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 you reinstall your motherboard drivers that should do the trick, this happened to me last week..

I have a dell inspiron 1100, it came with windows xp .It have windows 7 on it now . DELL said windows7 is not compatllable . I want windowsxp back. Can you help?

It should be pretty easy to get your XP back.. first, backup everything on the computer that you care about - photos, documents, etc (your stuff).. then, confirm that the backup was good and that you can read those files from whatever you backed it up to.. You only need to backup the things you have created. Software/programs you will have to reinstall from their original source..
Then, find your Dell "Restore CD", pop it in, reboot (press the option to boot from CD if it asks) and follow the directions. This should put your computer back to the way it was they day you bought it - XP and all.. Then, apply all the Microsoft patches and service packs, re-install any software you need, and you're done!

IF the 'stuff' on your computer is critical and/or you feel uncomfortable doing any of this, you may want to lay down the $75 or so to have it done professionally..

I dont have a restore cd. This laptop is 7yrs. old. It was given to me as a gift Is there anything else i can do?

You will have to acquire either a Restore CD or a new Windows install CD AND all the drivers specific to that laptop. You might be able to call Dell, and they may send it to you for just the cost of shipping..
Otherwise, you will need to buy a FULL (not upgrade) Windows XP cd - maybe from eBay (but buyer beware!!) ..

Dont forget - if there is anything on that laptop that you care about get it BACKED-UP! part of the process of formatting and going back to XP is erasing everything on the computer...

I reiterate my earlier statement that if you are uncomfortable doing this or arent sure how to do it, etc, take it to a professional - they usually have XP CD's laying around that they can use.. you wouldnt try to fix the transmission in your car without the right tools, or with the right tools that you dont know how to use.. guided only by instructions that some strangers on the internet gives you... would ya?

For all people complaining of comp problems. I am a beginner and my hard drive crashed a few months ago. I bought a new 500 GB drive for $96.00 and a Recovery CD. They even include a CD for the Drivers on my computer. The best! I think I paid $39.00 for the cd which is not much compared to taking it to the Geek Squad. My computer is up and running just fine. I retreived all the data needed from my SLAVE Drive and am now going to reformat. Take the time and look up all information online. It's all there for free. All in all I spent $135.00 and I have two Hard drives now. Here's the site for the CD they have all kinds. The Hard Drive I got from I hope this helps.


need to reformat my computer running xp (its slow) when i put the xp cd in the cd drive waiting for the system to start on the xp cd.. it doesnt . ( bios=i put the cd drive in 1st priority) checked the cd drive and it working ok , is there is possiblity that there is no start up in the xp(home edition) cd? is there a other way to format the computer throghe the running xp system? thanks

Okay, my computer was destroyed beyond repair by viruses, and the only thing i can access is internet. I cant download, upload, install, or anything anymore. i cant get into my computer, control panel, or even CMD. Im reformatting my computer with XP, but after i reformat, do i need to install any drivers if all i have are the internal ones? All i have are the original things my computer came with, nothing else added.

if you have a 'restore' CD from the hardware manufacturer, it should have everything you need. If you just have a "Windows XP" CD, it might have everything you need .. or, you might have to go searching for a few drivers afterward.


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