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.


I have a dell laptop model #pp18l. I'm unable to get into it because we've forgotten the password. Can I reformat to stay over? If so how?

I have a computer that was given to me and I wanted to start from new. What other options do I have?

You will need a full-install Windows CD, and that's about it. You can get a Windows CD from the computer store or online but be sure you get the "FULL" version, not the cheaper "upgrade" as you probably won't qualify for the upgrade.

how re-format windows 10 that was upgraded from an earlier windows? windows 10 is bad news as an upgrade but fine on a new computer.

You will need to reformat with the previous version that you upgraded from.

This new and unrelated question has been moved here: mouse curser has flashing blue circle.

My computer is messed up. I can search the web, but if I download anything and try to run it wordpad comes up and says can not run in DOS mode along with what looks like a bunch of nonsense letters and such. It also does this when I try to open most files.. I tried to do a system restore but it won't open.. Any suggestions before I attempt to reformat? I've never done it before so I'm pretty sure I'm going to make it worse.. Thanks

I constantly get a not responding program or super laggy games when i'm opening up a game. i'm only running with stuff thats maybe a couple years old.

Ive been downloading (at least trying to) download apps since last yearbut I cant downloasd it. I still have a gb of free space but even a small app cant get through. I dont know if the Store is the problem or what. Please help me because this is so inconvenient. And frustrating. Thank you.

hello and good evening,

ive had my laptop for approx 3 years and its very tempermental...i probably have viruses from when i allowed idiots on my computer and i dont even have any fuctioning virus protection now and even my connection to my wifi sucks when theres no way it should......please help me!!!


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