Here are a couple of guides designed to address the task of wiping the system clean and performing a fresh install of Windows XP.

It's something we all face from time to time, and it can be a daunting task. There are plenty of guides already available, but often they 'leave bits out', or else fail to explain things in straightforward terms.

The following are a couple of 'How To' guides I've written up to address the situation.

"How do I prepare to install the OS?"

"How do I wipe the disk and install XP?"

By the way, if that Windows XP installation you have was an 'Upgrade' from an old Windows 98 install, you are possibly the best candidate for the job, because I'd be guessing you're still having problems, eh?


Edit: Could people with questions they want answered after following the procedures mentioned, or issues and problems which arise, please post their questions to a new topic in the appropriate forum section? Questions asked here as a post will not be answered in this thread, as that is too 'messy' a way to deal with them. - Catweazle

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Mastadex, I hope you don't take too much offence at the following comment, but I'm going to say it anyway, for the benefit of other people reading this.

A format and reinstall is a good thing to do in the circumstance that someone has adopted the approach you've outlined just then. That approach indicates a lack of periodic maintenance and a neglectful approach to system security. When sensible maintenance practices and preventative measures have not been adopted, then the resultant mess can get beyond fixing.

But those people who start off fresh, and then regularly use the disk cleanup tools provided by Windows, regularly install ALL their system security updates, and regularly use Antivirus and Spyware tools, together with adopting a sensible approach towards managing their personal files and refraining from installing every piece of junk they can get hold of, will NOT have very many problems afterwards. Not ones which are the fault of Windows, anyway.

Sensibly used, a PC with Windows XP installed will run happily and quite stable for years!

Those people who actually need to reformat numerous times each year really need to adopt a fresh approach to looking after their own computers, instead of attributing the blame to Microsoft for the mess they've created themselves!

Mastadex, I hope you don't take too much offence at the following comment, but I'm going to say it anyway, for the benefit of other people reading this.

I've been a computer tech for several years now and have become familiar with
a huge variety of user types. You're right on the money Catweazle, hate to say it but yeah... right on the money.

FireFox & Thunderbird (
AVG6 (
Spybot Search & Destroy ( look for 'spybot download' and pick one)
and of course Ad-Aware

Install and use these programs the next time you do a re-install.
Keep up to date and run Spybot and Ad-aware anytime you 'feel' your computer slowing down.

Clears up 90% of the problems but is 100% dependant on the user actually DOING the maintenence.

Save your college student a lifetime of hassles. Get them using openoffice today Heheh. (

Hi sunandoghosh,
Here is one article which explains what is image. It also explains the data recovery in detail. Check out article on Computer data recovery.

Thanks & regards


Pls say why to first delete and then again recreate if one is already having partitioned hard drive????????

What is creating image of the drive (heard it for the first time)???????????????

Does it offer any advantage over taking back up in CD through CD writer as i currently do????????

What is the first state? Plz be a bit more explicit?????????????

Fair questions and ones for which the article(s) presume the reader has some degree of prior knowledge.

Why delete and recreate partition?

The Windows XP installation routine allows you to delete a partition and to create a new partition in unpartitioned drive space. Doing so is the best and easiest way to 'wipe' the hard disk of the information on it. Windows won't allow you to format the system partition, and you need special tools to do so for an NTFS partition from a boot floppy. Using the install CD in this way is the most effective method of ensuring you start off fresh and clean!

What is a drive image?

It's like a 'photograph' of the contents of your hard drive, and can be used to restore everything on your PC in one procedure. Backing up files to CD does not do this, and Windows won't allow you to simply back up and then reload all the operating system files on your PC.

Taking a drive image allows to you reload Windows, all your programs and all your data files and special settings all in the one go!

What is 'original state'?

When Windows is first installed, your programs loaded and the PC in working order without yet having been used, your PC will be in its best possible working order. We call that its 'original state'. If you plan to make a drive image, this is the most basic point at which you do so.

:rolleyes: also can u also explain why people always suggest format and install windows xp (after of cousre taking a back up on cd) whenever there are too many problems in pc???????????????????????????????????????????????


p.s. i also fail to understand why people partition hard drive...should i partition it? if yes why to take trouble? any strong reasons...........

Sometimes problems on a Windows PC get to such a mess that the best and easiest way to recover from them is to wipe the drive and start of fresh. These problems exist because of things that people have done on their computer. Going back to 'original state' and letting Windows work the way it is designed to, free of 'nasty intruders' and user-created system corruption is a fresh start.

All hard drives need to be partitioned. Without a partition in place the drive cannot be formatted and used to store data. It's like a chest of drawers without the drawers inserted!

On many hard drives only one partition is created, and it uses all the available storage space on the drive, like a building without internal walls is simply one large room. Some people create more than one partition and use each for different things. If you use two partitions, load Windows and your programs on one and use the other for all your data files, then when you have to wipe and reinstall the system partition your data will stay where it is and not be lost!

Acknowledgements: Thanks to DKnoppix and Crow for most the images and dgosling for helping get this setup.

This guide shows how to reformat your computer in case of a severe corruption or a severe malware infection where helpers cannot guarantee the security of your computer.

This guide is for reinstalling XP only. Do not use this guide if you are not reinstalling windows XP. Only use this guide if you are reformatting using the XP cd (not using a 'recovery partition' that some computer manufacturers use)

This guide is 'as is'. There are many circumstances which may change the success of your reformat.

Now then, let's get started:
Before you can reformat, you will need to have the following:

1. Your windows XP cd.
2. A means of backing up your most important data. Don't backup everything, the more you backup, the more chance there is that malware will get on your newly formatted computer. You might use another hard drive, some cd roms, or anything that holds data to backup your files.
3. There is a small chance you will need a floppy drive.

