *.ini
    rename c:\win\*.grn *.grp
    rename c:\win\reg.dan reg.dat
    rename c:\win\system\*.foz *.fot


"Microsoft Windows Resource Kit," version 3.1, Chart 1.6, "Reinstalling Windows Without Losing Settings," page 15

"Getting Started With Microsoft Windows," version 3.1, Chapter 1, "Setting Up Windows," pages 1-15


Article ID: 94196 - Last Review: October 29, 1999 - Revision: 1.0
  • Microsoft Windows 3.1 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Windows 3.11 Standard Edition

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