How to Format A Hard Drive

As wonderful as computers are, they require proper maintenance and upkeep to continue working properly. Additionally, files become fragmented, damaged, or infected with viruses as you continuously use your machine. When this happens, it is usually good practice to format your computer and start with a fresh install of your software.

Backup Important Documents

Before you format, make sure you have copied any important documents. As a starting point, here is a list of things you may want to save:

  • Application Installation Files
  • Drivers
  • Emails
  • Spreadsheets, Papers, Business/School Files
  • Pictures
  • Passwords (use an exporter if you have saved passwords in certain browsers)
  • Application Settings (manually track settings for programs if needed)
  • Spreadsheets

After you have secured your backup files, it is safe to proceed.

Remember, some of the files you are backing up may be corrupted or damaged. Because of that, you may want to scan them for malware to make sure you are not putting malicious files back onto your machine after a fresh install.

Format Drive

The easiest way to ensure the entire drive is formatted properly is to do it during the process of re-installing your operating system. To begin this process, you need to insert your operating system CD/DVD into your machine and restart. During the restart, you need to be sure to boot from that CD/DVD. Once you enter the setup area, you can then safely format your drive and begin setting up partitions.

Format Windows XP

Partition Hard Drive

It is not required to setup a partition on a hard drive, though it may make less work for you in the future. Partitioning a hard drive basically means dividing it into separate parts for file storage. You can create multiple partitions if you want, though many experts suggest having only one or two. Some prefer to have a partition for system files and a partition for storage. The easiest is to continue with a single partition and continue with the installation process.

Partition Windows XP

Install Operating System

After setting up the necessary partitions (if any), you can begin the installation process. In most cases, you can simply follow the prompts on screen as the operating system installs. During the process, you will need to enter information like the computer name, password, networking details, location/time zone, and possibly your registration details. Enter in the necessary information and allow the operating system to install completely. After your operating system finishes installing, your machine will reboot automatically.

After the reboot, you want to make sure to NOT boot from the CD/DVD this time. You want to boot from the hard drive and load your new operating system. If you boot from the CD/DVD, it will want to begin the format and install process again. Avoid this!

Install Software

After getting your system back up and running, you will need to reinstall your drivers and software applications. Drivers are required to allow your hardware and software to communicate. You will need drivers for your motherboard, video/graphics, network/wireless, sound, digital camera(s), external drives, printer/scanner/fax, and any other hardware that is connected to your computer.

Also, you will want to run Windows Update to download all necessary Service Packs and security patches/updates. It will likely take multiple downloads, installs, and system reboots before you have the necessary updates to Windows. Plus, this will be an ongoing process to make sure your system is updated and secure.

After you have drivers and Windows updates, be sure to install your software applications. These include Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), browsers of your choice (Chrome, FireFox, etc.), photo editing programs, games, iTunes/music players, Skype, or any other programs you use. Make sure you have secure versions of these applications. If not, download updated installation files from the trusted source.

The last thing you want to do before you begin using your machine is to download and install anti-virus and anti-malware programs. This is a vital step to ensure your computer remains safe and secure.

Enjoy Your Fresh Computer

Now that you have formatted your drive and installed updates, drivers, and your applications, enjoy your hard work and take care of your machine. Be aware of other applications, toolbars, or files you download and install. Having your anti-virus and anti-malware programs running will help to prevent malicious threats as you continuously use your machine.

Lead Editor (Bio)

Allen Quinn, Editor
Hey everyone, Allen here. I've been involved in tech support roles for more than 15 years and understand the pains and frustrations associated with broken computers. It's my goal to provide you with the help and knowledge you need to get and keep your computer in working order.

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