There are times when nothing you do to fix a computer is making a difference. Your machine could be old or infected with viruses and spyware. Maybe it’s taking forever to do anything and you’re getting ready to buy a new one. If that’s the case, then there’s one last step you can take to salvage your machine: overhaul it.
Overhauling a computer generally means wiping it clean and installing your operating system of choice on the resulting fresh computer. It is a drastic step to take on any machine, and you should make sure nothing else is fixing the problem before you commit to performing an overhaul. Completely overhauling a computer will destroy any information stored on a computer, from programs to media, and getting everything working right again afterwards can be a time consuming project. As a result, this is probably the kind of thing you want to do when you don’t have a pressing need for a computer and you have the time to do everything right.
The first thing to do is prepare for the overhaul. Since there’ll be nothing left on your machine when you’re done, you might want to consider backing up anything that’s really important. Depending on the type of file, you can do this over the Internet, using file storage services like Picasa or Dropbox to back up any files you simply can’t do without. If you don’t have access to the ‘net, or you have a lot of data to back up, you can burn the desired files to a CD-ROM or copy them to an external hard drive. Once you’ve finished overhauling your machine, you can copy the files back on to the now-clean computer.
The next thing you’ll need to do is make sure you have all of the restore disks that came with your computer. Restore disks will include the Windows disk, which stores the information you’ll need to rebuild your machine after you wipe it, and any discs that came with your hardware, like printers, video cards or other devices. You’ll need this data to get everything working again.
Once you’re prepared, insert your system disk (the Windows disk that came with your computer) into the drive and wait for it to start. The disk should start an installer program that will give you several options for recovering damaged installations or putting a new version onto the computer. Select the option that best suits your needs. If that’s a complete overhaul, you’ll want to reformat the hard drive. Reformatting overwrites everything on your hard drive, destroying the data so you can put a fresh version of Windows back on the machine. Windows Installer will lead you through the process, prompting you to enter data as needed.
There are some parts of this process that will vary from computer to computer, especially if your machine has a lot of specialized hardware built in. That’s where the other resource disks come in. Windows will install all of the devices it can and then guide you through updating any drivers that don’t work out of the box.
After you’ve completed the installation process, you’ve got a new instance of Windows up and running and a fresh start on computing.