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.


Microsoft restored my Windows 7 PC to Factory Settings and I didn't back up my files. I have tried Restore to a time before the Factory Settings but cannot recover Dropbox and Word Files. Can you assist

Aren't the dropbox files in your Dropbox at

Will there still be a windows.old file if you choose to format before new installation of windows vista? I searched hard drive for the file. No results. Thank you b4 hand for your response.

There will never be a Windows.OLD file after a format. You would only see Windows.OLD if you reinstall or upgrade Windows. When you format, EVERYTHING is gone from the drive so there is no way to save the .OLD.

I am contemplating reformatting my windows 8 laptop. I think i have viruses or worms, not sure. I am not getting any pop ups but i do not have any access to my documents through the desktop or toolbar. If i click on the files on my desktop or toolbar it never opens, the laptop flickers.

Help please. I am very frustrated.

I have a custom built pc, and i want to reformat my pc with win 7 (curently on win 7)... im just worried will all my hardware still work properly after the format? because i didnt get driver cds from the cpu parts... please help.. what are the most imp't drivers? so i can ready it before i reformat.. thanks.

Most important is probably the video driver and the network adaptor card driver.. get those two before you begin and have them saved on a USB drive or something, then you can search for any manually that Windows cant find/update itself after the format.

Hi! I have a toshiba. I was using it when my mouse stops functioning then all apps freezed.. I had to reboot it.. When it restarted, i got an error message that a hardware or software may have malfunctioned. And im stuck on that page.. Tried safe mode everything but it wont load.. Do you think reformatting my laptop is the best option now?

as long as you have a good backup of anything you care about and know what you're doing, you have nothing to lose by formatting it.. It's possible you have hardware issues though. If you reformat and it keeps freezing, that's probably the case.

Hi, i have recently installed a clean version of windows 8 on my machine that was running vista. I have come to use my remote desktop connection but no longer have the IP address i was connecting to. The IP address used to appear automatically when i opened RDC. Is there anywhere i can find this info within windows 8. It did save a 'windows.old' file when i installed would it be hidden somewhere in there? Thanks in advance.


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