How To Reformat Your Windows Computer


Reformatting Your Windows Computer Should Be A Last Resort!

Reformatting your Windows computer is usually the absolute last resort and might even be unnecessary. Before you go through the process of completely reformatting your hard drive please take a few moments to read through the rest of our website. If you are reformatting to fix problems with your Windows computer it's possible that by using some of the tips on our site, or by downloading or purchasing some of the tools or products that we link to, you might be able to avoid the need to reformat your computer. Because doing a complete reformat of your computer will erase the contents of the hard drive and require you to reinstall all software, reformatting is usually a last resort.

Some Computer Manufacturers Make Reformatting Easier Than Others

Many name-brand PC manufacturers include a restore-disk which makes it easy to reformat your PC and return it to the state it was in on the day you purchased it. Some manufactures supply only a standard Microsoft Windows CD, and some (usually lower-end PC manufacturers) supply nothing! If your computer did not come with a restore disk or reformatting CD, then you will need to take extra steps to format your hard drive and get Windows re-installed.

Back Up Your Files Before You Reformat!

Because the reformat or restore process erases everything on your computer, it is critical to have a backup of any important files on your computer. You will also need your original software install disks, install keys, etc to reinstall any software you have purchased.

 

Things to do before you reformat your computer:

  • Write down or print out all notes and internet pages because once the format process begins, you will no longer have access to them (or anything else in the PC)
  • As already stated, BACKUP all important files and data! When you reformat your computer everything will be erased!  You do not need to backup your software, because you should have those CD's or you can usually re-download it.  The important things are photos, music, documents, checkbook files, etc
  • Make sure you have all the CDs and other software. All programs will have to be reinstalled after you format the hard drive. Don't forget about software that came with hardware such as printers, scanners, etc.
  • Write down the brand and information for all the hardware on your computer. Look in the Device Manager and make note of the brand and model of network adaptors, video cards, sound cards, printers, modems, and displays. After reformatting you might need this information to reinstall drivers.

 

How To Reformat Your Windows XP PC

How to Reformat Windows Vista

How to Reformat Windows 7

How to Reformat and clean-install Windows 8

  • Step by step instructions to clean-install (format your hard drive and reinstall) Windows 8: How to format Windows 8

 

If you aren't sure if you need to resort to reformatting and need help deciding what to do, please leave a comment below.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Windows XP Activation

This question has been moved here:Windows XP Activation.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How to fomat window 7 step by step
I am having problem with my dell computer and i know noone to help me out, i just come across your web so i want you to put me through this
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Reformat Windows 7
How do I re-install Windows 7, if I bought the computer with Windows 7 already on, I didn't get any discs with the computer. The computer is dysfunctional, thanks to some virus's that's why I need to format and reload. HELP!
Daniel (not verified)
Re: Reformat Windows 7
If the computer did not come with discs and if it does not have a recovery partition (look at your manual), then you are screwed. Call the manufacturer and they might be able to send you a disc for only a few dollars, otherwise you will have to buy a full copy of Windows.
MaryWithrow (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
I had recently had a couple of virus' one was Zero Access. I managed to rid my computer of them but in the process lost important files for it to function properly and my server wont at all. When I had my computer repaired before they took the recovery drive off totally. So popping in cmd, there is no recovery options. I have the original cds but they will not work? Is there anyway to get them to work without reformatting? Will they work after reformatting? I was told because of the way Dell designed the recovery partition you are unable to restore your computer to the way it was originally. It's also my understanding that you cannot restore this partition using the recovery disc, I'm lost on what I should do? I have a Dell 1545 Inspiron, Thank you - Mary
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Reformat Your Windows Computer

I dont know why using the original CD's and doing a "repair" would not work.. A full reinstall or "reformat" should also work with those CD's. Bear in mind that if they DO work, and you end up having to do a full re-install, you will lose everything and anything in that computer that you do not have backed up. You should be able to put the CD in, turn the computer off, then turn it back on and it should boot-up from that CD and give you some options.
IF if does not boot up, or tells you that it can't do anything, OR if there is anything on that computer that you care about, it might be worthing having a professional deal with it.