First Steps:
1. We need to make sure that your product key is still valid. Otherwise you might not be able to install windows. To do so,

Please go HERE (Microsoft website) using Internet Explorer (NOTE: Do not use Firefox or any other browser as they won't work)
- Click on Windows Validation Assistant
- Click on the Validate Now button.
- Be patient while the ActiveX loads, do not click on any links.
- Read the instructions on this page while it's loading. You will be prompted to install - click YES.
- Enter your product key then click continue

Make sure that your license key is legit. If it is NOT legit, do NOT reformat, contact Microsoft to see if a mistake has been made, and if not, tell your helper.

You can also use this tool to ensure validity.
Click here
Then hit "save"
Save the folder to your desktop. Then right click on the file and select extract all. Extract the folder to the desktop. Then open the folder and double click on xpinfo.exe
If all is well you should get something that looks like this:

Then, backup your important files to another media. Do NOT save them on the same partition. I would personally suggest a cd-rom backup or a flash drive. You may want to make sure that you can open the files on another computer BEFORE reformatting.

Next, download these programs.
Save them on a CD or something, we will need them immediately after reformatting. Do not skip this step!

  • SP2 can be downloaded here. Safe this file to a CD. If you are on dialup and this download is unbearably large, you can get a free copy from Microsoft here. The downside is that it will take awhile for the CD to get there.
  • A firewall. There are many good ones out there, If you don't know of a good one to get, I personally suggest either Zone Alarms or Sygate Firewall
  • The latest drivers for your computer (optional). Drivers allow Windows to use your hardware in the most effective manner. IF you need help finding what drivers you need, go to start->run->msinfo32.exe and that will tell you what hardware you have. Then go to the appropriate hardware vendor's website and download the correct drivers.
  • A imaging software (VERY optional). Reformatting is a pain in the but isn't it... If you have a drive imaging software, you can literally take snapshots of your hard drive, and if something screws up, you can roll back the state of your hard drive to an earlier time. Two of the most popular drive imaging sofware utilities are Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost. Neither of these products are free, but they are well worth it in my opinion.

Checking the hard drive
Please go to start->run->diskmgmt.msc
you should see something like this:
Highlight Disk 0 like I have done. Then you will see one or more partitions on the top half. Make a note of the size of the drive. Very important: Look and see if there's a hidden 'recovery' partition on your hard drive. If so, STOP!! because you will need to follow different instructions on how to reformat correctly.

Let's Reformat!

  1. while your computer is still on, put in the XP cd
  2. Turn off your computer
  3. Turn on your computer. Your computer should go through a black and white screen called POST. Then one of 2 things will happen.
    You will either get a message like this:
    "press any key to boot off the CD"

    or your computer will boot windows normally. If you get that first screen, quickly! press a key, and boot off the cd. If you DON'T get that screen, reboot your computer, and continually press the f12 key. You should get an option screen. Use the arrow keys to highlight your CD drive, and then hit ok.

  4. If everything goes well, you should get a blue screen with white letters. Windows will load from the cd. This takes awhile. Once it is loaded, you will see this screen:
  5. Hit the Enter Button.
  6. You will then be presented with a EULA. Press f8 to agree to the EULA
  7. Unless your previous windows version is really screwed up, you will get a screen like this

    Press the ESC Key

  8. Next you will get a screen similar to this:
    You need to make some decisions. I do NOT like having only 1 partition on a computer. You can make your files safer by having them on a separate partition. Personally, I have 5 partitions on my computer for various things, but at minimum I would recommend making 2 partitions. 1 of them should be the normal c:\ drive like you're accustomed to, and 1 should be for your important files/programs. You're free to setup windows however you want though. It's your computer.

    No matter what you choose to do, you need to use the arrow keys and highlight the c:\drive
    Press the d button.
    Then press the enter at the warning prompt.
    Windows will give you a second warning prompt. Hit L to continue.

  9. Your screen will now look like this:
    Press the C
  10. Then you will be presented with this screen:
    This is where you need to decide how many paritions you wish to have.
    If you are unsure and just want to go the easy route, press the enter button. Now skip the instructions below in Purple, and continue on.
    If you wish to create multiple partitions, press the backspace key and change the size of your partition. Don't make it too small! I would recommend having at least 4 GB (4096 MB) on the first partition, and more if your hard drive is big enough. Then press the enter button.
    Then use the arrow keys and highlight the "unpartitioned space" Press the c button, and then type in how big you want the partition to be. Hit the enter key. You can repeat this process until you have as many partitions as you want.
  11. Your screen should look something like this depending on how many partitions you have:
    Highlight the drive you want to install windows on. It SHOULD be the 1st one. (c:\)
    Then hit the enter button
  12. Next you will get this screen:
    Select "Format the partition using the NTFS file system"
    Hit the enter button.
  13. Your computer will format the drive. Wait until that's done.
    Windows will setup. When you see this screen:
  14. Then you need to take out your CD.
  15. Your computer will reboot.
  16. Windows Setup will continue from the hard drive. Follow the instructions, and voila! Windows will be reinstalled.


  • Put in the cd that contains service pack 2
  • Install service Pack 2 by doubleclicking the setup file and following the instructions on the screen
  • Once SP2 is installed, reboot, then install the drivers that you have found.
  • Next, install the firewall and AV.

Immediately go here:

and get all the critical updates.
Don't forget to restart your computer!
Then update your AV and firewall.
Install all your other programs and documents.
Then (if you have an imaging software) make a snapshot of your computer. If something goes terribly wrong, you can always start from this point again instead of from the beginning.

commented: Good post, 'Stein... --joeprogrammer (thanks for the rep you gave me!) +1
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