Steps to Erasing a Hard Drive in Windows XP

By Joanne Mendes

Often it is necessary to erase a computer's hard drive because a virus has invaded the operating system or because you wish to erase all your personal data before selling or donating your computer to someone else. There are various ways and programs available to erase a computer's hard drive, but the easiest way is to reformat the hard drive yourself. Basically, what formatting does is erase all previous data and systems on the computer's C drive, allowing you to reinstall a new operating system on a fresh slate.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Windows XP Operating System Start-Up CD

Step 1

Load the Windows XP operating system boot disc into the computer's disc drive. Turn the computer off.

Step 2

Press the "Power" button to restart the computer. The computer will boot off of the XP disc.

Step 3

Press "F10" after the Welcome Screen has finished loading the list of boot drivers. Alternately, select "Recovery Console" and press "Enter."

Step 4

Type in the administrator password. Press "Enter." If your computer is set up not to require an administrator password, press "Enter."

Step 5

Type "Map" and press "Enter."

Step 6

Type "Format C: /fs:ntfs" when you are asked which drive you want to format. "Press "Enter."

Step 7

Type "Y" for yes when you are asked if you wish to proceed. Press "Enter."

Step 8

Type "Exit" when the formatting process is complete. Press "Enter" to exit the boot disc and restart your computer. The system will boot from the XP disc. Wait until the Welcome Screen has finished loading the list of boot drivers and select "1" to reinstall Windows XP on your computer.

Tips & Warnings

  • These instructions will only work for computers running Windows XP NTFS file system. NTFS is the default file system for Windows XP so most computers are using it. However, you are not sure which file system you are running, check first.
  • Click on the "Start" menu. Double-click "My Computer."
  • Right click on the C Drive.
  • Click "Properties."
  • Look under "File Systems." It will either read NTFS or FAT32.
  • Backup all your files and programs before erasing your hard drive or you may lose your data forever. Erased files can sometimes be retrieved by computer repair experts but this takes a lot of time and money and there is no guarantee that they can do it, so back everything up while you can.
  • Before reinstalling a new operating system, check the computer manual or manufacturer's website to make sure that your computer can operate the new system.