Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 2/25/05 How to reformat your hard drive

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) February 23, 2005 2:34 PM PST

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2/25/05 How to reformat your hard drive

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 2/23/05 2:34 PM

Thanks you Dana and everyone who participated in this week topic. I encourage all of you who have more suggestions, methods, or questions regarding the hard drive reformatting procedures to post below. The more information that we share, the more we can all learn from each other as a community.

Thanks again everyone!

-Lee Koo
CNET Community


Question:

I'm currently running Windows XP Pro. Can you please give me
step-by-step instructions on how to reformat my hard drive
and start fresh? I have many peripherals attached: a printer,
a Webcam, a 64MB video card, a video capture card with TV and
FM, and an external modem. Thank you.


Submitted by: Ricardo R.


Answer:

Ricardo,

Let me start by saying that a complete reformat and reinstallation of your operating system is something that is often required when a computer system has just become too damaged to continue attempting repair. Over time, viruses, spyware, installing and uninstalling programs, and errors that compound themselves can eventually bring even the fastest computer to a grinding halt. Many avid computer users plan a complete restore once every year or two just to keep things running smoothly. Having said this, there are a number of steps you should take before reformatting, as well as things you can do to help speed up the process the next time.

First, keep in mind that reformatting and reinstalling Windows brings your computer back to the first day that you used it. You will lose everything that you installed and saved to your hard drive since that first day. This includes any online updates. It is extremely important that you have backed up all the data that you want to bring back to your computer. Word documents, photographs, music, address books, and e-mail are just a few examples of the things you might want to save. Dont assume your backups are good. Double-check backups by reading the files or restoring a few of them back to your computer and viewing them. Dont forget to run a complete virus scan on your saved data to prevent bringing back viruses that you may have had.


A few notes on backup: There are a number of methods and programs available for backing up data. Check each of the programs that you use for a built-in backup routine. Programs such as Quicken and Act! have their own backup routines (usually under the file menu). If you use outlook for email you can down load a backup routine from Microsoft to save your emails and address books. Windows XP Pro also has its own backup program under Programs-Accessories-System Tools. XP Home does not come with a backup program by default, but is available on the original installation CD.

Second: Check to make sure that you have all the installation disks for the hardware that you mentioned as well as any software that you originally installed. Download and save to CD all updated drivers and software for your Video Card, printers, scanners and any other hardware that you plan to use. If you have downloaded any programs, you will need all your Key codes for them as well.

Ok, lets get started on the reformat and restore process. You did not mention the make or model of your computer, so there is one of four possible methods available to you.

A. Built in Restore Many newer computers come with a built-in restore process saved to a second partition on the hard drive. This can usually be accesses by pressing a key during the boot process. For Example: Pressing F10 during boot on HP computers will bring you to a restore menu. Check your computers manual or online to see if you have this option.

B. Restore CDs Some computers come packaged with a set of Restore or Recovery disks. The first disk is a bootable CD and is inserted into the CD drive during boot-up.


C. Original Windows XP Disk If you dont have either of the above, then you will have to use your original Windows XP disk (you will need your Installation Key Code). If your XP CD is an upgrade version, then you will need an old Windows 95, 98, ME disk as well.

D. No CDs and No Restore Partition If you have lost your Restore CDs or never received any and your computer does not have a restore partition, you can usually order a set of Restore CDs from the manufacturer of your computer for a minimal charge of about $20.

