How to Reformat a Windows Vista Computer

By Techwalla Contributor

Reformatting a hard disk drive is something that most PC users will have to do sooner or later. After the drive has been formatted, you will have to reinstall the Windows operating system. While the task may seem daunting, it can be accomplished in just a few steps once you know the procedure. Be aware that reformatting a hard drive erases all data on the disk, so back up your important files, if possible, before you begin this process.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows Vista recovery CD
  • 3 blank DVDs or 7 blank CDs

Step 1

Create a set of recovery discs, if you don’t have these available. You will need these discs to reinstall Windows Vista, if you don’t have an installation CD. Many computers are no longer sold with CDs; instead, the recovery discs are copied to a partition on the hard drive, which saves the manufacturer a dollar or two on materials. Make a set of backup disks at the earliest opportunity so you can reinstall the OS if your PC becomes infected with a virus or suffers a catastrophic system failure.

Step 2

Click on the Windows “Start” menu and type “recovery” in the “Start Search” area. Click on “Recovery Disk Creation” in the search results and follow the on-screen prompts. You'll need three blank DVDs or seven CDs to create a set of recovery disks. If you have your Windows Vista installation CD, you can skip this step and go on to the next.

Step 3

Insert the Windows Vista recovery disc in the computer’s optical drive.

Step 4

Turn off the computer and then restart it. As the computer reboots, a screen should appear asking whether you want to boot from the hard drive or the CD/DVD. Choose the latter and follow the on-screen prompts. Make sure you opt to reformat the drive and not recover it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Reformatting can take up to an hour to complete, depending on the size of your drive and the speed of your computer. You must reinstall Windows Vista and all third-party software once the format is complete.
  • Reformatting the hard drive erases all music, documents, programs and other files on the drive. Back up your important files before starting this process.