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.


guys i want to format my computer but dont hav any cd but my friends computer is also XP can i use his cd for formating?? please please please please help meeeeeee

I have a Windows XP Home Edition SP2 from dell, and I want to know if it's ok for me to reformat another pc using the same product key as my dell laptop, because i found the product key of the pc has been erased on top or on back of the CPU where it is usually placed, and the OS of the pc is XP but not Home Edition.

I have read some of the comments on other websites, that I may use the same cd, and i'm assuming that the product key can only be used once..if both computers will connect to the internet.. but if only one computer will connect to the internet, would it be ok to use the same product key..?

and/or is there any other options to get a product key...?


Hope this messages gets read....Having a problem with my labtop. I was having many different issues with virus's and such with is so I reformatted it as I had in the past with an active killdisc. Now the issues is that My computer wont let me install my windows xp disc again. The computer starts up with the Toshiba logo, then goes to a black screen that says nothing other then NO OPERATING SYSTEM INSTALLED. I have bios starting up by reading the cd/dvd drive first then hdd (hard drive) and you can hear the disc being read but it does nothing. IM SO STUMPED!!! Any help or suggestions would be great. Thanks so much

Are you sure your laptop is set to boot from the CD? And have you booted up on this particular CD before ( do you know it is a good, bootable Windows CD?)

Yea, I changed it in the bios boot menu and toshiba also has at startup hit f8 to change boot menu. Cd/dvd are first. Also I had used this cd numerious times to install Xp after formatting. Not sure if it has anything to do with it but the reason i formatted was because anything I tried opening up, i would get messages popping up saying 1)expolore has encounted a problem and needs to close and 2) Dr wattsons port mortem debugger has encountered and has to closed. After i hit either send or do not send , it just freezes up the screen. Not sure if that indicated any hardware issue or anything. Im just clueless from all this.. thanks for the quick reply Btw

both my brother has toshiba laptops, the problem is when you reformat, the programs that came with the computer are not partioned so it erasing everything, even the operating system unlike dells. The only thing i could tell you is make sure the cd that you have goes with the model number of you laptop, if its a different year or any other thing it will not work.

i just recently moved and when i got to the new house and set evertthing up my computer wouldn't completely boot up. when i turn it on it goes through the first few stages and then it will sit on a black screen w/ the mouse cursor in the middle and if you let it sit for a really long time it will eventually go to the blue screen where it says that windows is starting up but that is as far it goes. A friend said that it could possibly be from when i downloaded some video drive from online. i would rather not have to reformat it but if it won't boot up then im guessing i probably have to. what do you think and do you think i could reformat it on my own?

After trying to resize my OS drive w/ Partition Magic I couldn't get my OS up and running again. My image restoration software failed on me too. Now I want to bite the bullet and just reformat the drive and reinstall Windows XP on my PC. But I can access my former OS drive (where I also installed 100s of other programs) if I install XP on another drive. So I'm thinking I could save time by installing a clean XP on another drive, then copying over some files from the former XP drive. Obviously I'll need to also get some system info copied over too. Is there a way to just copy over the entire registry? Is there anything else I'd need to copy over?

Thanks for any help!


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