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Reformat and Reinstall FAQ

Last updated: 13 April, 2006

Is there NAUGHTY
stuff on your computer?

Learn to scrub any traces
with our FAQ. Click here.

Q: Do I have to reinstall and reformat?

A. It's a good idea, but if you don't want to commit the time and effort then there is software that might help improve your system performance click here for info

Be sure to scroll down through all the categories of questions to find the answer you are looking for. To reinstall a specific operating system get step by step instructions here

General Questions about Reinstalling
and Reformating

Q. Do I really have to wipe my hard drive and reinstall Windows? Click here

Q. Is there an easy way to back up my data first before I reformat?Click here

Q. I need a new hard drive before I do any of this. Where can I get one? Click here

Q: I don't have my Windows XP CD anymore can I still reinstall and refomat? Click here.

Q. Will reformating my hard drive degrade or damage my hard drive? Click here.

Q. How often should I reformat and reinstall Windows 95/98/Me/XP? Click here

Reinstall and Reformat Questions Related to Specific Versions of Microsoft Windows

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows XP?
Click here

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive if I have Windows NT or 2000? Click here

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows Me?
Click here

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows 98 Upgrade? Click here

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows 98 on my computer? Click here

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows 95 on my computer? Click here

I have one version of Windows and I wanna go back

Q. I have Win 2000 or NT installed. How do I go back to Windows 95 or Windows 98 or Me? Click here

Q. I have Win XP installed. How do I go back to Windows 95 or Windows 98 or Me? Click here

Related questions for reinstalling and reformating

Q. I have a laptop computer with only one drive slot, so I can only put in either a CD-ROM drive or a floppy drive, but not both. What do I do? Click here.

Q. I want to remove some or all of Windows NT or Windows 2000 from my machine. How do I do this? Click here.

Q. How do I reinstall Windows 95/98/Me without reformatting my hard drive? Click here.

Q. I am really, really, really stuck and I need a real person to help me. Can you recommend someone good?
Try our help forum or click here for personal help via email ($20) . See other help options.

Q. I have a PC that does not have any data on the hard drive (it was formatted). I have a Windows 98 installation CD from the PC manufacturer. What steps should I take to load Windows? Click here

Complicated Questions

Q. I have Windows NT and Windows 95/98 on the machine that with a dual boot set up. How do I remove just Windows NT? Click here

Q. My system tells me to use the DRVSPACE tool (Drivespace) to format the drive. Can you help? Click here

Q. I reinstalled and now there are two copies of Windows XP on my hard drive. Click here.


Boot Disk and Driver Questions

Q. How do I make my computer boot from my Windows XP CD ? Click here

Q. What is a boot disk? Click here.

Q. Can I get a boot disk off the Internet instead of making one? Click here.

Q. I just want to make a Windows 98/Me boot disk? How do I do it? Click here.

Q. I just want to make a Windows XP boot disk. How do I do it? Click here

Q. I just want to make a Windows 3.1 boot disk. How do I do it? Click here.

Q. When I reformat and reload Windows, will drivers be automatically installed from the Windows CD, or will I need to find them from somewhere? Click here.

Q. I created the Windows 95 boot disk as you suggested but when I reboot the system says I don't have enough memory. What's up? Click here.

Q. I created a boot disk and put it in the floppy drive and rebooted, but the computer ignores it and goes to the C: drive as usual. What do I do?
Click here.

