Windows - reinstalling

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NOTE: This page is a daughter page of: Windows

This page is about re-installing Windows. I wrote it back in 2010, but should still be relevant to Windows 7 and 8.

Why Reinstall Windows

Over time, Windows loses stability. As you put/install stuff on your computer, the "junk" collects... and your computer will become full of spyware, bugs and extra processes which slow down your PC (especially during startup) or destroy it completely. If your computer gets too crowded, crashes all the time or catches a nasty virus, it's time to format it and re-install everything, which is a bit scary the first time, but is something we should all learn to do! It's about keeping your computer clean.

If you keep a computer for more than two years, at some point you're going to have to bite the bullet and reinstall Windows from scratch. You don't necessarily have to reformat your hard drive to install windows (see here), but I would recommend it.

So how do you re-install windows? It's easier than you think.

NOTE: these instructions were written for Window XP, but the process for Windows 7 and later operating systems should be very similar - the main difference is that documents are under a "C:/User/username" folder.

Re-installing Windows

  • (1) Copy all your data (documents/pictures/music/movies etc) to a second storage device.
    • I have lots of data (>100 GB) so I copy data to a slave disk drive, but for many people burning to CDs/DVDs and/or USB drive is an easier option.
    • To be safe make TWO copies (on separate devices).
    • Data usually includes your "My Documents" folder (for each user), but you may also want to copy:
      • "Shared Documents" (C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Shared Documents)
      • "Favorites" (C:\Documents and Settings\<Your Name>\Favorites)
      • NOTE: For EVERY program you have installed there may be important data and settings which you should save/export/make note of. For example: MS Outlook (addresses/calendar), FTP programs (bookmarks).

  • (2) Write down ALL the programs you want to install and make sure they are on hand (in the form of installation CDs or .exe files on a separate device).
    • Go: Start > Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs and write a minimal list of the program you want to install.

  • (4) Check that you have any necessary drivers. *IMPORTANT
    • NOTE: Your motherboard probably came with a CD full of drivers which you will need to have access/control of the sound card and MORE importantly the network card... If you have lost the CD try typing "componentName driver" and you might find a downloadable version on the internet which you can burn to CD

  • (5) Make sure you have a working windows installation CD and serial number!

  • (6) Unplug your internet cable & make sure you have a recent anti-virus CD.

  • (7) Format your primary drive & reinstall Windows.
    • If you have Windows XP: Turn off your computer, then restart it with either your Windows CD or the setup disks. During the setup process, you will have the option of formatting your hard drive; choose that option to erase your Windows installation, and proceed with the reinstall.
    • If you have an EARLIER version of XP the process is a bit different... you may need to format C drive first and THEN reinstall... more instructions are here.
    • If your computer restarts into Windows instead of going to a blue install screen (even though the installation CD is inserted) you probably need to Change the BIOS boot order.
    • The blue window's setup screen may take a while to load, but once it has:
      • Hit enter (to setup Windows - unless you want to try a repair 'r')
      • Hit F8 (agree) then Esc (fresh install)
      • Now you should select "c:1 Partition 1 ... NTFS ' drive c'" ... or the option that most approximates this.
      • Select the option "Format the partition using NTFS file system" (not the quick option)... then F
    • The process might take about 1 hour to format (so watch some TV) + about 30 minutes to install (where you actually need to enter region stuff etc).

  • (8) Copy across your data.
    • "My Documents", "Favorites" etc.

  • (9) Install drivers - starting with the driver for your network card so you can access the Internet.

  • (10) Install anti-virus software, do a scan and THEN plug your internet cable back in.
    • NOTE: If you connect the internet without virus protection you'll be surprised how quickly you can catch something.

  • (11) Reinstall your other programs individually from your original install disks.
    • NOTE: May of the program you may need might include drivers for printers / cameras / ipods etc. If you don't have these CDs on hand, don't panic... it's often possible to go to the product website and find/download the latest appropriate driver for that hardware.