How to reformat your computer

How to reformat your computer

The main reason to format your computer is to remove and delete all the errors or a virus that is too hard to remove any other way. It will also make your computer much faster by removing excess material. Formatting your drive will refresh and virtually put it back to original.

Before you even think about reformatting your computer, you need to have an original and legal operating system. By this, I mean either XP Windows or Vista. You need to know the license or product key numbers for this disk. This will usually consist of four of five sets of four numbers.

First, you need to make sure you have a copy of all the drivers for your sound and video cards. You need the drivers for your modem, whether for dial up, wireless or broadband. If you do not have these drivers, you need to do a Google search and download the drivers for your particular computer. Make sure you have the correct ones. XP Windows does automatically install some but not all these for you. Therefore, DO NOT rely on XP doing everything for you.

If you are not sure what sound card is in your computer then right click on my computer, click on properties, click on hardware, click on device manager and then look at all the names of equipment so you can download the drivers.

Now you have to backup everything that you want to keep on your computer. Start copying all your email addresses, your favorites and all your documents, letters that you need kept. Systematically go through your computer and look at everything that you use the computer for, and backup everything like pictures, music, movie files that you cannot afford to lose. If you play games, then you will need to save the achievements that you have done. It would be horrible if you are halfway through a game and lose the lost and have to start from the beginning again. If you are not sure where to find this, go to the forum of that game on the net and it will tell you what to look for.

Save everything into a file and burn a copy of everything. If you have a large hard drive, you may need a few DVD disks. You could also do a backup to another hard drive. The thing is if you have, a virus on this one, it will quite likely be on that one too. Remember, once you have formatted your hard drive, it will be lost forever.

BEWARE DO NOT attempt doing this if you do not know anything about computers, as you could destroy your hard drive. Give it to a technician to do if unsure.

With this done you will need to set your computer

In some occasions, be it because you have reasons to suspect that the virus you caught has permanently damaged your system, because your PC is getting way slower than it used to be, or even just as a scheduled maintenance practice, reformatting your computer can be an useful way of ‘cleaning up the mess’ and regain all the computational speed your PC used to have when you turned it on for the first time. This article provides you with an easy step-by-step guide to make sure a smooth reformatting process.

As the first step, make sure you have a copy of the operating system you want to install, and all the installation files of the programs you need most, or at least make sure you know where to get them. You’ll need to backup all the important data in your hard disk(s). Save all important files (a ‘safe’ choice is to backup the entire C:Documents and Settings on Windows, and the /home folder on Linux) to an optical drive or an external USB drive — in this last case, remember to correctly unmount and remove the disk before restarting the system. Consider including into the backup also the most important application files and an archive containing your e-mails. If this is the first time reformatting your computer, it’s always best to take at least a day or two to make sure you don’t forget any important file in the backup.

When you’re sure you’re good to go on to the next step, insert the CD/DVD of the operating system of your choice and restart. If nothing happens (e.g., the computer restarts normally), that means there is one little more step to go: when you restart, check the initial messages and press the right button to enter the boot devices setup screen (the button is usually F7, but it depends on the underlying system) and select the CD-ROM drive as the first device from which to boot — you might want to roll back this setting once you’re done reformatting).

At this point, your system will boot up from the CD-ROM. Follow the instructions carefully, particularly when you’re asked to format your hard drive and delete all files on it — if you’re sure all the data is safe and backed up, go on with the OS installation. This will typically take one to two hours and requires little amount of configuration by the user (including assigning keyboard layout, system language, time, user names and passwords…).

Once the system is installed, you can remove the installation CD-ROM. If you wish, you can restart to change a setting so that even if you forget a CD-ROM in the drive, your PC won’t do fancy things — to do that, see the simple instructions above. Now, all you have to do is simply to take your backup unit and copy all the data back into the new system. Install all the programs you need, either from installers or from the Internet, and finally restart one more time (most program installations require restarting). If you’re running on Windows, it might be a good idea to install an anti virus as soon as possible.

If you followed these steps carefully, your new system should be up and running as good as new!

Reformatting your computer is a bit like taking your car for a service. It will rid your computer of viruses and help it run like new again. The good news is that you don’t need to be the equivalent of a motor mechanic to undertake this task. If you have a general understanding of computers and the instruction manual for your system it is a relatively easy undertaking.

How to reformat your computer

Over time the running speed of your computer slows down because the file registry becomes corrupted with errors. Therefore the operating system doesn’t perform as efficiently as when it was first installed. In addition some viruses and spyware are not simply able to be deleted. Reformatting your computer is the best way to fix all these issues.


Every 6-12 months depending on the type of usage you undertake. If you run highly demanding software such as video editing software you will need to reformat your computer regularly, however if you only run fairly simple programs like Microsoft word and check the odd email a yearly reformat should keep your computer operating efficiently.

It is also necessary to format or reformat your computer if you purchase a computer which is not preloaded with an operating system or you purchase new hardware like a bigger hard drive.


Essentially undertaking a reformat of your computer is like wiping the slate clean. Everything you have stored on the drive or if you only have one drive everything on your whole computer will be deleted. All of the data you have saved and all of the programs you have installed will be wiped in a reformat. Therefore there are several important steps you should take to ensure you don’t lose any of your data or programs.


Step one- set aside several hours to reformat your computer. Although the installation process often takes less then an hour, reloading all of your data and programs can take some time. The best time to reformat your computer is when you won’t need it for a day or two because it can this long to get everything back to how it was before the reformat.

Step Two- You need to back up all of the data you have stored on your computer or the drive you are reformatting. You can copy this data to another drive, an external drive, to the web or CD/DVDs. Besides all of your obvious files such as Microsoft files, music, photos and movies there are a few less obvious files to consider. These include things like your Internet favorites, personal touches such as a Skype mini me and the current position you hold in any games you play. It is also possible to save settings such as the appearance of your desktop so that you don’t have to go through setting this up again from scratch.

Step Three-Make a list of all the programs you have installed on your computer. To check this you go to your control panel and click on the add/remove programs icon. A list of programs will be displayed. With this list determine where you got each program from. For example some you may have a CD for, others might have been downloaded from the Internet and another lot might have been borrowed from a friends CD. For every program you wish to keep you need to make sure you still have the ability to reinstall it. Check that you can access all the CD’s, serial codes and Internet downloads that you require.

Step Four-Find the copy of your computers operating system installation CD (eg. Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac etc.)

Step Five- Check that you have the serial keys for your operating system installation CD. Some serial keys are printed on the cover of your CD, but some are actually printed on your computer, especially in the case of laptops.

Step Six-Insert your installation CD then restart your computer. As your computer boots up it should load from the CD and start to reinstall the operating system.

Step Seven-You will be asked if you want to reformat your hard drive, select yes. If you have numerous hard drives or a partitioned hard drive make sure you select the right hard drive to reformat otherwise you will lose all of the information from the wrong drive.

Step Eight-After making this selection the CD will run, finishing the installation. At this time the computer will restart. You can now remove the installation CD.

Step Nine- The hard work now begins you will have to reinstall all of the programs that use wish to use . You will also have to update your programs with all the relevant Internet updates. Most programs will prompt you to do so.

Step Ten-copy all of your data back onto the reformatted hard drive.

* Different operating systems will work in a slightly different manner. Please check the instruction manual for the finer details on your operating system.

If you do need to reformat your computer regularly there is a way to minimize the work of a reformat. This is by storing your data separate from the drive that you store your programs and operating system on. If you only have one hard drive you can partition the drive into two separate drives. This will mean that every time you reinstall your operating system you won’t have to back your data up externally.

Writer: Crossley, Gavin


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