Partition or Multiple Hard Drive Questions

Q. How do I use FDISK to parition my hard drive after reformatting and reinstalling Windows? Click here

Q. I hate FDISK, is there a better partitioning tool? Click here.

Q. I have two hard drives. How do I reformat both and reinstall Windows 95/98/Me? Click here

Q. I have two hard drives and each one has a virtual drive so I have C,D,E and F drives. My CD-ROM drive is "H". How do I reformat all of them? Click here



After Reformatting
and Reinstalling

Q. After a reinstall, my monitor now only shows 16 colors. How do I fix this? Click here.

Q. After a reformat and reinstall my [printer, mouse, scanner, whatever] won't work. How do I fixed this? Click here to update its driver

Windows 3.11 Questions

Q. Will I lose my settings when I upgrade from Win 3.11 to Windows 95/98/Me? Click here.

Q. How do I upgrade from Windows 3.11 for Workgroups PC and install Windows 98/Me? Click here


Other Questions

Q. Where can I buy the Windows Millennium Edition on-line? Click here.

Q. Where can I buy the Windows 98 Second Edition upgrade on-line? Click here.

Q. How about some other links to reinstall and reformat web pages? Click here

Q. I still can't figure it out. Where can I get help? Click here.

Questions and Answers - Long Versions

Q. How can I back up before reformatting?
A. It's a good idea to backup all the data you can't replace - like word files, spreadsheets, pictures and other data files. Reformatting will destroy them all. But backing up is a headache so create a storage area on the web using CarboniteClick here to learn more

Q. Do I really have to wipe my hard drive and reinstall Windows?
A. Maybe not. There are a few options. First try scanning your system for bugs with PC Bug Doctor. It'll find stuff that makes your system crash and clean it out (caution: the scan is free, the fix is not, but it's a useful diagnostic tool at least). Click to download the free scanner

We also highly recommending cleaning your Windows registry as this is the filing cabinet that keeps track of what's in Windows and when it gets messy, you computer crashes and becomes unstable -- Click here to scan your registry for free (the scanner is free, the fix is not on this one too, but also a useful diagnostic tool).

Try cleaning up up your Windows startup process -- it will immediately speed up your PC. Learn step by step with our how-to video.

Finally, try SpeedUpMyPC. It has a variety of great utilities to speed up Windows, make the Internet load faster, cleanse memory and generally enhance the performance of your desktop. Read our review.

There's also lots of advice on this page to scrub your drive and start fresh afterwards. Be sure to come back!

Q. I need a new hard drive before I do any of this. Where can I get one?

A. Try here: Hard Drive Options

Q: I don't have my Windows XP CD anymore can I still reinstall and refomat?

A. Sadly you cannot completely wipe your hard drive and install a fresh version of Windows unless you have an installation CD either from your computer maker or bought from a retail store.

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows 95?
A. Click here for detailed instructions.

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall
Windows 98?

A. .Click here for quick instructions Click here for detailed instructions.

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall the Windows 98 upgrade?

The process is exactly the same as the Windows 98 reinstall (see item above) with one exception. If you have a Windows 98 upgrade CD, you will wipe the hard drive then install the Windows 98 CD as if it was a full version, but during the setup you'll be asked by the system to prove you have another Windows product that you've upgraded from (i.e. Windows 95, DOS, Windows NT, etc). So you'll have to have that CD or disk handy and put it into the drive when prompted. The setup program will check the disk to make sure you are eligible and then the installation of the uprgade will continue.

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me)?
A. Click here for detailed instructions.

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive and reinstall Windows XP?
A. Click here for our XP FAQ

Q. How do I reformat my hard drive if I have Windows NT or 2000?

A. Click here for our NT/2000 instructions

Q. I have a laptop computer with only one drive slot, so I can only put in either a CDROM drive or a floppy drive, but not both. What do I do?
A. Click here for help on how to do this.

Q. I have Windows 2000 or NT installed and I want to go back to Windows 95 or Windows 98. How do I do that?
A. Click here for an excellent help file on how to do this.

Q. I want to remove part or all of Windows NT or Windows 2000. How do I do that?
A. Try these instructions from Microsoft.

Q. Do I have to reformat my hard drive before installing Windows 95/98/Me?

A. No. Put the Windows install CD in your CD-ROM drive (usually your D: drive). Locate the "Setup" program on the CD with Microsoft Explorer. Double click it. Windows will reinstall without affecting your settings or data. Run Windows Update on the START menu afterwards to update the system with any fixes or patches from Microsoft's web site.

