How to Wipe a Hard Drive Clean & Reinstall Windows

by James Werning ; Updated September 28, 2017

Items you will need

  • Windows Installation Disc with Product Key

  • Internet Connection (optionally to upgrade software)

Reinstalling Windows is a drastic measure that should only be done if all other possible fixes have failed. The online Microsoft Support Center has good troubleshooting advice that should be tried before reinstalling Windows. However, some problems like invasive viruses are easier dealt with by wiping out the hard drive and starting over. The bright side about reinstalling windows is that your hard drive will be cleaner and your computer will be faster once again.

Windows 7

Back up all important data files. Insert the Windows installation disc into the CD/DVD drive.

Click the “Start” button, click the triangle to the right of the button, then click “Restart.” The computer will reboot and you will be taken to the installation page on the installation disc. Enter your language preference. Click “Next.”

Click “I accept the license terms.” Click “Next.” When asked which type of installation you prefer, click “Custom.” Click drive “C:” when asked where to install Windows (unless you have another drive label you prefer). Check the option to format the hard drive. Click “Next.”

Follow the instructions to name your computer, set up your user account, and set up your personal preferences.

Windows Vista

Back up all important data files. Insert the Windows installation disc into the CD/DVD drive.

Click the “Start” button, click the triangle to the right of the button, then click “Restart.” The computer will reboot and you will be taken to the installation page on the installation disc. Enter your language preference. Click “Next.” Optionally check the choice to get important update information via the Internet. Click “Next.”

Enter your 25-character product key. Click “Next.” Click “I accept the license terms.” Click “Next.” When asked which type of installation you prefer, click “Custom.” Click drive “C:” when asked where to install Windows (unless you have another drive label you prefer). Check the option to format the hard drive. Click “Next.”

Follow the instructions to name your computer, set up your user account, and set up your personal preferences.

Windows XP

Back up all important data files. Insert the Windows Installation disc into the CD/DVD drive.

Click “Start,” “Turn Off Computer,” and “Restart.” The computer will reboot and you will be taken to the installation page on the installation disc.

Click “Install Windows” (or “Full System Recovery,” which will be the option on some recovery discs). Click “I accept the license terms.” Enter the Product Key from your CD when prompted to do so.

Enter all user information when prompted to do so. Enter personal account and profile information to complete the installation. When finished, click “Start,” “All Programs,” and “Windows Update.” Follow the instructions to upgrade your operating system to the most recent Service Pack.

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About the Author

James Werning has authored books and articles on various websites. His scripts have aired for more than 15 years on radio stations across North America. He is a small business owner and a world traveler with a master's degree in communications from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

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