Step 4: Wipe Away Windows

Now you're ready to wipe the hard drive clean. This is called reformatting . The process destroys all the data on the primary partition on the hard drive. That's what you probably know as your C: drive.

One important thing to check here before you call in the wreckers is to check to see if you can boot the computer from a CD or DVD. When a computer starts up, it reads files on the hard drive and that gets the operating system running in memory. But you can also get it to start up without checking the hard drive by booting from a bootable CD or DVD.

In the case of an operating system installation, this is necessary because you don't want to be using files on the hard drive that you are going to wipe clean. This would be like ordering the demolition of a house while you are still standing inside it making a curry.

That said, here's how to configure your CD or DVD drive to boot the system:

  1. Reboot your computer, and look for the option to go into your computer's BIOS. Sometimes it's called Setup. The instructions for which key you should press to enter the BIOS should flash on screen quickly during start up. Often it's the DEL key or a function key such as F2.


    If you are uncertain which key to tap to access the BIOS, check with your computer maker's support area on its website. Or you could just use this handy dandy little cheat sheet I've provided here:




    Access Key



    Phoenix BIOS


    Award BIOS

    Delete or Ctrl+Alt+Del



    And if that doesn't help, don't despair. I've also listed brands of computers and their BIOS access keys on my website at reformat -winxp/enter-BIOS.html.

  2. If you see your computer manufacturer's logo when the computer boots up, you might have to hit the Esc key to see information that tells you how to access the BIOS.

  3. After you know which key to press, restart the computer, and hit the appropriate key. You enter the BIOS settings.

  4. You see a raw-looking screen with lots of weird settings. It looks like technology out of a 1980s submarine movie.

  5. In the BIOS, use the cursor keys to go over to the BOOT menu. If there isn't one, look for an option in one of the menus that reads Boot Disk Priority, Boot Sequence, or something like that (see Figure 9.5). BIOSes from different manufacturers are slightly different, so it's impossible for me to tell you exactly how yours works.

    Figure 9.5. Locate the BOOT menu in your computer's BIOS, and then locate the menu that allows you to change the order of the bootable drives .
  6. In many cases, the computer is set to boot from the floppy first, then the hard drive, and finally the CD. You want to move the CD to the top of the list. Some BIOSes allow you to choose each item separately and set its priority. Others make you move items up and down the list.

  7. Read the instructions on the screen, typically found on the right side of the screen. It tells you what keys to use to rearrange the list (see Figure 9.6). Then look for the option to save. It's often F10, but not always. Save and exit.

    Figure 9.6. Change the order of the bootable drives in BIOS so the CD or DVD drive boots first.

  8. After the BIOS is configured to boot from your CD or DVD drive, place your Windows XP install disk or your system recovery disk into the CD/DVD drive and restart the computer.

Using a System Recovery CD

If you're using a system recovery disk when the system restarts, files are read from the CD, the system boots, and the re-install process starts. Follow the instructions as they appear on your screen. This process is different for each brand of computer as it's customized by the computer maker. It should, nevertheless, be fairly straightforward.


Be extra careful when tinkering with your system's BIOS! If you think Windows can be ornery, you haven't seen anything yet. Because the BIOS is the heart of your computer, it's a very powerful and dangerous item. Don't toggle options on and off unless you know what they do, and for the sake of all that's good and wholesome in the world, don't save your changes unless you're absolutely certain you know what you're doing. Changing the boot order sequence is a simple task, but toying with some of the other settings is kind of like opening the hood of your car and randomly heaving bits in the lake. It can be fun at the time, but you'll find yourself helpless and stranded later.

When you are finished, your system should be in the exact state you got it from the manufacturer, with all Windows files and drivers already in place. If everything is working, skip ahead to "Step 7: Install Protection Against Malware," on p. 276 .

Using a Windows XP Install CD

If you're using a Windows XP CD when the computer restarts, you are prompted to Press Any Key to Boot from CD. Note that there is no Any key. Press whichever key you fancy. However, the Enter key will do as well as the [ key.

You see a blue screen, but don't panic. This isn't the typical Windows blue screen of death (as geeks are fond of calling it) that you see when the computer crashes. It's the Windows Setup screen. You won't see much for a whilejust a blue screen with a white bar at the bottom. The white bar lists all of the things that the Windows Setup process is loading.


Using a copy of a Windows XP installation CD or using a recovery disk from a different brand of computer does not work. You either get an error or the system ignores the CD and tries to go to the hard drive to boot up.

When these are all loaded, you see a screen that says Welcome to Setup near the top (see Figure 9.7). Just below it is an instruction that says To Set Up Windows XP Now, Press Enter. Ignore the items below this instruction and press Enter. The bottom of the screen reads Please Wait. So wait. Maybe go floss your teeth because you can never floss enough.

Figure 9.7. When you first boot from the Windows XP CD, you see a blue setup screen like this one.

Eventually the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) appears on your screen. This is where you click away all your rights. A lawyer would tell you that at this point you should read really carefully because not only is it a legal contract between you and Microsoft, but it's also really interesting. I'll leave it up to you. I hold my nose and press F8.

