Jan 9, 2009

Before You Format Your Windows PC - Everything You Need to Backup

Focus of the post:- Checklist before you format your widows PC.Here are things you need to remember before you format your Windows PC.Every now and then i come across people crying after a fresh windows install.For some of my friends a windows reinstall is a monthly job and for some who use computers as dvd players its a yearly job. It depends on how much you use your windows,the more you use it the more it wears out.

Before you press Enter,Scroll down

1. Firefox Data   

All personal information including bookmards,passwords,browsing history,extensions,etc that needs to be backed up is placed in the firefox profile folder.Path of the profile folder:- "C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\profile folder"  or simply goto Run and type "%appdata%/mozilla".Descriptions of all the files under the profile folder can be found here.
  • Bookmark Backup
1. Backup your Bookmarks manually in HTML(merge while restore) and JSON(replace while restore) formats 

2. In Firefox 2 and lower versions bookmarks were stored in the file "bookmarks.html" located in the profile folder.In Firefox 3,bookmarks and browsing history are stored "places.sqlite" instead of bookmarks.html.
  • Backup your Complete Profile Folder located in C:\Documents and Settings\Profile Name\Application Data\Mozilla Firefox\Profile
  • Backup your History and Bookmarks by manually copying places.sqlite from the Firefox Profile Folder.Backup cookies by copying cookies.sqlite from the Firefox Profile Folder.
  • Backup the complete Extensions folder in profile folder to restore your extensions later on.
  • Backup username,passwords and never save exceptions stored in sigons3.txt(Encrypted)  and key3.db(Encryption Key) or alternatively use Password Exporter Extension to restore username and passwords.signons3.txt is useless without key3.db.
  • You can also use Mozbackup(compatible with other Mozilla Products)  or the FEBE extension(not the best option) to restore stuff.
  • Foxmarks extension can be used to synchronize bookmarks and passwords across different computers.Google browser sync was better but its dead.Comparison of browser synchronizers.

Personally i use the built-in Mozilla Profile Manager to create separate profiles in a safe location on the harddisk.Edit the firefox shortcut to "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox 3\Firefox.exe" -p to activate Profile Manager.

How to backup Firefox 3 settings under Linux
2. BitTorrent Data and Settings
  • Settings and Resume Data - Backup up the entire contents of folder %AppData%/utorrent
  • .Torrent Files - Stored in %AppData%/utorrent by default or your custom folder set through Options>>Pref>>Directories>>Store .Torrents in or Move .torrents for finished jobs to:(for seeding)
  • Default Download Location - C:\Documents and Settings\Profile Name\My Documents\Downloads

    uTorrent FAQS:-
    • How can I use ĀµTorrent on a USB key or other removable drive?
    Simply copy settings.dat (located in %AppData%\uTorrent ) to the same folder as uTorrent.exe, and you're done.
    • How can I share my torrents between user profiles / make ĀµTorrent run self-contained in one directory? 
    Simply copy the entire contents of %AppData%\uTorrent into the same folder as utorrent.exe. Alternatively, create a blank file named settings.dat in the same folder as utorrent.exe, if you'd like to start out fresh (no settings/torrents). If using it in a multi-user environment, this folder should be accessible and writeable by all users so they can share settings and resume data.

    3. Flashget
    • Save completed and uncompleted downloads(.jc!) from default location C:\Downloads.
    • Download and Resume - Settings for downloading and resuming later are saved in default.jcd database.Make sure you backup the database before reinstallion.
    Save the download database

    4.Google Desktop - In earlier GD versions default Index location was "C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Google Desktop".The index location can be only be changed by editing the registry.In latest versions - Google Desktop 5.1+ the files are indexed in the partition with the most available free space.Google hasnt updated its GD help.
    • Exit GD and copy your index files to a safe location.
    • After reinstallation change registry keys as in the screenshot.
    • Suggest features for google desktop here and dont forget to click on Change Index Location under Improve control over indexing. 
    Backup index - Google Help

    TweakGDS - TweakGDS is a useful GD plugin which allows you to change index location and include/exclude partitions for indexing.

