Software Windows

How do I repair Windows 10 whilst keeping all apps and data?

Sometimes Windows requires a quick repair to solve niggly problems. If the machine has developed a sudden glitch or apps have stopped working, then using the in-place upgrade method can repair Windows 10 while keeping all apps and data.

This method shouldn’t be confused with the two most common Windows recovery features:

  • Keep My Files: Resets Windows, removes all apps but keeps user data (photos, music, etc).
  • Remove everything: Resets Windows and… well, you can probably work the rest out.

An in-place upgrade can repair a faulty Windows installation whilst preserving all apps and data, but there are a few caveats.

  • Windows needs to be operational. You cannot do this process from Safe Mode or from a USB recovery environment.
  • Check your versions. This process repairs system files, so the installation media needs to reflect your current system. This means it needs to be the same language version, same edition (Pro, Home, etc.) and the same ‘bit’ (32 or 64). Also note that this method cannot be used to revert to an earlier edition of Windows 10.
  • Bitlocker: Bitlocker gets grumpy about this process, so either turn it off or suspend the process. You can do this from the Windows control panel. Once the in-place upgrade has completed, don’t forget to turn it back on.
Repair Windows 10 whilst keeping all apps and data
Grumpy Bitlocker

Step 1: Start your PC

Repair Windows 10 whilst keeping all apps and data
If Windows won’t boot, this isn’t the solution for you.

As we’ve mentioned, your PC needs to be operational, so start the machine and insert the Windows 10 USB stick.

Step 2:

Repair Windows 10 whilst keeping all apps and data
Start setup.exe from the USB stick

Run setup.exe from the USB drive. Select YES when Windows asks if you want to make changes.

Step 3:

Repair Windows 10 whilst keeping all apps and data
Click next on Install Windows 10

Click Next on the “Install Windows 10” screen and wait a few minutes for the software to get its act together. It’s not unusual for the setup process to restart itself.

Step 4:

Repair Windows 10 whilst keeping all apps and data
Accept the license agreement

Accept the Windows 10 license agreement and then wait for Windows to grab some updates.

Step 5:

Look for the ticks

This is where the magic happens. Windows will report that it’s keeping your personal files and apps. If this isn’t the case, click cancel – otherwise click install.

Step 6:

Installing begins

Windows will start the repair process. The screen says ‘installing’ (which is precisely what is happening) but don’t panic, your files and apps are safe. Depending on the speed of your machine, this can take a while, so perhaps mow the lawn or go for a run.

Step 7:

Ready to go…

Eventually, Windows will complete the process and familiar Windows 10 login screen will appear.

Windows configuration will continue and there may even be a few setup questions. You may need to setup customer wallpapers and (sometimes) your wireless connection.

However, you’ll see that nearly everything is exactly where it was and any annoying gremlins should have been eradicated.


So that’s an in-place upgrade, a simple way to repair Windows 10 whilst preserving all of your apps and data.

If Windows 10 is still misbehaving, then perhaps a full reset will help. Just follow this guide on How should I reset Windows 10 before I donate my machine? Obviously, you can leave out the bit at the end about donating your machine – unless you want to, of course.

About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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