How do I do a clean reinstall of Windows?

To do a completely clean install of Windows requires formatting the drive and reinstalling all of your software. This will get rid of any left over files from previously uninstalled software and generally make your system faster and more stable.

  1. The first thing that you need to do is to back up all of your data. This should include any documents and other files that you have created yourself as well as any other files on your system that you do not already have backups of (eg. drivers etc. that you have downloaded from the internet).
  2. Next you need to create a boot disk (if you haven't previously). You can do this by going to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs and clicking on the Startup Disk tab. You should then follow the instructions that appear. If you are unable to create a boot disk this way then you might try downloading one from here.
  3. Next step is to test your new boot disk. Shut down your machine and reboot your system using the boot disk. The system should start up running DOS from the floppy. You should now attempt to access your cd-rom drive (eg. place the windows cd in the drive and -assuming that your cd-rom drive is x: - type x:\dir). Note that some versions of Windows create a temporary RAM disk so the cd-rom drive letter may be one greater than usual. If you are unable to access your cd-rom drive using the boot disk then you may need to change the drivers on the boot disk or create a different boot disk that does give you access.
  4. Once you can access the cd-rom properly, you can reformat your C: drive by typing FORMAT c: /S.
  5. Finally, you need to change to the Windows directory on the cd-rom (cd \win95, cd \win98, or cd \winme) and run setup.
  6. Having successfully reinstalled Windows, you can now reinstall your applications and recover your data from the backup that you took at the start.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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