    5.GAME SAVED FILES -  Most of the games create save files inside their installed directories but some of them spit save files outside their installed directories.
    "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\NFS Underground" - Hidden Folder
    "C:\Documents and Settings\ProfileName\Local Settings\Application Data\NFS Underground 2" - Hidden Folder
    "C:\Documents and Settings\ProfileName\My Documents\NFS Most Wanted"
    "C:\Documents and Settings\ProfileName\My Documents\NFS Carbon"

    6.GAME REGISTRY KEYS - Most OpenGL games continue to run after a clean install because they store the cd key information inside the installed directories.Few of the games stores cd-key info and other settings inside the registry and wont run after a fresh windows install.You must manually backup the registry keys by going >>Run>>Regedit.exe>>Find>>Game Name.If you backup few of the registry keys.Restore *.reg files after a fresh install.
    Error Message after fresh install
    Save Registry Keys
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Unreal Technology\Installed Apps]

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Unreal Technology\Installed Apps\UT2004]
    "Folder"="I:\\GAMES\\UT 2004"
    "CDKey"="Your Pirated CD-KEY HERE"
    "ADMIN_RIGHTS"="You need to run this program as an administrator, not as a guest or limited user account."
    "NO_DISC"="No disc in drive. Please insert the disc labeled 'Unreal Tournament 2004 Play Disc' to continue."
    "NO_DRIVE"="No CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive detected."
    "TITLEBAR"="Unreal Tournament 2004"
    "WRONG_DISC"="Wrong disc in drive. Please insert the disc labeled 'Unreal Tournament 2004 Play Disc' to continue."
    Resultant UT2004.reg
    7. Rainlendar
    • Use the Backup and Restore feature  to backup all your calendars and Rainlender files in zip format.Multiple calendars will be copied in the zip archive.This is similar to Google Calendars "Export My Calendar" feature.By default rainlender files are created in C:\Documents and Settings\ProfileName\.rainlendar2.The default calendar (default.ics) is created in the same folder.Change the location of the default calendar to a secure location on the harddisk.
     Change the default calendar location and Backup all the calendars and settings using the backup option
    • Use the File>>Export feature to backup up all or a particular event and task.
    • If you are using multiple calendars (separate for office,personal,etc) then backup them indiviually in iCalendar format using the Export feature.
      •  Can I install Rainlendar2 to a USB memory?
      Yes, you can. If you use the Windows version the installer can do this automatically for you. You can also just copy everything in the Rainlendar's folder to the USB memory and create an empty text file called rainlendar2.ini in the same folder where the executable is. This will make Rainlendar2 to use it's own folder for the settings and it will also store all the events and tasks to the same folder too.
      • Where is all the data stored?
      By default the settings files and the events/tasks are stored in a folder called .rainlendar2 inside your home folder. The location depends on your operating system.Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\[yourname]\.rainlendar2.Windows Vista: C:\Users\[yourname]\.rainlendar2\rainlendar2.ini.Linux: ~/.rainlendar2 or ~/.config/.rainlendar2.Mac OS X: ~/.rainlendar2.You can change the location of the ics-file where the events and tasks are stored from Options->Calendars.If you want to store the settings somewhere else you can start Rainlendar2 with -c [path] command line parameter (the [path] defines the path to the settings).You can also move the rainlendar2.ini file to the same folder where the executable is located. This makes Rainlendar to use it's own folder to store all the settings which is useful e.g. if you have installed the application to a USB memory.

      8. Windows XP Activation Data - Follow the instructions here or here. 

      9.Wireless Settings - Since most of the things in the post holds true for Vista. So here is a tool to backup wireless settings in WheezeTa.It is "Handy small program, that knows to backup and restore all wireless networks setting from your computer. For some reason, there is no way to do it by using regular Windows Vista tools. This feature is extremely useful, when you have to reinstall your computer or use the same settings of wireless networks for different machines.In order to use the program, all you have to do is to run it once. The program generate small file, can be handled and transfered in diskette. Later if you'll run this generated file, all settings of wireless networks will be restored on target machine".You may also like Vista Battery Saver from the same blog.

      10.Miscellaneous  - Desktop Data , My Documents Data,Shortcuts on desktop,Fonts,Saved Passwords ,CD-key  of windows,office.

      11.Google Chrome - When i started writing this post on 22nd Sep08 i used only firefox but now when i am completing it i use chrome for 40% of my surfing(when feed reading on google reader).All this while i have been busy with exams.Most of the older people (above 30yrs) to whom i introduced firefox and tabbed browsing never used firefox but they continued with IE.But  when i met them(doctors,uncles...) recently they switched to chrome on their own!!
      12. Driver Backup - If you are proud owner of extinct hardwares or branded PCs make sure you backup them with the following softwares to avoid getting into trouble latter.A month ago when my friend formatted his Compaq Presario, the drivers downloaded from the website didnt even work.
      • DriverBackup! - "Fast and user-friendly free tool for drivers's backup, restoration and removal with command line options, automatic restoration from CD\DVD and path formatting. DriverBackup! includes also an interactive command line builder." Its opensource , portable and you can easily select between devices with OEM(devices with a Microsoft driver),Third parts(devices with a third part driver),Digital signature(devices with a digital signature (“WHQL”) only),Full portability(devices that are totally compatible with backup and restore)drivers.
      • DriverMax   - "is a new tool that allows you to download the latest driver updates for your computer. No more searching for rare drivers on discs or on the web or inserting one installation CD after the other. Just create a free account, log in, and start downloading the updates that you need."
      13.Evernotes Database - Writing a diary has always been a funny thing to me but after i met evernote i started writing a diary.Subject notes,Ideas,Blogs,Word Meanings,Lessons learnt in life,To-Dos...are all present in my evernote database.The evernote database is the most precious thing on my harddisk.
      • Database Location:- C:\Program Files\Evernote3\Databases3\AccountName.exb or
      • Simply install Evernotes Portable version :- In Menus >> Application

