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How to Do a Complete Format on a Laptop

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If you have become frustrated with the performance of your laptop because of too many installed programs, an overgrown system registry or a malicious software infection, the fastest way to restore its original performance is with a complete hard drive format. However, this process is complicated and can result in loss of data or inability to get your operating system and programs back if you forget a critical step. Confirm that you have all of the software needed to restore your computer, and then use your recovery disc or Windows installation disc to format the hard drive and re-install Windows.

Step 1
Confirm that you have the Windows product key for your laptop. If you purchased the laptop with Windows pre-installed, the Windows product key is generally on a sticker affixed to the bottom of the computer.

Step 2
Check that you have the ability to reinstall Windows. You need a Windows installation disc or the recovery disc for your laptop. If your laptop did not include a physical disc, it stores the original system files on a hidden hard drive partition. Confirm that the partition works by pressing a keyboard shortcut displayed on the screen such as “F8” or “F10” during startup. Your computer should also include a utility allowing you to burn the system files on a recordable DVD.

Related Reading: Activating Wireless on a Laptop

Step 3
Check that you have all of the software and driver discs needed to install your programs and hardware device drivers. If you downloaded some of your software from the Internet, find the installation files and save them on a removable storage device.

Step 4
Back up all of the data on your laptop’s hard drive. You can use a free program such as Clonezilla or DriveImage XML to clone the hard drive on an external drive. If you do not have a hard drive large enough to hold all of the data on your laptop, you can back up the most important files manually.
However, formatting your laptop will remove this data. If you forget something, it will be difficult or impossible to recover.

Step 5
Insert the Windows or recovery disc, and restart your laptop. If you are using the hidden recovery partition, restart the laptop and immediately press the shortcut key displayed on the screen. Follow the instructions displayed on the screen to install Windows or perform a full system recovery, and return your laptop to its original state

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