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How hard is it really to reformat?

I have a computer now that I'm giving to someone else in my family, but before I give it up, I want to clean it up, I just don't know if I'm ready for the struggles of a reformat. Is it really THAT tough? It's running Windows XP. Thanks.

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RE: Reformatting HD

In reply to: How hard is it really to reformat?

If you are unworried about the family member being able to access your data, all you need to do is reinstall Windows XP from the original disk...a guided process that takes about an hour. However, if you want to securely erase your data, the process becomes a lot more tedious.

Reinstalling the OS simply hides the experienced compuuter user, or just someone with a good program, could still recover most/all of your data. To completely wipe the hard drive, you should run a progam (such as WipeDrive) that completely erases your data, replacing it with a random combination of 1s and 0s. It is also recommended that you run the program at least 3 times (the government does it 7 times) to make sure data such as passwords, bank info, etc. are completely erased.

This process can take a couple of hours (though pretty much automated), but is well worth it if you want complete privacy/security. However, it is sometimes cheaper/easier to simply smash the hard drive with a hammer a few times and buy a new one. It just depends how private the data was, and how much time/money/effort you are willing to put into it.

Hope this helps,

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The first option sounds better

In reply to: RE: Reformatting HD

I think option one is more my style, I don't think anyone will be hunting for anything so it's not a HUGE concern, but I'd like tracks to be at least somewhat covered. If I did just reinstall Windows, would I then have to go through the trouble of re-installing drivers . . . and everything else?

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Format ONLY

In reply to: The first option sounds better

step by steps to do it......takes longer to READ than it does to DO it, if you aren't going to try to save anything on it. Printer friendly page link without graphics at the bottom.


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That site looks good

In reply to: Format ONLY

Before I do it, what do you think the chances are that I'd screw up?

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Since you are planning on

In reply to: That site looks good

'wiping' the drive, the Format command is nearly impossible to screw up because that's exactly what it is for.

Once you have issued the Format command, you will get a warning asking if you are sure you want to do that because all data on the drive will be gone, and once you choose (Y) and depending on how large the harddrive is that C: partition will empty out and be ready for new data to be installed, including the windows operating system.

Just make sure that you have the Product Code Key ahead of time for W98, ME, or XP and you can get that info out of the registry per those instructions on the site for W98 and ME. XP won't be in the registry, but can be located using Belarc if you can't find the number. Just don't format the drive until you have what you need.

And make sure you have the drivers installation disks or downloaded ahead of time and burned to a cd. Belarc can ID all the hardware for you by mfr and model number. If you can't burn the downloaded drivers to a cd, then at least get the mfr and model numbers of what you have for devices so when you get back on the net with it, you can then download the drivers and install the newest ones ASAP.

If you get the drivers AFTER the format, you will have to temporarily set up an internet connection to get them, and then remove the internet connection information before giving the computer away....or set it up with that person's internet information for him/her and get the drivers. Then advise him/her to get to the Windows Update Center ASAP to get what's needed to get the system up to date.


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Ah, Thanks

In reply to: Since you are planning on

I guess when I reinstalled Windows I'd also be creating a new admin account/password? Because that is something else I'd have to fix before turning it over. About how many drivers would I have to install? This is a Dell Inspiron 9100 laptop.

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Some questions and a link

In reply to: Ah, Thanks

The page above is for the downloads area of that particular model number........however, I had forgotten that you have XP and not W98/ME. If you have the installation restore/recovery disks for that Dell and it includes XP AND THE PRODUCT CODE KEY, you can set the bios to boot from the cdrom first and then you can just insert the cd into the drive and the installation will format and install automatically according to the on-screen directions.

Once installed, you may or may not have to activate XP again via modem or phone, depending on what type of vendor disk you got. Most vendor disks are licensed to not have to, but you won't know unless you get a window asking if you want to activate now. If you get the warning about that, you will have 30 days to activate XP or one day after that you will boot up the computer and not get past that screen until you call and activate it.

The vendor cd will include all the drivers already and are specific to that computer so you won't have to do anything except go to the Windows Update Center to get the updates, and possibly download the newest drivers from the link I gave above in case you need/want them.

Virus and spyware protection will also have to be installed later.........and any and all programs that the family member wants.

About the only directions you will need from the FORMAT ONLY site I sent you to before are the ones about saving your own personal data to a cd before wiping the drive.

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I think I'm going to do it, but first:

In reply to: How hard is it really to reformat?

