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.

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Heather (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
My computer didn't come with any windows disk or anything so if i was to format it how would i get everything back? and the problem i am having is my computer is all ways freezing even on start up and if i dont move the mouse after a min it will do it all again and freeze's up on me and i have to shut down 5 times repeatedly for windows to pop up then again after it lets me log on some times mores will formatting it really help my computer
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Hubby
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Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

If you dont have a recovery CD or Windows installation CD, you wont get everything back.. Actually, you would have difficulty even doing the reformat without downloading something to do the formatting with.
If your compurer is relativly new you might be able to contact the manufacturer and get a free or low-cost recovery CD set and/or Windows CDs.. Otherwise you will have to buy them.
If you have to buy your CDs it might be worth a trip to the local computer shop where they can sell you the CDs and do the whole reformat and everything for you.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
this guy is wrong. Now adays you don't have to have a cd, as most computers no longer come with restore disk. as far as getting anything back, it depends on what you're wanting back. when a reformat is done, your computer should be as it was the day you originally got it from the store. if you're reffering to personal files, then you either need to back them up or take the loss.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
sir all the software are already delete.. now im looking for some software need.. my os is winxp.for example is microsoftword... sir theres no audio card.. every time i want to listen to the music in my computer.. my computer looking for audio card.. its not play...how i install the sound???
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
Your computer was probably originally made for a different operating system... Such as windows vista... That could be one reason you cannot hear any sound, i had the same problem myself. Or you may need to buy a new audio card made for windows xp.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
running windows 7 home prem. and when my toshiba starts up it give me the opions for f2 and f12 after it passes this screen the screen goes black and windows will not load up whats this mean
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Do I need a reformat
This comment has been moved here: Do I need to reformat?
S.J (not verified)
Re: Device Names before formatting

My 9 month old or so Laptop is giving me a Graphics driver has stopped responding and has recovered error a while ago. It's been a while since it has come back up but just today it did thus limiting what applications I can feasibly run. I don't really want to reformat my laptop but see it as the best solution as it will also clear any other problems for a longer period.

I've got two recovery discs that came with the laptop, one being for the OS (Windows 7) and one named "Application and Support Disc" which I'm guessing includes all the software that it came with including drivers, would it still be recommended to take down all the device names?

Many Thanks

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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Device Names before formatting

Hopefully it won't be necessary, but if it turns out you need an exact device name after formatting, it will have been well-worth the 4 minutes you spent writing them down.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
okay so i have a problem, i might have downloaded something that is harmful to my computer, i found it was and i went to delete it/ uninstall it and it said i don't have permission. keep in mind "norton" has apprently run out and i have nothing to protect myself with.
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Format computer

Try the free version of MalwareBytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org). It can probably remove whatever you have.
if Malwarebytes fails, or you just want a clean-start, then doing a reformat or 'restore' will surely cure it but remember that everything will be erased. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that if you havn't kept up your antivirus, you havn't been doing backups of your critical 'cant live without' stuff either?

.. if you are going to use Windows (as opposed to a Mac) you must use an antivirus. Mac or PC, you must backup up anything you care about.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Format computer
okay, but will reformatting delete everything off my computer? (including all the files in my C: drive that helps my computer run?
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Formatting a Windows computer

YES...
this is why it is important to have a backup of everything.
Be sure to backup all your "data" - this is the 'stuff' you have created such as documents, photos, music, videos, internet favorites etc
Be sure you have your original software discs to you can reinstall all of the programs you have. you dont need to worry about 'backing up' your software, because you should have the discs (or info to re-download if you downloaded from somewhere)
If you use 'web based' email (ie you go to Google.com or yahoo.com for email) you dont have to worry about your saved email. If you use outlook or some other email program that stores your email on your computer, you will have to backup those emails - how you do this depends on your email program

BUT...
When you use your Windows disk or manufactuers "restore" disk, it will first reformat your hard drive (erasing everything) and then it will re-install windows and everything that makes your computer run - the same as it was the day you bought it. This means that as soon as your computer is back up and running, you must then re-apply all of the windows updates and security patches, the very first thing you do.

IF...
any of this makes you feel uncomfortable, or if the 'stuff' on your computer is life or death, "cannot lose at any cost", then you may want to consider paying a few $$ to the local computer place to do it for you (anyplace but GeekSquad who will simply rape you based on my experience). My next door neighbor services his own transmission but no way i would try doing it myself based on instructions on the internet.

