Re­in­stalling Win­dows is of­ten seen as the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion to any prob­lem. If you’re re­in­stalling to fix prob­lems, rather than clear out a clogged up sys­tem, once you’ve as­cer­tained it’s an is­sue with Win­dows, rather than a hard­ware prob­lem, ask your­self whether a full-blown Win­dows in­stall is re­quired. If your PC is func­tion­ing per­fectly other than some spe­cific glitches—Mi­crosoft Edge no longer works after the Cre­ators Up­date, for in­stance—a re­pair in­stall may be a bet­ter op­tion.

Re­pair in­stalls sim­ply over­write Win­dows files— your apps, pro­grams (in­clud­ing their set­tings), and any data on your sys­tem drive is the­o­ret­i­cally left un­touched. The pro­ce­dure for per­form­ing a re­pair in­stall varies be­tween each ver­sion of Win­dows, but they share one com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic: You have to be able to boot into Win­dows to launch the re­pair from the Win­dows desk­top.

Win­dows 7 and 10 users can insert their Win­dows in­stall me­dia and launch the in­stal­la­tion process from there. When prompted, choose the “Cus­tom” op­tion to “up­grade” your ex­ist­ing in­stal­la­tion. If your Win­dows 10 me­dia isn’t the lat­est ver­sion, run the Me­dia Cre­ation Tool in­stead, and choose the “Up­grade” op­tion from there—make sure you select the op­tion to keep per­sonal files and apps be­fore click­ing “In­stall.”

Win­dows 8.1 pro­vides a handy “re­fresh” op­tion, which en­ables you to reinstall Win­dows over the top of it­self—ac­cess this from “Change PC set­tings > Up­date and re­cov­ery > Re­cov­ery,” then click “Get started” un­der “Re­fresh.”

The in­stal­la­tion process is iden­ti­cal to per­form­ing a full reinstall, but at the end of it, your pro­grams and data are un­touched; only Win­dows gets re­freshed, hope­fully re­solv­ing what­ever prob­lems you’ve been hav­ing. Note: It’s a lengthy process, so be pre­pared to wait an hour or more, de­pend­ing on the speed and state of your PC.

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