How-To Geek

How to Restore Your Files From the Windows.old Folder After Upgrading


If you have ever upgraded your Windows installation without formatting, you have probably come across the Windows.old folder which houses all the files from your previous installation. Here’s how to use it to restore your files.

You might be wondering if you can actually remove the Windows.OLD folder, and the answer is that you definitely can — just read our article on the topic for more. Just make sure that you don’t want to revert back to the previous operating system before you do, and that you don’t need any files stored in it (which is pretty unlikely but it’s still best to make sure).

Recover Files and Apps from Windows.old the Easy Way

So you loaded a fresh new copy of Windows on your computer, but all of your files, apps, and settings got left behind. You can reinstall every app and copy all of your folder manually, but if you just want to do it automatically, PCMover by Laplink can recover your stuff without all the fuss.

Just install the PCMover app and launch their Upgrade Assistant, select the stuff you want to recover from the prior installation, and transfer it using the easy wizard.

It’s such a great solution that Microsoft partnered with Laplink to transfer outdated Windows XP versions to Windows 8 or 10, so it’s definitely the product you need to try.

Get PCMover and Transfer Your Apps, Files, and Documents the Easy Way

Copy Them Manually

If you wish to restore your files manually you can open up the Computer panel and navigate to the root of your OS drive to access the Windows.old folder.


The bulk of your files will be under:


Which is what is left of your original user profile.


To restore your files, enter one of the folders and select all the files and folders contained within it. Now press the shift button on your keyboard and right click on one of the items, then navigate to the “Send to” section of the context menu. You will notice that by holding the shift key we have unlocked a whole bunch of hidden items in the context menu, so you can go ahead and send the files to their matching folder in your current Windows installation.


Use the Wizard

Admittedly restoring all your files via the manual method can be rather tedious. So Microsoft has recently introduced a new troubleshooter, which you can grab from the Windows site, that automatically moves all your files in the Windows.old folder to the corresponding locations within your new Windows installation.


Once downloaded you can launch the wizard and click next.


From there it’s pretty much all automated, if you had stuff on your desktop you will slowly see the icons appear.


It is seriously as simple as that.


That’s all there is to it.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 12/7/12

Comments (9)

  1. Yoshiyah

    Actually, restoring everything from Windows.old folder manually is not hard at all. Especially since most of my data is stored on a separate drive. I just restore most things like firefox profile from AppData folder and Dropbox.

  2. ReadandShare

    Hmm… can’t find windows.old anywhere in my Windows Explorer (Win 7 Home Premium). I have selected “show hidden files, folders” and unchecked “hide protected operating system files”. Even did a search. No windows.old. ???

  3. Alex

    @ReadandShare: “C:\Windows.old\” folder is only seen if you fresh-install a Windows OS onto a drive which already has Windows installed in it.

  4. ReadandShare


    Ah, I see. Thanks! I got it all mixed up — thinking about all those monthly Windows updates (patches). I recall back in Win XP those auto downloaded patch files could be deleted once a user was comfortable that the patches were working properly. Can’t seem to find them in Win 7 though.

  5. Alex

    @ReadandShare: Windows 7 updates are stored in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download\

    But problem is – they are all extension-less. It’s difficult to know which ones are .MSI or .EXE or .MSU, etc. So you’re better off running Windows Update and letting the OS install updates automatically.

    And unlike XP, no folders with long nonsense characters are created in your C:’s root anymore.

  6. tu.nguyen

    Can we delete windows.old ? After we restore all to corresponding location in your new windows installation. Because it occupy more place in OS drive.

  7. REAR$

    @tu.nguyen yes you can delete the windows.old folder

  8. ReadandShare


    Ah, I see now. Thanks!

    So, after waiting a bit to ensure that everything runs AOK after automatic Windows updates, can one just delete the stuff in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download\?

  9. ReadandShare

    @ Alex — sorry, me again — strike the above. I found my answer already. Thanks again.

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