How to Reboot & Delete Everything On Your PC

By Joshua Benjamin

Sometimes you just need to start over. Perhaps your computer has become infested with viruses to the point that it just doesn't work anymore. Maybe you want to strip it down so you can give it fresh to friend. Or perhaps you just want to start from square one. Whatever the reason, take heart; it's not that difficult to erase everything on your hard drive provided you have the right tools. The process is called "Formatting."

Things You'll Need

  • Bootable Windows setup disk

Using the Windows XP setup disk

Step 1

Insert the Windows XP setup disk into your computer's CD-ROM drive and restart your computer.

Step 2

Press a key when prompted to boot to the Windows XP setup CD. The Windows XP setup program will now load.

Step 3

Follow the on-screen instructions until you reach the screen asking you to select a partition to install Windows XP. Do not select any of the partitions, instead, highlight one and press "D" to delete that partition. Setup will ask you if you are sure you want to delete the partition; confirm your choice, and the partition will be deleted.

Step 4

Repeat Step Three for any remaining partitions. This will completely wipe all the data from your hard drive.

Step 5

Press "C" to create a new partition from the unpartitioned space. You will need at least one partition to re-install Windows. Follow the rest of the Setup program's instructions to re-install Windows on your computer, or exit the program and insert a different setup disk to install a different operating system.

Formatting using the Windows Vista or Windows 7 Setup Disk

Step 1

Insert the Windows setup disk into your computer's CD-ROM drive and restart the computer.

Step 2

Press any key to boot from the setup disk when prompted. Wait until the setup program has finished loading before continuing.

Step 3

Follow the on-screen instructions to set your date and time and enter your Windows Product Key and follow the prompts until you reach the screen asking you what kind of installation you want. Click the "Custom" button.

Step 4

Select one partition. If there is only one partition click the "Drive Options" button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

Step 5

Click "Format" to erase all the data on that partition. Repeat these two steps for all the partitions on your computer. Once the formatting is completed, continue the setup process to reinstall Windows, or exit the setup program if you wish to install a different operating system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure you make backups of all the data you wish to keep from your computer. Your data will be permanently erased once the steps in this guide are followed.