Q. Where do I find CD-ROM drivers for my Windows 95 boot disk?
A.
You can find them at these sites: Try here first: DriversHQ, and then try,
The Driver Zone, WinDrivers.Com, WinFiles, or Frank Condron's World o' Windows.

Q. What is a boot disk?
A. Here's a column that explains what a boot disk is for: Click here.

Q.
Can I get a boot disk off the Internet instead of making one?
A. Yes, you can get a boot disk creation program or see detailed instructions on how to build one for almost any version of Windows from this site.

Q. I just want to make a Windows 98/Me boot disk? How do I do it?
A. Creating a Windows 98/Me boot disk is easy. If Windows 98 came factory-installed with your machine then one may have been supplied with your documentation. If not, you can create one through the Control Panel. Go to Add/Remove Programs and click the "StartUp Disk" tab and click the "Create Disk" button. It will create a boot disk on a blank floppy for you with CD-ROM support.

Q. I just want to make a Windows XP boot disk? How do I do it?
A. On a Windows XP computer, put a blank disk in the floppy drive then double click the "My Computer" icon on the Windows desktop. Next click the floppy disk drive to select it. On the File menu, click Format and then in the box that appears check off "Create an MS-DOS startup disk", and then click the "Start" button on that box. Looking for an NTFS boot disk for NT or XP? Try here

Q. I just want to make a Windows 3.1 boot disk. How do I do it?
A. Use this site and use the DOS 5.0 boot disk maker.

Q. How do I reinstall Windows 95/98/Me without reformatting my hard drive?
A.Put your Windows CD in your CD-ROM drive and using Windows Explorer double click setup.exe in your "D" drive. Follow the instructions.

Q. Will I lose all my settings when I upgrade Windows from 3.11 to Windows 95/98/Me?
A. No. If you don't reformat your hard drive and simply install Windows upgrade over the current version of Windows all of your settings will be retained.

Q. When I reformat and reload Windows, will drivers be automatically installed from the Windows CD, or will I need to find the drivers from my CD burner from somewhere else?

A. It depends on when the CD burner was added to the computer. If it came shipped as part of the original system then if you use a system restore disk that came with your computer (if you have a name brand computer like IBM, HP, Compaq or Dell), it will be restored to the way it worked when you bought it with the CD burner drivers all working. If you bought the PC and added the CD burner later, then Windows may not recognize the burner. However you'd just fix this with the install disk that came with the burner (assuming that you still have it). You could also download the driver from the Internet. (Click here for links). If you're using a newer version of Windows like Windows 98 Second Edition or Windows Millennium Edition then it probably has built in drivers that will identify the CD burner and make it work without a problem.

Q. My system tells me that the drive I am formatting is a compressed drive. It tells me to use the DRVSPACE tool (Drivespace) to format the drive. Can you help?
A. In Windows 95/98/Me, click the START button then Programs, then Accessories then System Tools. Select Drivespace. Select the C: drive. Click the "Drive" menu (at the top left) and click "Format".

Q. How do I upgrade from Windows 3.11 for Workgroups PC and install Windows 98/Me?
A. Buy a copy of Windows 98 upgrade (or Windows Millennium Edition upgrade edition for DOS/Win3.1/Win95) and insert the floppy disk into the floppy drive and put the Windows 98 CD into the CDROM reboot the computer. Select "Start Computer with CD-ROM support". At the DOS prompt (A:\>) type d:setup and hit the return (or Enter key). Follow the onscreen instructions.

Q. How often should I reformat and reinstall Windows 95/98/Me?
A. Windows and Windows programs tend to get bogged down on themselves and scatter all kinds of files on the hard drive. The Windows registry also gets full of entries and the startup routines get bogged down, some of which get left behind even after a program is uninstalled. A reformat and reinstall once or twice a year is advisable to keep a system free of the various bits of garbage and useless entries in the registry.

