The Reformat Solution

In 1995 my dad finally gave in to my demands and bought a Packard Bell 60mhz desktop computer.  I knew nothing about computers, and as the story goes for first time users, I completely messed something up beyond repair.  I didn’t know exactly what I did, but my computer wouldn’t turn on; Windows 95 was no place to be seen.  I finally broke down, called tech support, and followed their directions.  Ultimately I learned the greatest secret of computer repair: the reformat solution.

Reformatting your computer is a last-resort action to erase all of your data and reinstall your operating system and programs.  A reformatted computer brings your machine to a like-new state.  I have found that aside from restarting your computer and making sure everything is plugged in, reformatting your hard drive usually fixes all problems.  This hasn’t just been the case with my old Packard Bell but every other machine and mobile device that I’ve ever owned.  When worst comes to worst, when I can find no other solution, I reformat and start all over.


Reformatting used to be a pain.  The trick I learned to begin anew was to use DOS floppy disks for a fresh install, load CD drivers, and begin installing the new operating system from CD.  It could be a real hassle to located the appropriate drivers so a new installation could begin.  This was essentially the same pattern that I would follow to reformat my hard drive for all systems I’ve owned.  The game became much easier with the proliferation of the bootable CD/DVD.  No longer did I need to scour the net for archaic drivers for an unknown 4x CD-ROM.  Reformatting became even easier when manufacturers got the hint and decided to include system restore disks.  System restore disks basically assured that someone with very little computer knowledge could follow the steps to reinstall the operating system and applications.

The more things change, the more they do stay the same.  I find that I format my hard drive less than I used to, but it’s nice to know a way to make my machine new again. These are important tips for your computer as well as your favorite mobile device.

Tips for reformatting:

  • Make sure to save all of your important data.  On every electronic device that I use, I assume that it will one day stop working.  I store all of my files in a centralized location so that if there is a need to reformat I can easily back up my files.  You may choose to use a thumbdrive or portable hard drive to keep a second copy of your data.
  • Make sure to keep a copy of all your computer’s drivers.  If you’re the type of person who loses stuff, make sure you back up any driver or system restore disks that come with your computer.  These are absolutely necessary to bring your rig back to its prime shape.
  • Do your research and know where drivers can be downloaded.  Many manufacturer’s have support pages that offer driver downloads for free.  It is important to know where you can find drivers if you lose your backups.  It’s also important because manufacturer’s often publish updated drivers that improve your machine’s performance.
  • If you want to avoid reformatting your hard drive, run anti-virus software and avoid malware and adaware.  These are often reasons why people end up with the need to reformat.  There are also software packages and tutorials designed to help you regularly backup your hard drive.

While programs such as Apple’s Time Machine and Windows System Restore have attempted to eliminate the need to start fresh, I still find that nothing compares to completely formatting your hard drive.  My advice to a friend who was completely new to computers was to play with every function his computer had to offer.  If you’re not sure what will happen when you press a button on your computer, press it.  It won’t blow up.  The easiest way to learn what something does is play with it and figure out.  We’ve reached a point where it has become more difficult to break your computer through user error than it is to break your computer reinstalling your OS.  It may seem drastic to some, but there hardly a problem that a reformat can not fix.


How often do you reformat your hard drive?


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