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Reformatting Your Hard Disk Using Windows XP

written by: Miguel Leiva-Gomez•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/10/2009

One of the most basic things to do before installing an operating system is to reformat the hard disk. It is always a good idea to start fresh with new operating systems, as old programs can have adverse effects if they stick around on an upgrade. Here we answer 'How do I reformat Windows XP'.

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    Booting Up with the Windows XP OS Disk

    The most important component to have here besides your computer is a legitimately licensed copy of Windows XP. If you do not have this, you will have to purchase it. The reason for this is because reformatting your system disk can only be done before the operating system installed on your disk has a chance to boot up. You probably actually have the disk, but do you may not know how to recognize it. Some computer manufacturers ship their computers with a disk that does not look like the standard Windows XP installation disk. This might be called other names, like "Recovery Disk" or "Operating System Disk." Anything with the word "Utilities" or "Drivers" on it is peripheral and does not contain the operating system in it.

    To boot up with a Windows XP disk, you must insert it before your operating system loads up. If everything goes well, you should see a message that says something along the lines of "Press any key to boot from disk." All you have to do from here is press a key and wait for the system to load its components. If you do not see such a message, you will have to configure your BIOS to boot from the removable media drive before booting from the hard disk.

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    What To Do After Booting

    After you boot, you might be greeted by a Welcome screen. Simply press Return/Enter and proceed to the next screen which might be a license agreement. Press F8 to navigate onwards if you see the license agreement. You might see a screen after this that will ask if you want to repair any current installation of Windows. Press ESC to get out of this screen and enter the partition menu.

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    Managing the Partitions

    This part is not extremely difficult, but you do not want to end up deleting the wrong partition, especially if you have multiple partitions with important data on them that you would not like removed. From this point, you must be absolutely sure that you want to delete your system partition and reformat the drive. There is no turning back from that point, and all the data on the system drive will be deleted. Select the partition that your operating system is installed on, and press D to eliminate it. Now, Windows setup will ask you to confirm that you want to delete it. This is your last chance to turn back before deleting the partition. If you still want to proceed, press L to confirm that you want to delete this partition.

    Windows will take you back to the screen where you selected the partitions. Notice that the partition you deleted now is unallocated space. Select this space and press C on your keyboard to create a new partition. Unless you want to create other partitions on that space, you should just let Windows use all of the space possible on it, so do not modify the allocation Windows has set for it. After seeing this screen, press Return/Enter. Now you will be taken back to the main partition screen.

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    Formatting the Hard Disk

    Once you have managed the partitions properly, all that is left is to format the disk. If you do not want to format and install Windows on your system again, you will have to exit the Windows installation and install another operating system from here on.

    If you want to install Windows XP on your computer as well as format it, you can continue forth by selecting the partition you just created and press Return/Enter. After this, you will see a lot of different options on how to format your hard drive. The most recommended option is to format under NTFS, regardless of whether you choose Quick Format or not. However, choosing to format the drive fully instead of selecting Quick Format will prevent possible repercussions. After this, Windows pretty much formats the drive and installs the files on its own.