The time has come when you need to wipe your machine and reinstall the operating system so that it is like brand new. However, you don't know what to do and you don't know where to turn. TechRadar has you covered. Although Windows 10 is alive and gaining popularity, most of you are still on Windows 7, so we'll use that as the basis for this tutorial.
Now, if you're my father, you would delete everything and complain about stuff missing later. In order to be smart about this procedure, it is very wise to do a backup of your computer with all of your files. We have reviewed some great backup solutions from the Toshiba 3TB Cavio, the Western Digital DL4100, to the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive. You will want to back up your files so that this process is easy.
Assuming that is all done, I am going to walk you through each step and what you need to prep.
Prep work and Step 1
If your hard drive is not bad, most companies that make laptops or workstations provide either a CD or a bootable image that is off the hard drive. Assuming your hard drive is not physically damaged or worn down, you should be able to press a key at bootup (usually F2, F9, or F11) but just look up that information on your manufacturer's website.
If the aforementioned step to boot is not an option, either obtain a CD from the manufacturer or purchase a Windows Disk from Microsoft Directly. Now, I am going to be reinstalling Windows using a Microsoft Windows 7 Disk that I had purchased a couple of years back.
Before we move forward I would like to note that the worst part about this situation is that you will have to install drivers to make sure your hardware is working. What I do is I download the network card and wifi drivers and save them onto a flash drive so when the computer comes up I can manage the install that way. You can also prep all the drivers and save them onto a flash drive.
If you want an easier way to restore your Windows machine, maybe taking a computer image for restoration later might be the way to go, read our steps here.
If you'd like to proceed with a more thorough install, place your Microsoft Windows Disk into your CD/DVD drive.
Reboot the machine and press (usually F2) for boot options. We are going to choose to boot from the CD/DVD drive. Select it with the keyboard arrows and hit enter.
Upon start, click on the Install button.
Accept the License Agreement and click Next.
For a new installation on a hard drive, choose Custom Install and hit Next.
Select your hard drive. Now, if you have a new hard drive hit New (for new hard disk) and click Apply. Once done, hit Format and Apply. If you are installing on a disk with data on it, I would recommend deleting it (especially since you backed up the data). Why? Well, if you had a virus you would be keeping it on the system and installing Windows on top of it. I would select the disk, delete the partition, hit New to create a new partition, and format. Once done, hit next.
This isn't really a step as this is when Microsoft is going to install Windows. Not much to do and, depending on the specs of your computer, it might take some time. But, if you were to go make a cup of coffee and a sandwich, I think it should be done by the time you get back. On 4GB of RAM it took my computer about 10 minutes to finish.
The following steps are for personalization, setting up the user name, password, etc. The first option is to setup the Username. Type whatever you would like your username to be. By Default, Windows will take whatever you input and add '-PC' at the end for the computer name.
Setup a password and a password hint. I chose something challenging, but something I can remember. The password hint cannot have the password in it - so you cannot set your password to be your dog's name, Nina, and then make the hint Nina. But, your hint could be "What is your dog's name?"
Automatic Updates. I hate them but I always enable them. I always select Use Recommended Settings. I suggest that you do, as well.
Choose your Date/Time Zone. Hit the drop down menu and select your timezone. I'm in New York City so the Eastern Time Zone is my choice.
Select your computer's location. This gives you the choices of "Pubic, Home, and Work." These are merely for firewall and security rules but if this is your home choose Home.
Now, Windows will boot in and you are good to go. But, we do still have to install our Windows drivers. Insert your Flash Drive and when it opens up select each driver. You will have to install them manually. Most of the time a driver will come with an installer, so clicking the Executable (.exe or .msi) should install the drivers for you.