How to Reformat a Microsoft Windows XP Dell Computer

By Techwalla Contributor

Your Dell computer has slowed down to a grinding halt and you've tried everything to regain its speed. As a last resort, you've decided to reformat your computer's hard drive. If you have your original Dell Windows XP recovery CD, you can start the process to reformat your Dell computer.

Things You'll Need

  • Dell Windows XP recovery CD
  • Dell Support CD

Step 1

Backup your important files from the hard drive to an external disc or USB thumb drive.

Step 2

Unplug all external devices such a printer, digital camera, MP3 music player or any other device attached to your computer.

Step 3

Place your Dell Windows XP recovery CD in the optical drive. Restart your computer to access the Windows XP Setup Screen. If the message "Press any key to boot from the CD..." appears, press a key to continue booting to the CD. When the Dell logo appears, press the "F12" key immediately. When the Boot Menu appears, highlight the CD/DVD drive entry from the list and press "Enter."

Step 4

Select Option "4" when the menu appears. Note: Press the space bar right away or Windows will start up and you'll have to repeat the previous steps.

Step 5

In the Windows XP Setup screen, press "Enter." Read the licensing agreement and press the "F8" key to agree to the terms of the licensing agreement. The Partition screen subsequently appears, displaying the available partitions.

Step 6

Highlight the largest partition and press "Enter." If you are prompted to format the partition, use the up or down arrow keys to highlight "Format the partition using the NTFS file system (Quick)." Press "Enter" or "F," if applicable, to format the partition. If the drive must be checked for errors, select "Format the partition using the NTFS file system."The Windows Setup will format the drive, if necessary, then copy the files needed for installation. This procedure can take several minutes. Once completed, Windows will restart the computer to continue Setup from the hard drive.

Step 7

Let the computer restart automatically. It will prompt you before the restart.

Step 8

Take note of the screen, "Preparing installation." Once Windows is ready to be set up, follow the on-screen setup prompts for the Internet, time zone and other customizations. You should not have to register with Microsoft since you already have.

Step 9

Reinstall any device drivers using the blue Dell support CD if they are not installed properly such as network cards, wireless Internet, USB driver and the sound card. Always test your computer to make sure these are functioning properly.

Tips & Warnings

  • You will also need to install your printer using its original software CD or download drivers manually from the Dell Support website (
  • Frequently, Dell device drivers need to be installed manually, step by step with the Dell Support CD. However, if you are connected to the Internet right after Windows installation this may not be necessary. Or, at the very least, it may cut down on the number of drivers needed to be reinstalled.
  • By performing a Manual Reinstall, you will no longer be able to do a PC Restore or Restore to Factory Settings. Verify whether you can do a PC Restore before you do a Manual Reinstall.
  • Make sure you have installed the networking drivers. Otherwise, accessing the Internet will not work.