The setup program then searches for previously installed copies of Windows. A screen appears (see Figure 9.8) offering to repair previously installed copies of Windows. Ignore this offer and press the Esc key to continue installing a fresh copy of Windows XP.

Figure 9.8. Ignore the very nice offer to repair a previously installed copy of Windows XP.

The next screen shows you the partitions on your computer (see Figure 9.9). A hard drive can be subdivided into sections called partitions . Each of these partitions is assigned a drive letter. So if your computer had a hard drive that was divided into three partitions and your system had a CD-ROM drive, it would look like this:

  • C: drive Your primary partition where Windows is installed

  • D: drive Your CD-ROM drive

  • E: drive Your second hard drive partition

  • F: drive Your third hard drive partition

Figure 9.9. The installation screen lists the partitions on your hard drive.


Have you backed up your data? This would be a good point to hit F3 and quit the installation process if you have forgotten to back up something important. In computer terms, this is where the dry cleaner says, "Are you sure you want to clean this dress, Miss Lewinsky?" After this point, there's no turning back.

Most hard drives only have one partition, and it is listed on this screen.

If you have more than one partition, your current Windows installation is generally the first one. Drive letters are listed on this screen, too. You generally want to choose the C: drive.

Because you want to do a thorough job of this re-installation, first you want to delete the selected partition. Press the D key. You see a confirmation screen. This might make you a little nauseated. I poise my finger over the Enter key at this point and close my eyes tightly. It helps.

So press Enter.

Just for good measure, the screen asks you if you're sure one more time. Don't chicken out. Unless you have good reason, go ahead and delete the partition. Hit L (see Figure 9.10).

Figure 9.10. Press D, Enter, and then on the next screen press L. You'll DELete the partition.

Get it? D-Enter-L? D-E-L? Yes, even Microsoft has a sense of humor.

So do it. This bit is where you push the big red button that drops the big demolition ball into the house. At this point, all the data on the C: drive is gone. Poof! Just for fun, pretend to cough and wave away the dust. Mime can be a fun part of Windows demolition.

Think of partitions as individual storage bins. Hard drives can be a single bin or can contain multiple bins . Some users divide their drives into several partitions for storing different kinds of data (operating system on one partition, data files on another). Some users create more than one partition because they're really big geeks who want to run Windows XP on one partition and say, Linux, on another partition. In the end, just be sure that you install your new version of Windows in the correct partition and all will be right with the world.

The process now takes you back to a previous screen showing the partitions, but the partition that was previously listed now appears as unpartitioned space. This is like the smoking hole where the house used to be.

If you want to re-install Windows onto a single big partition, select Unpartitioned Space and press Enter. You can think of this as space to put a foundation for your house. If you subdivided your land into several partitions, you'd have lots to build several smaller houses .

If you want to create smaller partitions, choose C, and tell the installer program how big a partition you want (in megabytes). Don't make these partitions too smallmake sure they are at least 10GB. Repeat until all your unpartitioned space is used up.

If you're uncertain, you can delete and add partitions as many times as you want. By the way, 8MB are always listed as unpartitioned. Ignore this, like you would a cat licking your hair from the back of the couch .

After you are done divvying up the hard drive, select the first partition and press Enter. The next screen tells you to format the drive using NTFS (see Figure 9.11).

Figure 9.11. Choose to format using the NTFS file system, but don't cut corners by using the quick mode.

You have a quick option and a regular option. You're welcome to use the quick format option and save some time, but I like to do it right and choose the regular option. It'll take a bit longer, but it erases the drive. Go find something to do while the hard drive is formatting (see Figure 9.12). I bet there are dishes in the sink. Every time I look at the sink, I think, "I wish I had time to clean those up." This would be a good time.

Figure 9.12. The formatting process takes a while, but shows its progress along the way. Note that staring at it or yelling won't make it go any faster.

The formatting process takes a while, but it is worth it. Do not turn the computer off during the process, no matter what, because half formatting a drive and stopping it in the process is like half pooper-scooping the lawn. It still can't be used for sunbathing.

When the formatting process is complete, your computer does a bit more work on the drive, and then automatically restarts. Do not press any keys during the reboot process no matter how tempting it is.


While your drive is formatting and you're off bathing the cat, patrolling the lawn for dog bombs , or moussing your pompadour, you should be very, very careful to not let anyoneespecially childrenin the room with your computer. A sudden power loss during drive formatting leaves your drive in an ugly, unrecoverable state. And we all know how much children enjoy power buttons. In fact, years ago a cover for power buttons called a Molly Guard was invented to protect power switches from little hands after the daughter (Molly) of a programmer shut down a few machines. So close and lock your office door, or if your computer is in the living area of the home, lock the children outside with a tent and a packed lunch . If you have pets, particularly cats who like to walk on the keyboard or lounge near your power strip, you're just asking for trouble. I recommend temporary detention of any furry creatures in another part of the house.

Absolute Beginners Guide To. Security, Spam, Spyware & Viruses
Absolute Beginners Guide to Security, Spam, Spyware & Viruses
ISBN: 0789734591
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 168

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