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A full reinstall wipes everything from the disk and starts the operating system over from scratch. As always, planning ahead will save you a lot of grief!

If I reinstall Windows, will I lose Microsoft Office (as I do not have it on disc as I got it as a download at a reduced price)? I was a college student at the time.

In this excerpt from Answercast #28, I look at ways to save a downloaded program during a reinstall.

Saving programs during reinstall

The thing to do in situations like that – when you get a download as your distribution of any software (be it Microsoft Office or anything else) – is to save the file that you downloaded; pretend that is your master copy of the software... because it is.

So, the thing to have done back then would have been to save it in a safe place:

  • Maybe write it to CD
  • And squirrel the CD away somewhere

But whatever – save the original installation download! In reality, that's your original installation media: what we refer to when it comes to installation time.

Reinstall reformats the drive

A traditional Windows installation will, in fact, reformat your hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch. In doing so, it will erase all of the other software on your machine... including Microsoft Office.

  • The bottom line answer to your question of course is, "Yes, you'll lose Microsoft Office."

However, what I suggest you try is a repair install.

Repair install

A repair install actually attempts to install Windows in place, on top of the existing copy of Windows, while preserving all of the installed settings and software.

The way to do that with Windows 7 is to, essentially, tell it to upgrade your existing version when you boot from the Windows 7 installation media. That's one way you can preserve what you have on your system without necessarily erasing everything.

The downside is that it may not fix whatever problem it is you're attempting to fix by reinstalling Windows. The problem is it's preserving a bunch of things, a bunch of settings, a bunch of software.

It may be that whatever is causing you to reinstall Windows is, in fact, one of those things: and it will be preserved. In that case, you may still want to reinstall Windows after you've tried this, but it's the only way I can think of that you're going to be able to preserve your Microsoft Office installation.

Try open source

The only other option I can offer is (if you are strapped for cash and you do need to reformat and reinstall for real) look into something from Open Office or Libre Office, which is a free and open source Office equivalent. There are occasionally some compatibility issues, but depending on how you use the tools, and what you're using them for, it could be a reasonable substitute for Microsoft Office.

Article C5492 - June 20, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Joe Schmidt
June 22, 2012 9:26 AM

NEVER, Ever, "upgrade" anything. It's more likely to become a "downgrade." I'm still running Word-95, use it every day; nothing further is required. In a pinch there's Open Office, which everybody should have. Free. Plus, I still use DOS-Works-3 for all my little databases; again, nothing further is really necessary. Develop proficiency in using what you have. "The leading edge is usually the bleeding edge."

Mark J
June 22, 2012 9:34 AM

There's another solution that might work. If you have Office 2010 you could try downloading a trial version of Office2010 and validating it with your key. I'm not sure if your key would work on that version, but if you are forced to do a fresh install of Windows, it might be worth a try.

John Butler
June 23, 2012 2:21 AM

Rather than a repair install first try running your Windows 7 CD from within Windows after a reboot. Start setup and choose upgrade, Windows will check all the system and make sure all the upgrades are correct but will not loose any pro grammes. This route is only workable if your Windows CD is uptodate.

John Chogan
October 21, 2012 8:17 AM

It depends upon type of re-install. If you simply upgrade your OS to a newer version, chances are you will be able to use Office 2010 even afterwards. It also depends on Office 2010 bit type and OS bit type which you are going to upgrade.

You can also view http://www.techyv.com/questions/will-my-programs-or-devices-work-windows-7 for more information and reviews.

I hope it would be of some help.

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