How to format a Windows PC

How to format a PC

Over time, your laptop / desktop PC might start giving you suicide signals like getting annoyingly slow, taking ages to startup, regular hanging or crashing, the Blue Screen of Death etc. These issues don’t just spring up in one day, they are accumulated effects of some things you might have been ignoring or doing wrong over a time period. You could attempt to address these numerous issues your laptop / desktop PC is having but when they become too many or too frequent, you might want to consider formatting the PC.

What does it mean to format a laptop / desktop PC?

To format a PC means to wipe all user preferences, settings, data and files off a chosen partition on the hard drive of the PC and then prepare it to be used by another Operating System or reset to factory state / near factory state.

What is my hard drive?

Your hard drive / hard disk drive (HDD) is also your C: drive which you see when you go to ‘My Computer’. It is a data storage device used for storing and retrieving digital information using rapidly rotating disks (platters) coated with magnetic material. A More recent technology is the SSD which doesn’t require mechanical motion to read-write, making it faster. All your files and other important Windows files are stored here.

When should I format a PC?

There really isn’t a standard that defines when you should consider formatting a PC or what problems your PC must have before you consider formatting. It’s a thing of choice / personal discretion but I usually advise clients to format their laptop / desktop PC when it has too many OS related issues or such issues keep re-occurring despite having adopted corrective measures. I – for one – format my PC once a year just to clear deep rooted errors.

How often can i format a PC?

You can format your laptop / desktop PC as often as you wish but bear in mind that time and again computer reformatting reduces the efficiency of recovering lost files from your hard drive. It could also damage your hard disk; when this happens, your laptop / desktop pc wont startup (see ) . Bottom line is, format a PC only when you REALLY need to.

How do i backup my important files on my laptop / desktop PC?

It is very important you know how to backup a hard drive. You could backup your files to another partition on your laptop / desktop PC or to an external hard disk drive (see ). To create a new partition on your PC:

  • Open any folder.
  • In the left pane, right-click on My Computer.
  • Click Manage
  • In the Computer Management window, click Disk Management.
  • Right-click on the partition you want to shrink (create another partition from) then select shrink (shrink only works if the selected partition has enough vacant space)
  • The partition will be queried for available storage space you can remove to create a new partition
  • Select the size you want to shrink the partition to ( Original partition size – size after shrinking = size of newly created partition) then click Shrink.
  • After this new partition is created, right-click on it and select New simple volume
  • Choose the new partition’s details like its drive letter, size etc.
  • Note that storing your files on a new partition on your hard disk drive is not advisable because you might still retain virus and malware on your PC even after you format the PC.

To backup your files to an external hard disk drive:

  • Get an external hard disk drive with enough storage capacity to hold your files.
  • Connect the external hard disk to your laptop / desktop PC
  • Copy all your important files to the external hard disk.
  • Use the safely remove feature in your system tray at the bottom right

Can I still recover my files after accidentally formatting my laptop / desktop PC?

Yes, you can still recover your lost files after accidentally formatting your laptop / desktop PC. If all you did was an Operating System overwrite (Installed a new Operating System to replace an existing Operating System) then your files should still be stored on your PC at My Computer > C: > Windows.old (see ).

If on the other hand, you did a full format, then you need a good data recovery software like Icare Data Recovery . You could also read this article at

What are the advantages / benefits of formatting a laptop / desktop PC?

Formatting is a very quick and less stressful way to fix extreme OS related problems on your PC. It saves you the stress of having to do a lot of debugging especially when more than one issue is at play. In a case of malware / virus invasion, formatting your PC is your sure bet when you can’t lay your hands on a good , updated antivirus or your antivirus (for some reason) doesn’t seem to be helping. Formatting enables your PC boot faster and respond better. Summary is, formatting a PC gives you a clean slate, a fresh start.

Are there any problems associated with formatting a laptop / desktop PC?

The major issue you might face after you format a PC is how to get back the important drivers and frameworks for that PC. If for some reason, the formatting-OS installation process was interrupted due to a power failure or any other reason, your desktop / laptop will not startup if the roll-back fails.

Why can’t I right-click on C: and select format just like i format my flash drive and memory card?

Recall I told you earlier that your C: contains your Windows Operating System files. You can not delete these files while in use. This is why you can only format your laptop / desktop PC from outside Windows.

What would I need to format a PC?

Depending on your method of choice, you will need either a Windows setup DVD or a Windows Bootable flash drive if your PC doesn’t have a functional CD or DVD drive

How do I format a PC?

Its very helpful to know how to reformat a computer. Formatting a computer with windows 7, 8 or Vista is not a difficult process. the steps are:

Using Windows Setup CD/DVD or Bootable USB

1. If you don’t have the Windows Setup CD / DVD or your laptop / desktop PC does not have a functional CD / DVD drive then create a bootable flash drive using the windows ISO file you downloaded from the Microsoft website and the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool  (see )
2. Insert the Windows setup DVD into the DVD drive then boot the PC. If you’re making use of a bootable USB drive, connect the flash to the PC then boot it.

3. Look out for ‘press any key to boot from CD / DVD’ and press any key as soon as you see this. If the flash or disc is not being recognized, boot your PC into BIOS / Setup ( The button needed to enter setup / BIOS is usually displayed on startup; F10, F2 , DEL or whatever is displayed) > keep tapping the required button to enter BIOS > your BIOS might be a little different but at the horizontal tab at the top, click each item to look for the option to change boot order > Change boot order to allow the PC boot first from the DVD drive or USB first > Save

4. You should see ‘Windows is loading files’


5. After this, you should see the Windows logo with 3 drop-down boxes. Change the language, time and currency format or keyboard settings if need be then click Next


6. Click ‘Install Now’

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7. Wait for Setup to start

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8. Select your preferred OS from the list then click Next

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9. Tick the box in front of “I accept the licence terms” then Click Next

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10. Click on the Custom (Advanced) option

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11. Highlight the drive you wish to format and click Drive options (advanced)

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12. Click Format

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13.  After format, you may proceed with the OS installation (see )

What other things should I take note of when it comes to formatting a PC?

  • Ensure your laptop / desktop PC is either fully charged or connected to an AC power supply because you do not want your battery going flat in the middle of a format / OS installation.
  • Formatting a computer with windows 7 or any other Windows OS could be very helpful but ensure you have access to the drivers for your laptop / desktop PC else you migtht not have a pleasant experience using the PC after the format.
  • Before going ahead to format, it is important to try as many corrective measures to fix your laptop / desktop PC issue (see ).
  • Consider installing and updating an antivirus on your PC before you move your files back.

see the video tutorial below or @

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