      14.Windows Updates - 5 Ways To Update Your Windows Operating System

      15.Email Client Data -  "Amic Email Backup is a handy software tool for Microsoft Windows based PCs designed to create backup copy of your email database. Amic Email Backup can save emails, address book, settings, mail and news accounts, message rules, blocked senders lists and signatures to a single, compact, compressed backup file that can be easily restored when necessary.Most computer users do not have anything else to backup except their email, as all other files can be restored from original software CDs if a virus or hdd crash make the computer unusable."  Download  

      16.Anti-Virus Definitions - If you use the auto-update feature and dont download the definitions manually you will loose the latest definitions after a clean format.
      • Kaspersky Updates
      K8 - C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Kaspersky Lab\AVP8\Bases
      K7 - C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Kaspersky Lab\AVP7\Bases
      • Kaspersky Settings - Application settings can also be backed up >>Settings>>Protection
      • Symantec Definitions can be backed up with the help of Update Locator .The Update Locator finds Symantec virus definitions and copies them onto the Desktop into a folder called Update Locator Virus Definitions. This allows you to copy them to another location for use on another computer.

      17.Backup Network (broadband) Settings - The windows way has been described here but the simplest way is to use the following commands:-

      To backup your network settings:-
      netsh interface dump > settings.txt
      To restore your network settings:-
      netsh exec settings.txt

      This will backup everything(IP address,DNS servers,etc).The configuration file is made in c:\Documents and Settings\Username\filename.ext.Backup the file before a reinstall and restore it to the same location after a clean format before running the restore command.Very useful if you have to use the same settings on many computers.

      Solutions to the above problem :- 

      1. Files and Settings Transfer WizardC:\windows\system32\usmt\migwiz.exe.(Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools ).You can choose to back up files and settings or only files/settings.Under the settings tab you can select :- Accessibilty,CMD Prompt Settings,Display Properties ,IE Settings,Network Printers and Drives,Windows Media Playar,Taskbar,etc. It is a convenient way to backup small settings.
        2. Change Program Files Directory - By default all the programs are installed in C:\Program Files.You never know how many programs you will install so it is always recommended to change the default location of program files to a separate partition.Many programs continue to run after fresh windows reinstallation.I personally use a separate 12GB partition for Program Files.If you use multiple copies of Windows XP(for Gaming,Net,etc) then you can set a common Program Files Folder which will also save you the pain of installing essential applications across multiple copies of Windows XP and save disk space.
        Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
        "CommonFilesDir"="F:\\Common Files"
        "ProgramFilesDir (x86)"="F:\\Program Files (x86)"

        3.Change Location of My Documents Folder - In the Start Menu >> Right Click My Documents >> Properties >> Target.More here.

        4.Changing Location of Documents and Settings Folder - Move your Documents and Settings folder from the default location to a safe place.If you get the access denied error while copying then skip "LoggedOnUserName\Application Data\Microsoft " folder.Make registry settings as described here, here  or  here(complete)  .After making the necessary changes logoff and login again.

        Typing "%UserProfile%" in run will now open the new location.In linux you can assign /home to a separate partition.

        Frustrated with Windows ??
        Try Ubuntu

        5.Make an Image of your Windows Partition - You can make an image of your windows partition after installing all the system drivers,tweaking,activation and essential softwares with Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost.When something goes wrong you can restore windows from the image. 

        In case if i missed something then please add-up in the comments section and let me know if you found it useful.


        Marco said...

        Your Windows XP Key, Office and other microsoft program keys can be found using KeyFinder

        Thanks for the great information!

        Gambuzino said...

        great post!! thank you so much! :-)

        HDD Regenerator said...

        You can make an picture of your windows partition after setting up all the system motorists,tweaking,activation and important software programs with Acronis Real Image or Norton Spider.When something goes incorrect you can recover windows from the picture.

        PC Suppliers said...

        Nice Blog Post !

        Learn Digital Marketing said...

        Great article, Thanks for your great information, the content is quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

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