How to erase my hard drive and start over

Computer hard driveNotice: remember that following the steps below will erase all of the information on your hard drive and make it like new. Once the steps below have been completed, you will not be able to reverse the steps if you want to recover possible lost data.

Erasing the hard drive

Tip: If you have an OEM computer (Acer, ASUS, Dell, Hewlett Packard, etc.) it's likely that you have a hidden System Recovery partition and don't need to use any CD or DVD to restore your computer.

The steps below are for users with MS-DOS 5.0+, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, and Windows NT 4.0.

  1. Place the bootable diskette or disc inside the computer and reboot to get to the DOS prompt. In some cases you may need to boot the computer with CD-ROM support or press a key to boot from the disk.
  2. At the MS-DOS prompt type format c: /s
  3. The computer will ask you "Are you sure you want to erase everything on drive c:" if you are ok with doing this press "Y" for yes and press enter.
  4. After doing this, the computer will begin the formatting process. While the computer is formatting make sure no errors are encountered.
  5. Once the format process is completed successfully, at the MS-DOS prompt type fdisk /mbr and press enter. This should return you back to the MS-DOS prompt with no message. This step is not required but recommended.
  6. Once back at the MS-DOS prompt, reboot the computer with the boot disk still in the computer.
  7. Once back at the MS-DOS prompt, insert either the diskettes for MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, or the CD for Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows NT and click the appropriate link

MS-DOS users
Windows 3.x users
Windows 95 floppy diskette users
Windows 95 CD users
Windows 98 users
Windows NT 4.0 users

Windows NT 4.0 users

Windows NT can be installed different ways. We recommend that Windows NT be installed using the steps below as we feel that these steps by far are the easiest way to install Windows NT 4.0.

First, we recommend that all users wanting to install Windows NT use the /b switch, which allows the users to not need to create the diskettes. We do, however, recommend that the user create the Emergency recover diskettes if they have not already been created after the installation of Windows NT.

Finally, before the installation of Windows NT, it is recommended that you run SMARTDRV, which will help the installation of Windows NT run a lot faster.

  1. Place the CD into the computer.
  2. Type X: (where x is the CD-ROM drive, often this is D:).
  3. Once at the appropriate drive, type CD WINNT and press enter to get into the Windows 95 directory.
  4. Once at X:\WINNT> Type winnt /b.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Windows 98 users

Windows 95 CD users

  1. Place the CD into the computer.
  2. Type X: (where x is the CD-ROM drive, often this is D:).
  3. Once at the appropriate drive, type CD WIN95 and press enter to get into the Windows 95 directory.
  4. Once at X:\WIN95> Type setup to begin the installation
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

If you are encountering issues during the setup process, you can add additional switches to the setup command line. These switches can be found on our Windows 95 Setup Switches page.

Windows 95 floppy diskette users

  1. Place the first diskette of Windows 95 into the computer.
  2. At the A:\> Type setup and press enter to begin the installation.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Note: If you discover a bad diskette during the installation of Windows 95 it is recommended you contact Microsoft for possible replacement.

Windows 3.x users

  1. Place the first diskette of Windows 3.x into the computer.
  2. At the A:\> Type setup and press enter to begin the installation.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Note: If you discover a bad diskette during the installation, it is recommended that you contact Microsoft for a possible replacement.

MS-DOS users

  1. Place the first MS-DOS diskette into the computer.
  2. At the A:\> Type setup and press enter to being the installation.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Note: If you discover a bad diskette during the installation, it is recommended that you contact Microsoft for a possible replacement.

Additional information