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How to reformat a hard drive

By George Garza
Info Guru,

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If your computer is operating slowly, you might find that reformatting your hard drive gives new life to your trusty laptop or desktop
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Reformatting a hard drive isn't as overwhelming as it might seem.

If you notice that your computer is sluggish, that you're applications don't run as spiffily as before or that you have just been hit by a virus, you might find that it's time to reformat your hard drive. This process can also help when you've tried to clean up your hard drive with a variety of fix-it tools, but they don't seem to work.


What Is a Reformat?


Reformatting is the process in which you completely erase all the data from your hard drive. You will be eliminating all your files and data and even your operating system. You will erase any and all software installed on your computer. The process is irreversible. Once you start a reformat, there is no going back.


Why Should You Reformat?


Sometimes there are programs that interfere with other programs in such a way that they render your system unworkable. Sometimes as a user there are instances when cleaning the entire system will purge any defects of software conflicts.


Another reason would be contracting a virus. In order to completely insure the removal of a virus, reformatting your hard drive may be necessary. When your computer seems sluggish and you haven't reformatted in a long time, you might find a reformat will breathe new life into your machine. A large, cluttered registry and software applications will eat away at all your resources.


Before You Format


Back up anything you need. This does not include your actual programs. Only save the working documents such as any Microsoft Word document, personal homework, email, Internet favorites, games, music and pictures. But be aware that you will have to reinstall all of your programs once you reformat your drive.




Make sure you wrote down all of your computer's drivers for all of your hardware. Write down all the pertinent system information. You need to know the manufacturer and model of your video card, printer and cd-rom drive. Most computers bought from Dell, Compaq and Gateway come with a drivers and utilities disk. This will provide you with the information you need to re-install your programs.


Activation Codes


In order to prevent software piracy most software manufacturers will provide a set of product or activation codes available to legitimate purchasers of the software. When you start to reinstall, you may have to produce those codes to continue. 


Internet Connection


When you reformat, you will also lose your Internet connection. It might be a good idea for you to call your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and ask them to provide you with the IP address, subnet mask and gateway. Many times this information will be automatically downloaded when you connect. But you have to have the appropriate software to do this. Usually the Windows operating system you're using will have it.


Firewall and Security Issues


To protect yourself from viruses and hackers, you will need a firewall. Windows XP comes with a personal firewall. Check your settings to make sure that you record that information, so you can recreate it.


How to Reformat


1) Format from inside Windows


2) Open up Windows Explorer (not the Internet Explorer browser)


3) Click on the Start button


4) Right click then select Explore


5) Go to the C drive (Local Disk C:) and right click


6) Format is one of the options. Click Format. You will see a box pop up with a variety of options. You can do a Quick format, if you check the box and press Start. Otherwise you will do a standard format that will take more time


7) When the reformatting begins, all you'll see is a status bar indicating the percentage complete. When it is done, the computer will ask for a name. Hit the enter key. The hard part is done now. All that is left is to re-install Windows


8) Reinstall Windows


9) You must re-boot your computer, and with the Windows CD in the cd-rom drive, you will boot into installation mode


10) Once Windows finally finishes installing, usually 20 to 30 minutes later, start installing your applications. This includes the drivers. Connect to the Internet if necessary. Then reinstall your data

Reformat or Re-Partition

Another way of cleaning up your hard drive is by partitioning. When you repartition, you can break a hard drive into different areas. For example, you'll call one area Drive C and another Drive D. You'll then reformat each one separately. Special software like Partition Magic is available that will allow you to do that. By breaking up your hard drive into different areas, you can put some applications in Drive D, others in Drive C. They can be more manageable this way.


So how do you reformat a hard drive? Very carefully. This should be done with caution. If you aren't careful, you could end up wishing you hadn't even begun the process.

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