Do You Really Want To Format That Hard Drive?
Be forewarned, formatting a hard drive is MUCH different than formatting a Word document. The format will erase *everything* on the disk (the operating system, your programs and data files) and leave you unable to even boot up the PC. About the only thing you can do with a freshly formatted drive is install an operating system from CDROM.
I know. . . that's exactly what you said you wanted to do. But that *may* be a bit drastic. After re-installing Windows XP, you will need to reapply all the patches and fixes from Microsoft, then reinstall all the software packages you previously had. It could take many hours just to download the Windows Update files.
I'm guessing you're considering this move because your PC has been infested by a bunch of spyware and/or viruses, and is now acting sluggish and flaky. But before you go all samurai on your hard drive, I recommend you follow all the steps in my Make Windows Run Faster! article. It's my special recipe to clean the gunk out of your computer's pipes, so Windows will start quicker, run more reliably, and go faster on the info-superhighway.
If you really want to format your hard drive. . .
You can't. . . at least not while you're running Windows. You'll have to reboot from the Windows XP installation CD, because you can't format the drive on which Windows is running. But first you'll probably want to back up your hard drive, or at least part of it. For help with that, see Backing Up Your Files and explore the various options for backing up your personal files.
Okay, back to reformatting. . . when the install disk boots up, you’ll see a message asking if you want to repair your existing installtion. You don't, so press ESC to bypass the repair option.
Now select the partition where Windows is installed, then press D to delete it. Press L to confirm the delete. Okay, it's time to create and format a new partition. Select the unpartitioned space and press C to create a new partition. Allot the maximum amount of space available, then press Enter.
Now select the partition you’ve just created, and format it. Choose the NTFS option, go for the “quick format" then sit and wait. When the new partition is formatted, you're ready to (re)install Windows. Don't forget to reinstall your anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and be sure to visit Windows Update as soon as possible to ensure that you have all the latest security fixes.
BOB RANKIN. . . is a tech writer and computer programmer who enjoys exploring the Internet and sharing the fruit of his experience with others. His work has appeared in ComputerWorld, NetGuide, and NY Newsday. Bob is publisher of the Internet TOURBUS newsletter, author of several computer books, and creator of the LowfatLinux.com website. Visit Bob Rankin's website for more helpful articles and free tech support .