How to Format a Computer?

Formatting a computer is not as straightforward as it sounds. Nevertheless, it is the only viable option if you want to completely get rid of a virus or malware that has been slowing down your computer’s performance.

Many users also format their computer when they want to upgrade from their existing operating system to a newer version. Essentially, formatting a computer involves erasing all the data stored in your computer’s hard disk drive so that you can set up new partitions and file system from which your operating system and read from and write data to, the drive.

 Whether you are formatting your computer to erase or the data so that you can sell it or just want to boost its performance, the following guide will walk you through on not only how to format but also re-installation process of a new operating system, no matter the type of computer you are using.

If your computer runs on the Microsoft Windows operating system, there are two methods you can factory reset your computer.

First, is by using installation CD or any other external drive that contains the Windows operating system; second, is by using restoration partition. As complicated as it may sound, it is a fairly easy thing to do, of which you do not require any skills – just follow the stipulated guidelines.

As for formatting, a laptop running on Mac Os, we will tackle that later. Let’s first look into factory resetting a Windows computer.

Using Installation Discs

Back up your data

Before you get started on anything else, you might consider backing up important files that you do not want to lose. Remember formatting your computer means completely erasing all the files and data stored on your computer’s hard disk drive. You can use USB drives, DVDs and CDs to back up your data if you run out of space; you can also use the cloud from a reliable service provider.

Insert your windows installation disc or USB drive containing installation files

In order to format your primary drive (Hard disk), your computer needs to run on an operating system installed on an external drive.

This is simply because you cannot format the drive within the operating system itself. Now, you will need to set up your computer to boot from the installation drive.

The process of doing this varies depending on the Windows version you are using. If you are using Windows 7, restart your computer and enter the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) by pressing F1, F2, DEL, ESC or F10 key.

After this, ensure you the boot option matches that of the Windows installation file. For instance, if you are using a bootable USB drive the primary device option should match with that of a USB drive. You can refer to the manual or search online on how to do this, as it differs from manufacturers.

As for windows 8 other newer versions, click the power button in the start screen, and while holding down the SHIFT button, click Restart to Reboot from the Advanced Startup menu.

 Navigate to the Troubleshoot option and then select Advanced Options tab. Click on the UEFI Firmware Settings button and then open the BOOT menu and set your installation drive as the primary boot device.

Start the process

If you have correctly set up your BIOS to boot the installation drive you are using, Windows will automatically load the setup files and then start the installation process.

Although it may seem like you are installing Windows, you are not! The setup program is just starting that’s all!

As the process starts, you will be prompted to select your preferred language- where you can change if need be- and to finish it all up, you will also have to click “agree” on the terms and conditions button.

Format your hard drive

Once you have read and agreed to the Microsoft Windows terms and conditions, you can now format your hard drive during the installation process. But first, you have to the “custom (advanced)” option on the “type of installation” screen.

A list of all the hard drives and their partitions will then be displayed. Usually, most computers have several partitions on their primary drives-one for the operating system, a recovery partition and a couple of more other partitions that the users may have created and drives they may have installed.

To wipe clean a particular drive, click on the “drive option” button and then click the “format” option. If you have several partitions on a particular drive and want to get rid of them to make one big drive again, select all the partitions you want to clear and click on “Delete” option for each partition. Note; if you delete all your partitions, you will have to create new ones before it the drive can be formatted.

Just select the unallocated space and click “new” to create a new partition and set the size of the partition from the available space. If you want to format a secondary drive, you have to first connect to the computer and then repeat the same process as formatting your computer’s primary drives.

Install an operating system

Remember, formatting your hard disk drives wipes off all the data files including the operating system. And you can’t use your computer without an operating system.

You can proceed to install the Windows OS on your bootable device after formatting by following the rest of the prompts, alternatively, if you prefer installing another operating system, say a different Windows version; you can install it on the bootable device and later install it on your computer.

Using Restoration Partition

If you do not have a Windows installation disc, no need to worry! You can still format your computer within 30 minutes only.

Besides, some computers come with a feature to enable you to factory reset your device. This option is also ideal if you are formatting with installation discs seem to be a big hassle for you. Here is how to go about;

Restart your computer

Press the power button on your computer and wait for Windows to load. As soon as it starts loading, repeatedly press F10, F8 or F11 depending on the make and model of your computer. You can check online or on the manual for which key you should use.

Installing a fresh system

If you have pressed the right keys, you will be taken to the partition window offering you options to repair or restore.