Q. I have two hard drives. How do I reformat both and reinstall Windows 95/98/Me?
A
. Follow the instructions on this page to reformat the C drive and reinstall Windows. Then when the reinstall is complete go to the DOS prompt and type: format d: to format the second hard drive.

Q. I have Windows NT and Windows 95/98 on the machine that with a dual boot set up. How do I remove just Windows NT?
A
. Follow this how-to on Microsoft's Web site.

Q. I have two hard drives and each one has a virtual drive so I have C,D,E and F drives. My CD-ROM drive is "H". How do I reformat all of them?
A. Follow the instructions on this page to reformat the C drive and reinstall Windows. Then when the reinstall is complete go to the DOS prompt and type: format x: where "x" is the drive letter of the drive that needs to be reformatted. So you would type reformat d: then when that was done you'd go back to the DOS prompt and type reformat e: and so on.

Q. I have a PC that does not have any data on the hard drive (it was formatted ). I have a Windows 98 installation CD from the PC manufacturer. What steps should I take to load Windows?
A. Use another computer to download and create a boot floppy disk from www.bootdisk.com. Put the boot disk in the floppy drive and the Windows CD in the CD ROM drive and restart the machine. Select "Start with CD-ROM support" then at the A:/> prompt type "D:setup". Hit Enter and follow the instructions.

Q. Where can I buy the Windows 98 Second Edition upgrade or Windows Me on-line?
A.
Try Amazon or eBay:

Q. Will reformating my hard drive degrade or damage my hard drive?
A. No. The process makes the drive heads work intensively, but a reformat is mearly a proces that changes the magnetic properties of the hard disk, which is was designed to do.

Q. After a reinstall, my monitor now only shows 16 colors. How do I fix this?
A
. You need to update your video driver. See this column.

Q. How do I use FDISK to partition my hard drive after reformatting and reinstalling Windows?
A.
You may as well ask how do you perform a root canal on yourself. Consider picking up Partition Magic by PowerQuest. See a review here. Buy it here. If you really insist on torturing yourself with FDISK then see the resources on this page. Or Microsoft has a pretty good guide here. A guide to using FDisk with Windows Me is here.

Q. Got any more info on Fdisk.exe and Format.exe?
A.Yes, see Microsoft's very useful page.

Q. I created the Windows 95 boot disk as you suggested but the system says I don't have enough memory. What's up?
A.
Make sure you have the HIMEM.SYS reference in your config.sys file and made sure you copy the HIMEME.SYS file from the root (C:\) folder or DOS folder (C:\DOS) onto you floppy disk.If it's there double check that the Windows 95 disk was created correctly. If you still can't make it work, for goshsakes go out and get yourself a copy of Windows 98 or Windows Me, you'll save yourself so much time and grief.

Q. I created a boot disk and put it in the floppy drive and rebooted, but the computer ignores it and goes to the C: drive as usual. What do I do?

A.
Your BIOS is probably set up to skip the floppy drive and read the C: drive on bootup. This can be changed by entering the SETUP utility. You can get into it when you machine boots...usually by pushing F5 or F8 or some similar Fx key. Then change your boot sequence to start with the floppy drive. If changing BIOS settings seems scary, get some help. You should not be messing around in the BIOS without some guidance. We can help for a small fee

Q. I still can't figure it out. Where can I get help?

A. If you want an immediate answer, try our Emergency Help page.

Q. How about some other links to reinstall and reformat web pages?

A.Check out our reformat and reinstall links page. Click here

Q. I hate FDISK is there an alternative?
A.
Yes, we do too, go download Partition Manager or get a copy of Partition Magic. They are much easier to use and a must for anyone who is serious about carving up their hard drives

Still need help? Click here to get personalized help for your computer.

Is something missing from this FAQ? Why not make a suggestion? Click here.

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