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I want know how I can avoid setting up all my preferences the same way, every single time I install a new operating system.

Is there a way to export settings like:

  • Background color
  • Items to display, and how in Vista/Win7
  • Auto-hide Start-menu
  • Layout, size, shown columns and view-type in Explorer
  • And so on...

Are there any guides to the registry-settings that controls these settings? Or anything you can do through programming something in WMI or something similar?

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Have you considered simply backing up and restoring your windows profile? Most of your windows settings and working environment is part of this profile.

You could set your account to use roaming profiles and save the profile to a server or some other shared storage that won't be lost when you do your upgrade.

If you don't use the builtin windows tools to copy a profile you will need to use used tools like regedit to manually change the permissions on the \user.dat which is the HKEY_CURRENT_USER portion of the registry for account that owns the profile.

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If you reinstall often, for whatever reason, it might be useful to script all of these settings. Every setting that is stored in the registry can be set with the "reg" command in a *.cmd script. You can use Google to find a lot of settings. You'll have to find some yourself, though. Download ProcMon from Sysinternals at Use it to monitor the registry while you change the desired setting in the Control Panel or wherever. Then write a script using "reg" to manipulate that setting.

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I like that approach, do you have any pointers on keywords for Google. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for. Thanks. – Seb Nilsson May 28 '09 at 9:36
I usually search for the exact user interface text of the setting and some additional words that a blogger or TechNet author might use. For example: how to "Use simple file sharing" "command line". – Jay Michaud May 30 '09 at 20:53

Windows comes with a tool to migrate settings from previous versions, in XP, it is called "Files and Settings Transfer Wizard", although I believe it has changed name since. Of course, if you're enrolled in a Windows domain, then you could set your user to have a roaming profile.

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Best way to do it in windows is to use the built in tools. In windows 7 sp1 its in start->accessories->system tools->windows easy transfer

In older versions it was FASTWIZ (in XP i believe) and USMT (User state migration tool, in Vista i think).

You can export your profile which contains almost all your personal settings and saved information, to a file, and then import the file on your new computer.

You can also use it to directly transfer the profile to the new computer, without exporting to a file.

This tool, combined with the pretty neat "windows backup" tool in Win7, provides very good overall backup functionality.

On a slight offtopic - I can also recommend Microsoft SyncToy to use for backup purposes. Its a simple utility to sync folders by files, and its very light, easy to use, scriptable and neat.

Good luck!

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If this is about windows 7 and you plan to do more than just 3 or 4 installations per year: you might want to customize a reference machine with all of your favorite tools and use use 'sysprep' to create a new installable image with all your addons.

Using the methods described in you can also include your customized profile settings in the default profile of the new installations so they will be the baseline for all newly created user accounts.

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