How to reformat and reinstall Windows Vista


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Created: 02 Sep 2007 ::: Last updated: 03 Sep 2007

Applies to:   Win95   Win98   WinMe   Win 2000/NT   WinXP   WinVista   MacOS

Keywords: reinstall, reformat, windows, vista

By Andy Walker

There will come a time when you will not only want to wipe your Vista system clean and reinstall it, but you will have to.

I recommend strongly that you first back up all of your personal data from your user folder. My user folder is called "Andy" (which is my log-in name) and its located at c:\Users\Andy\.

That's where you will find the contents of your user folders including Pictures, Videos, Documents and Desktop as well as other folders that might contain personal data.

If you are looking for a safe place to back up your personal data, try Carbonite On-line Backup, which gives you space on the Web to safely store your personal files. There's a 15 day free trial.

Please note that a much more detailed step-by-step explanation of the Vista backup process with additional techniques is available in hard copy in my book Windows Vista Help Desk. I dedicate three chapters to this process, including detailed backup, wipe and restore information. Take a look inside Windows Vista Help Desk here

Ok, assuming you have backed up everything, let's move on. The next part is destructive. You will lose everything on your computer. So be sure you have reinstall discs of all programs or the ability to download and install programs again.

There are two options to approach the reformat:

  • Option #1: Boot from the Windows Vista DVD. This is more complicated to do, but it destroys all data and partitions.
  • Option #2: Re-install Vista without leaving the desktop. This preserves the previous installation in a folder called Windows.old. Not all info is wiped, however, and you can't destroy your partitions.

Choose Vista reinstall option#1 - Hard, but thorough.

Choose Vista reinstall option#2 - Easy, but not thorough.