STEP-BY-STEP

A. You Have Built in Restore

1. Backup All Data.
2. Unplug all USB devices like printers, scanners and palm pilots. If you have several internal cards that you added after you purchased the computer, you may need to remove these.
3. Check Manual for proper key to press for restore or it may show up on the opening screen.
4. Enter restore mode.
5. Follow onscreen instructions. (takes about 30 min)
6. Install Drivers for special hardware (hardware that did not come with computer)
7. Check Device Manager for any Yellow Exclamation Points indicating missing drivers or errors. Click START-CONTROL PANEL-SYSTEM-HARDWARE-DEVICE MANAGER. (Select Classic View) If you have any Yellow Exclamation Points, you will probably need to install drivers for these devices from your CD for that piece of hardware.
8. At this point you have a fairly clean installation and it is time to Update windows. Download and install all Windows updates, especially Service Pack 2 (if not already at SP2).
9. Install and setup any additional external hardware like printers, scanners, Palm pilots, etc. Install each one at a time and reboot and test before installing the next item.
10. Install additional software that you have on CD like Office, Quicken and Photoshop, except Antivirus software. Again install one at a time, reboot and test before going on to the next.
11. Once you have all the hardware and software installed and running, it is now time to install any security products that you may have like antivirus software, Software Firewalls and Spyware/popup blockers. (you dont want to have too many redundant programs running)
12. With Antivirus software up and running and updated online with the latest virus definitions installed, you can now go online and look for updates for other software or download programs that you want to reinstall.
13. Using whatever method you used to backup your data, you can now restore your data back to your computer. Dont do this until you have antivirus software running. You dont want to bring back viruses that may have caused your original problems.
14. You can now go in and tweak your settings to what ever you like, add screen savers and set things up the way you want.
15. Now that everything is up and running just the way you like it, it is time to backup your settings. I prefer to use something like Norton Ghost to make a disk image of this state. If you want to reformat and restore your computer again in the future, you can restore it back to this point instead of all the way back to the beginning, saving a huge amount of time. You could also use Windows XP Pro Backup to make a recovery set. I also recommend using Windows Restore to save a Restore Point at this point. Some people like to set a restore point after each of the steps above in the event that something goes wrong along the way.

B. You have Restore/Recovery CDs

1. Backup All Data.
2. Unplug all USB devices like printers, scanners and palm pilots. If you have several internal cards that you added after you purchased the computer, you may need to remove these as well.
3. With computer running, insert Recovery CD in drive and restart computer. Note: Make sure your CDs are clean of any finger prints and smudges by wiping them from the center out. If recovery window does not come up you may have to go into your bios and change your boot order to boot from CD first. (Check your manual for exact key sequence to enter the bios settings)
4. Enter restore mode.
5. Follow onscreen instructions. (takes about 30 min)

Follow Steps 5 thru 15 above


C. Using Windows XP Disk
1. Backup all data.
2. Unplug all USB devices like printers, scanners and palm pilots. If you have several internal cards that you added after you purchased the computer, you may need to remove these as well.
3. With computer running, insert Windows XP Installation CD in drive, ignore the installation screen and restart computer with the CD in the drive. Note: Make sure your CDs are clean of any finger prints and smudges by wiping them from the center out. A short message will display Press Any Key to boot from CD Press key quickly. .If your computer will not boot from the CD, you may have to go into your bios and change your boot order to boot from CD first. (Check your manual for exact key sequence to enter the bios settings)
4. Windows will now load some setup files and if you need some 3rd party disk drivers such as those required for some SATA drives you will have only a moment to press F6 to do this. Otherwise wait until you see the Welcome to Setup screen. This screen will display your current disk partitions. I would suggest using the D key to delete the current windows partition and then use the C key to recreate the partition. NOTE: If you have a fairly large hard drive I would suggest creating 2 partitions. One for the windows operating system and another for your data. This way if you want to reinstall windows again in the future, you data will be safe on the 2nd partition.
4a. Once you have created the partition or decided to keep the original partitions, Windows will format and start to install windows as well as prompt you for your Code Key for the CD case. This should take about 30 to 60 minutes.

Follow Steps 5 thru 15 above



Sorry about the length of this, but you asked for step-by-step and did not supply enough information to narrow down the response.

Good Luck!

Dana H.
Wayland Computers
http://www.waylandcomputers.com

Submitted by: Dana H. of Wayland, Massachusetts

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