Can Windows 8.1 be rebuilt without affecting installed apps

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Thread Starter
May 13, 2019
This is a request for problem resolution and for my education.

System information, entered manually (unable to run system info utility on failed laptop)
Failed computer: HP Envy 15 Notebook PC (laptop)
Model: 15-j011dx
Windows 8.1
Hard drive: Toshiba 681 GB (29.6 GB free), (pretty sure it is SATA)
Acronis True Image 2013 (with Plus Pack)
Avast AV
Network Attached Storage (NAS): Thecus N5810Pro

Problem description:
After a Windows update (I think there were 2 monthly "rollup" security packages, but I do not recall the details), I restarted the HP laptop and it did not boot up Windows. After the HP logo, some messages display about running PC Diagnostics and then an "HP menu" to Restart or enter an Advanced Troubleshooting menu. If I select Restart, the boot up process displays the HP logo and then stops at a dark/blank screen. Unable to get to Safe Mode using the F8 key. I can get to the BIOS menu and the HP Advanced Troubleshooting menu. From the HP Advanced Troubleshooting menu, the multiple System Restore Points won't work. There is a repair option (not the choice to reset the system/hard drive to factory defaults), but it indicates that there is not enough space on the hard drive to perform the repair. The HP Troubleshooting utilities indicated that the hard drive and memory tested successfully.

Plan A questions:
I have Acronis True Image 2013 set to backup mode: full with differential . Due to a network issue (NAS connection issue--now resolved), the last differential backup is from April 16, 2019. I have a lot of data changes since that date as well as multiple applications that were installed in "Programs Files" or "Program Files (x86)". I have an Acronis bootable USB drive to use to restore the full/diff backup. Questions:

1. Can the Acronis differential backup be used to restore only the Windows 8.1 components that are required to make the Toshiba HDD bootable without restoring the older data files or do I need to restore the entire Acronis backup in order to recover and build a valid Windows 8.1 bootable configuration?

2. A similar way to ask: Are the Windows 8.1 bootable components too tightly integrated and woven together with applications installed in the Program Files folders (or other related Windows components) to allow the Windows 8.1 components (C:\Windows folder? and other system volume folders and files?) to be recovered separately (exclusively)?

Plan B: Considering alternate method for restore and recovery
I have a Thermaltake USB external drive enclosure connected to a Windows 7 Lenovo T520 ThinkPad (created this post from Lenovo). I removed the HP's Toshiba 2.5 inch HDD from the HP Envy laptop, and the HDD works successfully in the Thermaltake drive enclosure. Avast AV scan was clean. Please review my checklist for this Plan B method to restore the Toshiba HDD to a bootable drive and to recover recent data files.
  1. Manually copy data files from Toshiba HDD to another safe location (Lenovo or NAS). Places to copy from:
    1. (a.) Documents
    2. (b.) Downloads (to reinstall apps that I downloaded)
    3. (c.) Other folders such as "<root>:\Users" and Desktop
  2. Use Acronis to restore Full and Diff backups (back to April 16)
  3. Retrieve data files from the manual copy performed in step "1."
  4. Reinstall applications from Downloads after April 16
Closing questions:
1. If Plan A can work, what are the steps to make the Toshiba HDD bootable again with Windows 8.1?
2. If I need to use Plan B, have I missed any steps in the checklist?

Thank you.
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