Repair, not reinstall
Creating a fresh install of Windows is often seen as the ultimate solution to any problem – whether it’s hardware, software or Windows install-related.
However, completely reinstalling Windows maybe overkill if the problem is simply with Windows itself. If your PC is functioning perfectly other than in specific instances – such as Microsoft Edge no longer working after the Fall Creators Update, for example – a repair install may be a better option.
Repair installs simply overwrite the Windows files on your machine – leaving your apps, programs (including settings), and any data on your system drive untouched, at least in theory. Performing a repair install varies between each version of Windows, but each procedure shares one common characteristic: You have to be able to boot into Windows to launch the repair from the Windows desktop.
If you’re using either Windows 7 or 10, you can can insert your 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 computer.
Don’t forget to restore your file backup post-reinstall.