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Reformatting a Hard Drive

Narrative and Video Instructions

If you have had occasion to call for "tech support" (and I use the term loosely), you may have encountered a script-reader instead of a knowledgeable technical support professional. "Script readers" are trained to ask you a few questions (from a script), then read a prepared (scripted) response. That response frequently includes the recommendation to reformat your hard drive.

Mr. Modem's Advice: Never -- and I mean NEVER -- follow that advice from somebody who hasn't seen your computer or without obtaining a separate, independent opinion. Reformatting your hard drive should be considered a "last resort" measure. It will result in the loss of all your data and require the reinstallation of all your software (including Windows), and your hardware. It is not something to be taken lightly.

Before contemplating reformatting your hard drive, it would be worthwhile to have a reputable computer repair facility in your area take a look at your system. You cannot unring the reformatting bell, so it's important to be sure it's necessary.

Having said all that, there are times when reformatting is an appropriate course of action and can prove beneficial to your system.

Why Format a Hard Drive?

Performed correctly, a reformatted drive can correct file corruption problems and eliminate slow startups/shutdowns. If you're receiving a lot of error messages that won't go away despite your best efforts, reformatting the hard drive may restore performance similar to what you experienced when your system was new.

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Before contemplating reformatting your hard drive, however, be sure you have your operating system (Window), on a CD or DVD; be sure to have the product code or key for your operating system (it's usually located on the back of the CD case or you can find it in your Device Manager, explained below), and you'll need all your installation CDs or DVDs for your software and drivers for your hardware. Remember, reformatting your hard drive will wipe the drive clean, so be sure to back up any data you cannot afford to lose BEFORE you begin to reformat your hard drive.

If you're the least bit squeamish about the thought of reformatting -- good for you! That shows that you have a good grasp of what you're about to undertake. It's not that difficult to do, but it is a big, irreversible step.

How you reformat a drive depends on the version of Windows you're using. The following links will walk you through the process of reformatting your Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 computer, using both narrative and video presentatnos:

XP Narrative
XP Narrative (Microsoft)
XP Video

Vista Narrative
Vista Video

Windows 7 Narrative
Windows 7 Video

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