Firstly, Does this webpage ( properly describe the steps to reformatting? I only ask because it's got pictures, and the dummy in me appreciates that. Second, what is "BIOS" I keep hearing about it and setting the computer to boot from a CD and . . . what do I need to know about it? Third, Do I need to create a "boot disc"? I have the disc labeled "Reinstallation CD Microsoft Windows XP" that Dell gave me, is that all I'll need? Real stupid questions, I know. And finally, the reason I'm interested in formatting this one computer is because I'm getting another from Dell, do you reccomend I format it first so I can wipe off all that Dell pre-installed crap on it?

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The first site I linked you to

In reply to: I think I'm going to do it, but first:

with the steps doesn't have pictures, but it is more detailed about what types of files you should try to save ahead of time. The format instructions at that link are actually only a paragraph or two long at the bottom because the instructions are so simple for formatting. If you were removing or changing partitions on a harddrive, the steps are more complicated and there is a page for that, too, at that site. You're choice on which site to use for the formatting instructions.

Formatting will not get rid of the Dell preinstalled items, because as soon as you use their restore/recovery disks, the programs are installed again. You can go into Add-Remove Programs after the fact though and uninstall most of what you don't want or won't be using.

The bios (sometimes called SETUP by some vendors) is accessed with Dell systems by pressing the F2 key when you first boot up the computer....usually as you spot the Dell splash screen. You will have to move around in there using the keyboard only in order to get to the boot sequence area to make sure that you have the cdrom selected as the first boot device. Once you have that done, and as you SAVE and EXIT, have your XP cd in the drive and the computer will automatically begin the screens to install XP.

Read the screens carefully because you will have options to format and install NEW, possibly REPAIR, and/or install to a different partition if one is available.

I can't see any real reasons to have an XP floppy bootdisk at this point, but they are available at from what I understand.


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In reply to: The first site I linked you to

As for getting rid of the Dell stuff, I plan on just not putting it back on (i.e. not using the "For Dell Accessories" CD), or is that just not worth it? Thanks for the BIOS clear up. If I have one Windows reinstall CD (but two keys, two different legally purchased copies of Windows) will I be able to use that one CD to install it on both systems? Also, I'm thinking way ahead, but if after a fresh install I lose all drivers, does that include the touchpad mouse driver? And if so, how will I install that if I can't even use the mouse?

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Other opinions

In reply to: Thanks

On formatting a new Dell to clear their crap or just add/remove programs?

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If you format a Dell

In reply to: Other opinions

and then use their restore/recovery disk you will be automatically installing the extra stuff all over again. Using the Add-Remove Programs list will let you one program at a time uninstall what you don't want.

If you decide to format a Dell and install only a windows operating system, make sure you have the hardware drivers for the motherboard and all devices ahead of time. Some you can get from Dell...others you can get from the mfr sites themselves for each device. I've found getting the drivers from the mfr sites most times works better for me than the Dell ones.

You can download a small program for free from ... you can put it on a floppy disk and run it from there on the Dell system. It will give a full printable file with all hardware listed by mfr, model number, and version number as well as all software with registration, license, product codes for each, and all Windows hotfixes that are installed already. Handy reference.



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In reply to: If you format a Dell

Well the thing is, I have a Windows disc, and then an accessories disc, so I figure as long as I just use the Windows disc I'll be fine. Also, about drivers, I know the touchpad mouse (laptop) has a driver, does this mean that that mouse won't work until I have a driver?

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I did it

In reply to: How hard is it really to reformat?

Now, a few questions. 1)When I restart, it asks me which operating system I want to restart with, there are two options, both Win XP Pro, I just coose the first one, why is there a choice of two (I deleted the old partitioned one when I reformatted)? 2) I did the Belarc thing, but is there anyway to check if on the new install, I got all the drivers in and updated and right?

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Also . . .

In reply to: I did it

I updated the wireless card routers, but the computer can't find any Wireless networks. What am I missing? (The computer I am typing on is five feet away from the other one and is picking up two available networks).

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It's not that hard, really

In reply to: How hard is it really to reformat?

Start your computer in a command prompt by hitting CTRL when you turn the thing on. Go to command prompt only and press enter. type FORMAT C: and press enter again. When it is all done (The whole process takes about 5 minutes on a 120 GB HDD) you put in your WinXP disk and type D:SETUP and press enter. The mouse should pop up and you can click whatever you need to.

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