How to Remove Windows XP From Your Computer

By David Secor

If you would like to try out another operating system, or if you are selling your computer and plan to use Windows XP on another machine, you'll need to remove Windows XP from your computer. There are several ways to do this, but one of the easiest methods is to simply format the hard drive. Unfortunately, you cannot do this from within Windows, so an external program is needed. Such tools can be found on either the original Windows XP CD, or on one of the many Linux Live CDs that are available online.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows XP CD or Linux Live CD

Method 1--Using the Windows XP CD

Step 1

Set your computer to boot from the CD-ROM drive before the hard drive. This can be done through the BIOS or Setup menu, which can be accessed by pressing the “Del” key, the “F2” key or the “F12” key at the beginning of the boot process. The exact key will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and can be found in the owner’s manual for your computer.

Step 2

Insert the Windows XP CD, boot the computer and press a key when asked to. After a few moments, you will see a screen listing the various installation options available on the disc.

Step 3

Press the “R” key to enter the “Recovery Console.” A black screen with white writing will appear. This is the command line interface, and the command prompt will read “C:\WINDOWS>.”

Step 4

Type “format c: /fs:ntfs” at the command prompt, and press the “Enter” key. A warning will appear that states all files will be erased from the drive. Press the “Y” key, and then press “Enter” to confirm the operation. After a few minutes, the process will be completed, and a report about the drive’s free space will be displayed.

Step 5

Type “Exit” at the command prompt, and press “Enter.” The computer will now reboot.

Step 6

Install a new operating system, if desired.

Method 2--Using a Linux Live CD

Step 1

Download a Linux Live CD image, such as Ubuntu, or download a specialized Linux toolset for system maintenance, such as GParted live.

Step 2

Burn the ISO image to disc. By default, Windows does not support ISO burning, but there are many free programs available that do.

Step 3

Insert the Linux Live CD and boot the computer. There may be some basic options that need to be set, such as language and keyboard layout. After this is done, the Linux Live CD will boot to the desktop.

Step 4

Start the distribution’s partition editor. This can be found in the utilities section of the program menu, in the administration section or in the system section. An administrator’s password may be needed to run the partitioner, although it is usually blank on the live CDs. Consult the instructions for the live CD if a blank password does not work.

Step 5

Select the partition that has the file system labeled NTFS. Right-click on the partition or use the "File" menu, and select "Format." If you intend to install Windows XP or Vista, or if you would like to leave it blank, use the NTFS file system for formatting. Otherwise, format it to the file system that the new operating system will use.

Step 6

Install the new operating system, or leave the drive empty, if desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to make copies of all your personal files prior to formatting the disk and removing Windows XP.