How to clean install windows without losing access to your stuff

This has been making the rounds since this weekend, showing up on Digg, Reddit, and elsewhere, but I’ll throw in my two cents since my windows box, just a week or so past a year old now, is suffering from severe signs of windows cruft – slowdowns, windows explorer ‘crashes (where the screen does a quick icon redraw – is it even possible to have a windows install older than a couple months that doesn’t do this?), registry corruption, etc. I have been considering but dreading a clean install from scratch on a new drive for some time now. Along comes this great post about how to use disk imaging tools and virtualization to back up your existing system before moving to the new one, assuring that you will still have access to all your old apps and data available to you on your new install, running under virtualization. The only gotcha to be aware of is the need to re-authorize Windows if you have a non-corporate edition because of the number of hardware changes windows will detect while running under virtualization. This isn’t an issue for me since I get a corporate license through my employer, but it seems to me this actually means you could have a licensing compliance issue on your hands in that Microsoft probably won’t allow you to have two copies of their OS running on your machine, which kind of sucks. Still, this is a worthy technique to check out if your machine is suffering from Windows Cruft and you’re considering a reinstall.

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