Misconceptions about formatting your hard drive

by on September 8, 2009

Q: Can I format my hard drive without loosing my operating system and data?

A: Some people truly don’t understand what it means to format a hard drive so I would like to take this opportunity to make sure we cover all the bases when it comes to formatting a hard drive.

Some reasons people might format a hard drive would be because their computer was hacked, had spyware installed, or had a bad virus. Formatting your hard drive in these cases allows you to erase everything. It is almost like throwing your computer away and buying a new one. If you went to the store and bought a new computer you would not have any of your pictures, documents, or anything else that you might have created on it anymore.

One important thing to remember about formatting your hard drive is that the operating system, Windows 95, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS X, etc will no longer be on it either. This means if you want to reformat your hard drive you better make sure you have a restore CD or an operating system disk around so you can reinstall the operating system or else your computer will just turn into a big paperweight. The same is true for all the software you might have on your computer as well like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc. So before you even consider reformatting make sure you take an inventory of every program you use and make sure you have a way to reinstall it.

There are a few ways to reformat your hard drive and the most common would be to put the operating system disk or restore disk in your computer and boot up from it. Depending on your computer setup you might need to do something special to make the computer boot up from the CD but that is for another discussion as each system is different. Once your system boots up from the operating system disk or the restore disk then it should be fairly straightforward to have it reinstall everything and format at the same time. Some people get very concerned when they do this step and they should be if they have not backed up all their data. If you have backed up all your data and verified that you can access it and it is in a safe place then there is nothing to worry about.

The other reasons people might want to reformat is that they want to upgrade from an older operating system to a newer one. You might want to move from Windows XP to Windows Vista for example. As long as your computer hardware can support it then doing a fresh install is probably the best way to make sure you have the least number of issues possible with the upgrade process because you know everything is fresh.

So remember to backup all your data, make sure you have all the install disks for the software you need, and make sure you double check that you can access your backed up data and that it is in a safe place before you take the steps to reformat your hard drive.

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