The best thing about this window is that, once you are there you don’t have to do anything else; the restore partition will automatically run the program to format up to completion, reload the operating system, install drivers and install all the original programs that came with your computer. This whole process takes not more than 30 minutes to complete.

If you are using Windows 10 in your computer, there is a quick way to factory reset your device. The method is pretty straightforward since the operating system itself provides a direct way to reset your computer.

On the start menu, navigate to the “Settings” option which is displayed by an icon that looks like a gear, and selects “Update and Security”.

Select the “Recovery” button located in the left navigation pane. Windows will then present you with three major options; Reset this PC, Go back to an earlier build and Advanced Setup.

Since you want to clear all the data and start afresh, select the “Reset this PC option. “Advanced setup” option allows you to boot off an installation disc or USB while the “Go back to an earlier build” option is for Windows Insiders who want to roll back to older versions of the operating system.

Click “Get started” button in the “Reset my PC” option and choose either “Keep my files” if you want to keep all your data intact or “Remove everything” option if you want to completely delete all the files on your computer. Either way, all the settings will be returned to their default and downloaded apps will be uninstalled, leaving you with only those that came with your machine. If you chose “keep my files”, follow the prompts to begin recovery.

How to Format a MacBook Pro

Formatting the MacBook is quite a lengthy process. Anyways, it can be done in three ways- reinstalling OS X from Recovery, restoring OS X from Time Machine backup, or erasing the hard drive and installing a fresh version of OS X.

Restore OS X from Recovery

Start by powering on your MacBook and listen for the startup sound. As soon as you hear the startup sound press and hold the Command and R key on your keyboard.

By doing this, the previous version of OS X that was on your MacBook Pro will be reinstalled. To install the initial version of OS X, press the Command, plus Option and R keys all at once.

When the Apple logo is displayed on the screen, release the keys, after which MacBook will prompt you to select an internet connection to connect to. Choose your preferred internet connection or use an Ethernet cable or router.

Just make sure your MacBook is connected to the internet so as to successfully reinstall OS X. Once it’s connected, select “Reinstall OS X” from the Recovery menu and click Continue.

Your MacBook will then guide you through the reinstallation process by displaying instructions to follow on the screen, after which you will be prompted to choose the hard disk you want the OS X installed. On completion, your MacBook will have been formatted and a new OS X installed.

Restoring from a Time Machine Backup

Similar to the first option, power on your MacBook Pro and once you hear the startup sound press the Command and R keys all at once. Wait for the Apple logo to appear and release the keys.

After making sure your MacBook is connected to the internet, select “Restore from Time Machine” in the Recovery menu and then click on the continue button.

It is worth noting that, this method only works if you had previously backed up your system using Time Machine. If you hadn’t, use the previous method.

Select the Time Machine backup disk and then select the backup you want to be restored. Formatting using this method allows you to reinstall OS X as well as your personal files.

In other words, it allows you to “go back in time” to a specific period depending on the Time Machine backup you restored.

For instance, if you are formatting your MacBook to eliminate the effects of a virus, select a Time Machine backup that was created before the virus infected your PC.

Click on “continue” and follow the instructions afterward, to reinstall your OS X and personal files. This process also formats your MacBook Pro.

Erasing the drive and installing OS X

The first three instructions on the previous method are the same ones you use in this method too, only that on the Recovery menu, you have to select “Disk Utility” and then click the on “Continue” option.

This will take you to the Disk Utility menu from where you will select the name of your startup disk in the left pane of the menu and then select “Erase” option.

In most cases, the name of the default startup disk is “Macintosh HD OS X”. In the format dropdown menu, click on “Mac OS Extended” and type the name of your disk then click on the “Erase” button to format your Startup disk.

Now, close the Disk Utility tab and select the “Reinstall OS X” option from the Recovery menu. Lastly, follow the on-screen instructions to finish reinstalling your MacBook Pro OS X. On successful completion your MacBook Pro will have been formatted and a fresh version of OS X installed.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! The different ways you can reset your computer to factory settings.

Be sure to use the above tips to help you clear all the data and files from your computer next time it is infected by a virus or you just want to re-sale it.

About the author


Geek Life Activated is my little corner on the web. I'm very passionate about tech, and i aim to use this blog to express that. I currently work as a System Administrator, and i love every second of it. I'm still new at it, so i'm learning something new everyday. I'm pretty open to learning new things, so please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong about anything, and you can contact me anytime you want. I'm a very easy person to talk to. :)

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