A lot of people ask me for help when they have computer problems. One of the biggest frustrations with computers (at least PCs) is Windows starting to run slowly and overall system performance getting worse. One of the best and easiest, although time consuming, ways to improve performance overall is to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows. I have had to do this on my current laptop at least once before and have done it on every computer I’ve owned–sometimes multiple times.
Here is a step-by-step guide to reinstalling Windows.
Let me first warn you that every system is different. While your process should be easy and error free, things can go bad. If you run into problems don’t hesitate to get some more help.
1. BACKUP YOUR DOCUMENTS
This is the most important step of them all. Almost every software program is replaceable, but your Word files, music, pictures, videos and such are not replaceable. If you have a CD/DVD burner this should be relatively easy to do. In my own situation I was able to copy all of my files from my laptop to my desktop via network connection. This might work for you as well, although having a hard backup is a really good thing to have.
2. Make a list of all the programs/software you use on a regular basis.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget some of the programs that you don’t use very often. Just click through the “All Programs” button in the Start menu and make a list (and print it out) of the programs you want to make sure you’ll get reinstalled after the format.
3. Track down all your software discs and activation codes.
If you have a name brand computer like Dell or HP, is should have come with restore CDs and the Windows XP disc. I recommend doing a format and install from the XP disc, not the restore. The restore CD puts a lot of extra software on that you probably don’t use anyway.
4. Put the XP CD in your CD drive and reboot.
Your computer should be set to be able to boot from CD by default. If, with the XP CD in the drive, your computer boots to Windows like normal you probably need to change some settings in your bios. You can typically get into your bios by press F2 or something like that when the very first screen comes up right after you turn on your computer. Check for something like “Boot Order” and make sure the CD drive is selected.
5. Follow the options Windows offers to reinstall.
At this point, XP basically guides you through step-by-step. You want to make sure you choose new installation or something like that. Also, if it gives you the options, make sure you format the drive. This makes sure you have a clean install.
6. Download Windows updates using Windows Update.
You’ll need internet access at this point. The very first thing you need to do is click Start > All Programs > Windows Update. This might take a while if you have to download Service Pack 2 (especially if you’re on dial-up). There are a lot of securtiy updates that Windows has released and the sooner you get those on your computer the safer it will be.
7. Download updated drivers.
Again, if you have a name brand computer this is easy. Just go to the company’s website and look for a support/drivers link. They keep all the most current drivers for the computer in this one spot.
8. Download / Install your software list.
Start with Firefox and then get the rest of the programs. You’ll want to install the software from the company’s website whenever possible. The newest versions are kept there and they’re always better.
9. Enjoy your clean, smooth-running machine.
If you go through the reinstall process, please comment on how it went and if I’m missing any steps. It’s been a little while since I’ve done it myself, so I may have left something out.