MaryWithrow (not verified)
Re: Reformat Your Windows Computer
Thank you, lol - I am trying to avoid repair cost, but with the way it was repaired before, it appears I have no choice but to take it back to the repairman. Yeah, when I enter F8 the repair option is no longer there, nor will the CD boot. I put this in search and see tons of people with the same problem and no solutions. I thought maybe I could reformat but it appears it won't work either, not with the original disc. I don't mind losing everything because I have CD's to all my programs and make backups to the data on a USB stick regularly. If I buy a new version of Windows, can I reformat and use it then? Or is that a bad idea? Thank you for all your time and trouble! Mary
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Reformat Your Windows Computer

You should be able to buy a new version of Windows, but you will probably have to buy the "Full" version, and you will also want to make sure that your computer is new enough/strong enough to run Windows 7 or Windows 8 .

MaryWithrow (not verified)
Re: Reformat with Windows 7 or Windows 8?
I just checked Amazon and there is about $30.00 difference in the 7 or 8 windows, so last question "I promise" lol - Which do you think would be best all around? I have plenty of room (Memory)and love movies and games. Thank you again for all your time and trouble. I want to be able to fix my own computer, lol so investing in a new version is better than paying the repairman again and again,(I would still pay him more) ha ha. Happy New Year! Mary
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Reformat with Windows 7 or Windows 8?

The answer is "it depends"..
A lot of people HATE Windows 8 because it's too different from what they are accustomed to. If you like new stuff and enjoy the frustrating rage of trying to figure everything out and learn how to use your computer all over again, then go for Windows 8. If you want something more similar to the way Windows has always been (Windows 95, Windows XP, Vista), then you may prefer Windows 7..

MaryWithrow (not verified)
Re: Reformat with Windows 7 or Windows 8?
Thanks Hubby! Happy New Year! I will drop back later and let you know how it goes! I'll go for 7 Mary
eagle fan (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer - laptop wifi
I accidentally uninstalled the wrong thing from my computer while trying to clean it up. Now I can no longer access the internet - my wifi adapter doesn't work any longer. Should I reformat?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer - laptop wifi

Reformatting is the last-resort way to fix it.. Kinda like replacing your car engine when you hear a rattling noise.. a lot of work, and a lot of potential risk if you don't know what you're doing (ie; losing important things you forgot to back up, needing to find/reinstall all drivers for everything afterward.. it can be a pain)..

All you need to do is identify the manufacture and exact model of the WiFi adaptor and then find the right drivers/software and reinstall it.. Easy if you know what you are doing/not easy at all if you dont (just like fixing your transmission.. easy when you know how and have all the tools.. not so easy if you don't) .. This will be easier if you can connect to the internet with a cable, or from another computer.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Reformat Windows
I'm trying to reformat a Dell laptop. I have the disk that came with the computer, however when I try to reformat it, it says that a new version of Windows exists and cannot continue. Any recommendations?. ?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Reformat Windows
It sounds like you did not choose the right option. Be sure to select the option to fully delete everything and re-install Windows. It will give you multiple warnings that everything will be deleted and that you must backup everything before continuing. If this is the option you selected, and it's giving you that error, call Dell.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
I have an old Compaq desktop running xp. I upgraded the ram to 2gb, it has a 512mb HD and 2.08G processor, yet it seems slow and clunky. I was thinking I could clean it all out and keep it as a computer for kids to use, but want to erase everything but the OS, as I don't have any way to reinstall XP. Is there a way to strip everything out but leave XP so I can boot it up and then install programs? I just want it to run faster, and not have anything running in the background sucking up resources that I don't need. Thanks!
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

there is no button to push, but you can simply un-install all of the software you dont need or use, and run a good anti-malware program like MalwareBytes to check for and remove anything that does not belong. It's not as good as a full format, but if done right, is almost as good.

helix86
I am here to learn from others
Member for 20 weeks 1 day
GuG-Points: 6
best course of action for a virus?