Robyn (not verified)
Reformat computer before selling
If we are selling our laptop and we want to wipe the laptop clean of everything, would you suggest reformatting?
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Reformat computer before selling

YES - either reformat, or use the manufacturer's 'restore' CD (if they gave you one); or better, check out DBAN (dban.org) to really "nuke" it.

Joshua (not verified)
please help, my pc runs on windows 7 keeps coming on and going off
This comment has been moved here: PC keeps turning off
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
does every data get erased when i format the system or only the data present in c drive gets erased
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

When you format, you do it by partition (drive letter); so if you format drive C:, EVERYTHING on C: is erased, format drive D:, everything on D gets erased, etc.. if you do a system restore (from the manufacturer), or Windows reinstall, IT may wipe "everything" (all drives) but will usually give warnings - it is very important to have backup's of anything you care about at all times, not just when about to format.. and READ, UNDERSTAND, and follow the prompts and messages when doing the reformat/reinstall.

Misundu (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
Hi, my old laptop kept coming up with the "start windows normally" screen.No matter what option I selected there was no response. I rebooted from the recovery disc which came with it and it starts fine with what I would call a very basic windows screen. No wireless or anything. but I can't access whats on my C:drive. It's like it has a separate drive altogether. I know the stuff is still on there because I can access it through "My Computer". I've tried to reformat but it won't do it. It just goes back to the windows screen. Any suggestions. Thanks
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
How to reformat PC window 7 starter(dual core) . My hard drive have a partition of A and B .. which A (1g) and B(1g).. Please sent to me the process or step on what I do? Thank you very much..
meme (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
need help in my desktop. its running on windows xp. i can't save nor delete any files from my documents. it keeps saying the disk is either protected or disk is full. i have a lot of memory free from my drive. how do i deal with this? do i need to reformat my computer?
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Reformat Windows

something is broken. A reformat would surely cure it, but that is usually a last resort - if you have everything backed up, you could probably reformat and be done in a few hours. To deal with it without formatting, you will need to troubleshoot, starting with the exact error messages you are getting and any errors in your system logs. If you are good with Windows this may not be a big deal.. If you are not familiar with the inner workings of Windows and/or dont have the time/patience/desire to become familiar, a trip to the computer-man may be in order.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Reformat Windows
my laptop computer doesn't on hardware radio to activate wifi... can you help me please.....
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
my laptop computer doesn't on hardware radio to activate wifi

Yes..
Post a new thread/topic here: my laptop computer doesn't on hardware radio to activate wifi

In that new post, describe your problem in more detail, explaining what kind of laptop you have, what version of windows it is running, what you are trying to connect to, whether or not it ever worked, what happened between the time it did work and the time it stopped working, what *exact* errors or messages you get, and any other detail about the problem... Also be sure to include your level of technical expertise..

THEN i can help.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
Every time I start up my computer I have an error message that states website restore error.I was thinking that I need to reformat my hardrive..Do I...?
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Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
format computer

Is that the exact wording of the error? It's probably fixable depending on your expertise level or how much you are willing to spend.. Formatting is usually the last resort - but as long as you have everything you care about backed up, you have your original Windows or restore disks, all the disks to restore any software you've purchased, and you know what your'e doing, reformatting will probably also fix it..

Obsichan (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer
Lately, my computer can't run normally, forcing me to use Safe Mode. Whenever I attempt a AV scan, try to run Windows Repair, or simply let it idle on the login screen, my computer completely freezes up and becomes unresponsive. Should I, as such, reformat it?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
reformat freezing PC

if you have all of your origiinal install or restore disks, and all the data that you care about is backed up, formatting probably won't make it any worse!

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

Hi There,

Our computer has basically shut itself down. All we can get is the "please insert system disk and press enter" screen. However, when we do that, nothing happens. We can press the F10, and get to the main tab, where it isn't recognizing any drives. We can change it to the hdd (hard drive), and save, but nothing happens. It runs on Vista. Is there a program that I can download from my laptop, and put on flash/disks, and try to run on my pc? Or perhaps you have another suggestion? I've checked the wires to make sure they're tight.

photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
reformat computer from USB flash drive

it sounds like you have a hard drive or (worse) hardware issues.. there are many programs that you can download to a USB drive and boot from, to perform diagnostics.. Many are free..
Depending on your level of experience and expertise, and your pain threshold, it could be time for profesional help.

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