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I'm getting a new motherboard which means I have to reinstall my OS, how would I do that but not have to remove my games? Is there anyway I can back up the games?

For example, I don't want to lose my save progress in Skyrim or have to download all of the Battlefield patches again.

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    this is either too broad (how do I back up any game on PC?) or combining two things that are dissimilar and utterly disjoint (how do I back up random completely different game #1 and #2?) I guess we'll try for the broad version. – Jeff Atwood Dec 8 '11 at 22:58
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    Why do you have to re-install your OS? I'm not arguing for or against having a single set of drivers and using a re-install to get rid of the old ones, but in my experience you absolutely do not need to perform a full re-install just for a motherboard swap. – wersimmon Mar 20 '12 at 19:30
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The location of the save data was answered here. Back that up to an external device and your save data should be good.

Skyrim puts its saves in the following directory in Windows Vista & Windows 7:

C:\Users\[UserName]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Saves

Skyrim puts saves in the following directory in Windows XP:

C:\Documents and Settings[UserName]\My Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Saves

The BF3 installation data should be done in the same manner. The EA forums have a post regarding this.

  • Navigate to your origin games directory.
  • Copy the battefield 3 folder to your backup location.
  • Install Origin on the new PC.
  • Copy the backup back into your Origin games folder.
  • Open Notepad and copy paste the bellow text.
  • Edit the correct path to the Origin Games folder, eg C:\Program Files\Origin Games\ (Remember to double backslash "\" instead of "\" for the path, in both "GDFBinary" and "Install Dir" fields.
  • Save the notepad doc as bf3.reg, select "All Files" under the drop menu "Save as type".
  • Run the registry file and add to registry.
  • Open Origin, it will say preparing for a while until the process completes checking the files.
  • Play game.

Here is the text which works for my setup, my orgin games folder is under C:\Games\Orgin Games. Edit appropriately for your setup. Enjoy.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\EA GAMES\Battlefield 3] "GDFBinary"="C:\games\Origin Games\Battlefield 3\GDFBinary_en_US.dll" "GameExplorer"="{A62587A8-42EC-4F3B-A42D-206690BAE079}" "DisplayName"="Battlefield 3™" "Locale"="en_US" "Product GUID"="{76285C16-411A-488A-BCE3-C83CB933D8CF}" "Install Dir"="C:\games\Origin Games\Battlefield 3\"

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Consider using a tool like GameSave Manager which can take a back & restore your save games.

As for patches, there's no way to save them I believe.

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Both Steam and Origin for some games you can store saved games in their Cloud services.

BF3 single player saves can be saved in Origin Cloud.

Skyrim on the other hand unfortunately does not provide Steam Cloud support. The games which have this feature enabled are marked so in the store with this icon:
steam cloud

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Just generally, look for any folders in "My Documents" that are named after the game company or the game itself. If in doubt, copy/paste the whole contents of My Documents to a backup drive.

Then on your fresh Windows installation (after you setup the drivers etc), reinstall all the games you want to play. Then copy over all the files/folders you had saved from "My Documents".

Just be aware that sometimes the game's configuration file still remembers your last hardware, and this may cause some game to not start up. If in doubt, look out for any ".ini" or "config" files in My Documents, and delete them, this usually force the game to start on default settings. Those aren't the same files as your savegames either.

Yes, it's not 100% necessary maybe to reinstall games. This is the plain english method.

Also, consider NOT reinstalling windows. With the last Windows incarnations it's really not necessary. You are not going to save up a whole lot of space, assuming you already take care of defragmenting the drive, cleaning up old files and so on.

Just do this: before you change your hardware, uninstall all the drivers that you can. Uninstall the graphics card drivers, sound drivers, and so on. Basically, you want to uninstall any hardware related software that you specifically installed yourself. Then shut down the computer, switch the motherboard, and start Windows again. Honestly if you bought decent hardware, it will be detected automatically by Windows without any problems. I know this as I have done this myself. Windows will simply detect a new CPU, new memory and so on.

This will save you hours and honestly you won't save any space, because as soon as you connect your new Windows install to internet it's going to re-download gazillions of .Net updates, service packs, Windows Defender updates, and so on.

PS: If you do keep the Windows install (assuming you don't need to move your games to a new harddrive), there is one gotcha: make sure that you connect the harddrive to your new motherboard in the same solt as it was before. So look for switches on the motherboard and make sure your HDD remains in primary position. If you have a secondary harddrive with other programs installed on it, you also want to make sure they are connected in the same position (master or slave). Otherwise what was your D: or E: drive might end up as F: or G: (examples) and this will effectively break your installed programs. Just make sure you connect your HDD and Optical drives in the same master/slave settings.

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Another alternative is: http://www.synctocloud.net/

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    You should talk about what makes this a better option than the other answers. What are the advantages/disadvantages? We try to provide more info than a single link here. – user9983 Mar 20 '12 at 18:34
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If you're familiar with version control tools such as Git you can use these not only to back up your saved game files but also to roll back to particular points in play. (This can be useful in games that continuously overwrite previous saves, rather than letting you keep multiple different saves.)

Here's what I do; this can easily be generalized to whatever revision control tool, directory structure and remote storage system you prefer.

  1. In a Dropbox directory synchronized to my local disk I keep a set of "savegame directory links," Windows shortcut (.lnk) files that point to the savegame directories of specific games. This lets me quickly find the save directory when I want to do a commit.

  2. In the savegame directory pointed to by the link, I create a git repo and, on a regular basis (often during gameplay) I do a git commit of all changes, adding notes about where I am and what I'm doing in the game to the commit message. If I decide to roll back to a previous commit and start again there, I'll often create a new branch for this.

  3. In another Dropbox-sync'd directory, I create a bare Git repo and set that path as the remote for the savegame dir repo. After a gaming session I push up all the changes to that remote, Dropbox synchronizes them, and then I have a backup in case I lose the local copy. (The savegame directory link also helps me know where to clone that backup if I need to restore it.)

Probably most people reading this are thinking this sounds rather insane, but for software developers and other technical folks used to keeping most of their work in Git (or similar) and doing dozens of commits per day, it's quite natural.

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