How to Wipe Your Computer Hard Drive & Literally Start All Over

By Lita McLeary

Reformat your hard drive and reinstall your operating system.
i bare oem hard drive image by davidcrehner from

Reformatting is the process of wiping off data from a hard disk and installing a new operating system. This is a last resort when the computer becomes unbearably slow, when errors pop up every now and then, when a computer crashes or when you simply want to change your operating system.

Back up important files while you can. Once the computer is reformatted, all data in your hard drive will be erased permanently. Save your files to an external storage device such as thumb drive, CD or DVD.

Ensure that you have all software discs or installation CDs/DVDs for all your hardware devices including printers, scanners, motherboard, video card, etc. If you do not have them, open "Control Panel," "System" and then "Device Manager." Take note of the models and versions of the hardware devices in your computer. You will need these in case you have to download drivers from the Internet.

Set the computer to "Boot from CD." To do this, you must access the BIOS by rebooting the computer, and then pressing a key that corresponds the BIOS. Set your CD/DVD-ROM as the first "Boot Device Priority" or something similar. Also set the hard disk as the second boot device. Save your settings, exit the BIOS and wait for the computer to reboot.

Place the operating system's installation CD inside the optical drive of your computer. When the computer prompts you to "Press any key to boot from CD..." immediately press any key. Wait for the setup screen to appear. Follow the instructions to delete the current partitions in the computer, and then create new partitions once the old ones are deleted.

Format the partitions by selecting "Format the Partition using NTFS File System." Wait for the computer to format the drives. When the computer reboots, you will be directed to the operating system installation. Follow the instructions to finish the process. At some point of the installation, you will be asked to input the "Product key" of the operating system installer. Type it on the space provided and continue with the installation process. One it is finished, install the device drivers and transfer the files that you backed up earlier.