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.


Thank you very much for d info,it helps me a lot...:)

I havea HP Pavilion computer. I reformatted the hard drive. Afterwards, I wanted to update the service pack and drivers for the Windows home edition xp. I am unable to do so. i have tried to windows update, the fixit agent. Nothing happen. I still have service pack 1

My laptop won't get past the Start Up Repair option, goes htrough the whole process, reboots but then goes straight back to it. I had to reformat my device almost 2 years ago with the help of tech support and a lot on codes he asked me to input...can't seem to find my way to online support. I don't have the cd that came with my device.

I have an old HP Pavillion and wish to ensure all my personal data is gone before selling it/giving it to someone. The computer did not come with any discs, just windows XP, media center edition 2005 installed. I have a lot of good programs and hardware installed, like a new card to run two monitors and a good sound card. I don't want to wipe all programs and spend the next day and a half installing drivers, I just want my info gone. I am not a computer guru, but I know just enough to be dangerous, mostly to my self. Can you help?

Of course, the best (most secure) thing to do would would be to reformat or 'Nuke' the drive.  If as you've mentioned you don't want to do that, one other choice would be to just selectively remove all of your personal data. 

To remove only your personal data without formatting the entire computer, first, identify every piece of software you use (or have used) that stored personal data or information.  Then, for each piece of software identify where that program stores it's data - then, delete that data and (optionally) uninstall that software.  Then, be sure to run a "secure erase" on the drive because any data that is simply deleted in Windows is easily recoverable. 

The risk of doing it selectively instead of formatting the whole drive is that you might miss/forget a program, you might mis-identify where the data was stored and not remove it, or, the software could leave bits of info in the registry after uninstalling.  How serious all this is depends on what kind of data and information is/was on your computer.  If all you ever did was surf the web and edit photos, then no big deal.  If on the other hand, all of  your financial info, etc is on the computer then you will have to be extra careful.


won't performing a "nuke" take out the operating system?

Yes... obviously the OS would then have to be reinstalled. This is why i then said "as you've mentioned you don't want to do that"

I reformatted an older gateway computer and while trying to reinstall win xp i received an error about a memory dump. What should I check first? Any help greatly appreciated.

Check your RAM. Re-seat it and test it with a free RAM testing program.

Reformatting your windows xp computer will erase everything on your hard drive and reinstall the operating system.. To avoid losing your data you will want to backup your information prior to reformatting..


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