How To Reformat Your Windows Computer

Formatting Your PC Should Be A Last Resort!

Reformatting your Windows computer is usually the absolute last resort when trying to resolve problems 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 thinking of formatting 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 format 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.


If your only issue is that the hardrive is full, then I would vote for just cleaning it up which is far less drastic than nuking the whole thing!

Uninstall any software you dont need and delete any data files you dont need (like those giant music/video files you dont really care about, etc).. Dont forget to empty your recycle-bin! Usually this will cure a full hdd (hard drive) .. if not you can find free utilities that can help you identify where your storage space is being used, so you can focus what else to delete/clean.

If you have other issues (crashes, slow, etc), then reformatting might be a better idea.

my windows xp laptop wont startup successfully,do i need to reformat?

You could reformat and that would help IF it is not a hardware issue - or you could troubleshoot the problem first/instead - but that may take a long time.

I have a Dell computer with windows xp. My Internet explorer keeps messing up and have to send in reports all the time on it. It did that before then i had to end up redoing the computer. Now Internet explorer is worse then ever. someon told me that it is cause what ever problem i have on my computer did not clear up when I had to use the resource disc on my computer. I did not do a complete fresh installation of the recource disc. I did just what the techs told me to do. So what ever problem I had before is still there but i don't know how to reformat my computer all the way. It cost so much to have it done. Please help me with this issue. also I don't know what to do to back up everything. I am new to doing things like this on the computer. thank you

If the data on your computer is important, it may be worth it to take the computer to a professional and have them back it up and fix it for you. Would you try to fix the transmission on your car without the right tools - or with the tools that you dont know how to use??

I have reformatted my Dimension b110. I have done this before to comps without any problems. I have loaded the driver resource CD, I am missing my LAN. I have went to the Dell site to download drivers for this, I have used my flash drive, it will not load onto the reformatted comp. I have nothing available to install it with. Any suggestions?

you might try to figure out what type of LAN card is in the computer and get the drivers directly from the manufacture. Also, on some older Dell's there are two LAN ports - if yours has two, make sure you are using the right one.

I am attempting to sell my Dell computer and would like to get all personal information off of it. Would a reformat be the best route if I have all the CDs to do so? I cleared internet files, cookies, etc and deleted any personal files I could find but want to make sure everything is gone for good before I sell it. Thanks!

So, I have a used computer that I picked up, All the folders are organized in an unfamiliar way, it likely has a virus (or viruses), various programs to customize it that I never actually use, and supposedly has multiple harddrives to increase RAM. I've had it for a while now, and it often lags. I'm not particularily attached to my files, Would reformatting be the best option? If so, would I lose the syncing of the other hard drives? Running Windows XP (pro?)The other two hard drives supposedly have windows 7. (Theres a select drive creen at startup, but I get an error if I pick anything other than XP) In short, my computer is a kind of a mess. Please help.

i want to reformat to simply start all over again the only thing i would like to save is my music how would i go about saving that besides an additional hard drive or flash


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