This question has been moved here: what do I do for a virus?

Ian (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
My computer randomly starts to crash so I shut it off. And get it on again then I restore it and it works for a while but eventually tries to crash again. Would buying a windows seven disk and reformatting fix this? Also Its a desktop with wireless and im worried about this disabling that?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

Whether or not reformating and re installing Windows fixes it or not depends on what the problem is. If the problem is due to malware or some corrupted system files, then yes, this would most likely cure the issue. If the problem is due to an overheating CPU, failing motherboard, flakey hard drive, or any other of the possible bazallion things that could be wrong, then, reformatting and reinstalling isn't going to help.

Whether or not the wireless works depends on what brand/model of WiFi adaptor it has and whether or not the manufacturer has drivers for it that work with Windows 7 ..

Sorry, just not enough information to be able to fully answer your question.

dave (not verified)
Re: will a reformat fix this or should i try something else

i cant log on to my Yahoo email i called and talked to Yahoo support and they did the remote assist and he sayed that my computer is hacked and alot of drivers are down asked me to pay a few hundred to fix with security for 6 month. Is there a way i can fix this? I did a system scan, defrag, still the same
Thank you ever-so much

photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: will a reformat fix this or should i try something else

Of course there is a way you can fix it.. But, just like when the transmission breaks on your car, you CAN fix it, but do you know how or are you comfortable fixing it yourself?

Before you do anything I would download and install the free program called MalwareBytes. Install it, run it, and follow the directions. If it has been "hacked", this will probably be able to clean it up. Of course after it's 'cleaned', you then probably have to fix all the broken/missing drivers, or whatever else is wrong, which is a whole nother issue.

You could also just reformat which would probably fix it. The basic steps are:
1) make sure you have a good backup/copy of anything you care about on your computer
2) find the "recovery disk" or "reinstall disk" that came with your computer put it in the computer, turn the computer off, then back on - it should boot up from that CD - follow the directions to erase everything and 'restore' your computer.. it will then be fully erased and put back the way it was when you bought it.

If you aren't comfortable doing these things then it may be in your best interest to pay a professional, but no way I would pay the Yahoo clowns. Take it to your local small computer repair place (NOT GeekSquad!!) and they can do it all for you - and yes, it would probably cost in the neighborhood of $100 ..

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
For some reason my computer will not recognize my keyboard until windows starts, so I cant get into the setup screen when windows is starting. Is there any way I can reformat my computer from within windows?? Thanks
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

Which setup screen are you referring to? If you use Windows to do a reformat and reinstall, it loads a mini-version of Windows. All you need to do is boot from your Windows CD. Is that what you cant get in to setup?

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
Yeah, I am trying to boot from the CD or get into the "setup" menu. When I restart windows i get a screen with the windows logo and it says F2-setup, but at that point my computer hasn't recognized my keyboard so when i push F2 it does nothing... once windows loads then the keyboard lights turn on. So I have no way to get into the setup to reformat the disk.
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
format Windows

Wow.. i'm assuming that you have a really old computer and you are using a USB keyboard? If that is the case, the only way around that is to see if you have the old fashioned keyboard plug (round, about the size of your pinky finger), and get a keyboard with that same type connector and plug in - that type of keyboard should work.

If that's not the case, I have no idea what to do.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: format Windows
Yes, its an old Dell with a USB keyboard. I think it might be time for a new computer!!
myrna (not verified)
Reformat Windows
Hope you can help me..I want to reformat my computer. I have an old computer from a friend, Windows 2002, service pack 2. Intel pentium 3 processor 601 mhz 128 mb of ram.. its still working but very slow. I am not pamiliar in computer. I do not know what is the right thing to do to make my computer work faster.do I need to upgrade this computer or just reformat good enough..tnx
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Reformat Windows

I would reformat it first.. If it's still too slow, then upgrade the RAM.. Using the older version of Windows it should run pretty quick.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Should I reformat my computer?
My computer got a virus that caused audio programs to play randomly. Should I reformat to get rid of it?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.