Formatting your computer and re-installing Windows

Formatting your computer and re-installing Windows
Formatting your computer and re-installing Windows (Windows XP)
by Dr. Daneel
Note: Before starting, please read this guide the whole way through to make sure you
are prepared for each step and also to ensure that you do not accidentally move on
when you should have completed or set something else.
You may want to print this guide before starting.
Before you format your computer, you will need to back up any files or folders you want
to keep, as you will lose them when you format. The process is irreversible, so be
extremely careful that you have everything you want to keep stored safely on DVD or
another computer before continuing.
1) Once everything is backed up, insert the Windows installer CD into your drive. If you
are doing this from within Windows, the Windows XP installer will open and ask if you
want to install Windows XP. This is the easiest way to do the install, so try it this way
first. If you can do it this way, then please skip ahead to section (2) after you computer
has restarted. If that doesn’t work for some reason, or you have a new computer with
no operation system on it yet, you will need to restart the computer and boot from the
Windows XP disk.
To boot from the CD drive, you will need to enable booting from the disk drive in the
BIOS. On most computers, you can enter the BIOS by pressing delete or F2 repeatedly
just after you turn the computer on. If your computer is different, pay careful attention
to the screen that first comes up, and it will usually tell you - it should say ‘Press <key>
to enter setup’.
Once you are in the BIOS, use the arrow keys and Enter to look for a title or option
called ‘boot order’ or ‘device boot order’ (or similar). It may be under a submenu called
‘General configuration’ or ‘Advanced configuration’, but not always. You will then need
to look for an option called ‘boot from removable media’ or similar (other common titles
include ‘boot from CD/DVD drive’ and ‘boot from optical drive’). Move this option to the
top of the list, or enable it if it is disabled, then move it to the top of the list. Be careful
not to change any other settings while in the BIOS, as you could cause you computer to
work incorrectly, or not at all. While in the BIOS, there will usually be instructions on
what each item you select does, as well as instructions for changing each item – make
sure you follow these instructions, otherwise you may set the item incorrectly.
Once this is set, save and exit the bios (pushing escape usually will ask you if you want
to save and exit, otherwise navigate to the save and exit option with the arrow keys).
Provided you have the Windows XP disk in your CD/DVD drive, the computer will ask
you if you want to boot from CD. Push a key when this comes up.
2) The Windows setup will load some files, then come to a screen asking you if you
want to set up Windows now. Press enter to continue, as we do want to set up
Windows. Follow the prompts until you get to the screen showing the existing partitions
on your hard drive. If you are reinstalling Windows, there should be ‘C: Partition1’ and
‘Unpartitioned space’, but there may be more items (ie, ‘D: Partition 2’). If you have
any important information on any of these partitions, cancel out and back this data up
before returning to this step. If this is a computer with no operating system, you won’t
have any items listed apart from the unpartitioned space.
If you have existing partitions (ie, ‘C: Partition1’), then select the appropriate option to
delete it. Continue deleting partitions until you are left with the one option,
‘Unpartitioned space’. Press enter to set up Windows in the unpartitioned space. It will
tell you that the selected partition is not formatted and ask you which format option to
go for. Pick ‘Format the partition using the NTFS File system’, making sure you do not
use the quick option. This will perform a full format, which results in better
performance at the end of the day. Go make a cup of coffee now – formatting
generally takes about 20-30 minutes for an average hard drive, however it can take as
long as two or more hours depending on the size of your hard drive (a 750GB drive
could take 3 hours).
3) Once the hard drive is formatted, the computer will copy some files from the installer
CD to the hard drive, then reboot the computer automatically. Instead of pressing a
key to boot off the CD this time, don’t push anything and the computer will continue
with the Windows installation itself. Simply follow the prompts, input any information it
asks for, and leave the network settings as ‘Typical’.
4) That’s it! You’ve re-installed Windows! Now all you have to do is install or update
any missing drivers for your hardware. Your computer may appear to be running very
slowly and with a low resolution. This is normal, bear with it until you finish installing
drivers. The system disk that came with your computer or motherboard will contain
basic drivers for items like onboard audio and onboard network. Once these are
installed, visit the graphics card manufacturer’s website and download the latest drivers
for you graphics card. Install these and your computer should be back at full speed
again at the correct resolution (you may need to set it in display options). Make sure
you auto-adjust your LCD screen at this point so that your screen adapts to any new
settings. If you’re a die-hard pro and have a CRT, set it up through the good oldfashioned OSD and make sure you’re using the highest refresh rate your screen
supports at that resolution so that your eyes don’t become strained (60hz will cause
your eyes to become sore after a period of time). Install any other drivers (for
peripherals like printers, cameras and scanners) as well as any key software you might
need such as Office or Firefox, and you should be done! Congratulations!
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