How To Reformat and Start Over

Dear Computer Lady,

I have a tons of viruses on my computer so I just want to wipe it or reformat it. How should I do this or how much does it cost to just clear the pc and start over?

Thanks, Tyler


Dear Tyler,

When your computer has been compromised by viruses, malware, or just years of use, reformatting and starting over will often add a few good years of life, that it might not otherwise enjoy.

Before I start explaining how, or how much it costs, I want to be sure that you and all the readers understand exactly what reformatting means to your computer, and especially to your data.

When you format your computer, you are erasing the entire hard drive. This means that everything that was on your computer will be erased. All your photos will be gone, along with your favorites, email messages, addresses, documents and music. The hard drive is first erased, then the original content that the computer had on it when it came from the factory is put back on. It will be like getting a new computer all over again.

Since everything will be lost, your first job will be to back up all your important files. If you have photos, music, letters, spreadsheets, slideshows or any other type of information on your computer that you have created or saved over the years, you need to get them copied onto some type of storage. You might be able to save them on CDs or DVDs, or copy them to a USB storage device or external hard drive. If this is not something that you can do, or are comfortable doing, most local computer shops will be able to do this for you, even if the computer is no longer able to run windows.

Once you have everything backed up, it is time to figure out if you want to try reformatting yourself, or have a professional do the job for you. If you are not comfortable backing everything up, then take it to your local computer shop and have them do the entire job for you.


I can’t give you directions for doing this job, since it varies from one computer manufacturer to the next, and sometimes it is a different process for computers from the same manufacturer. Most HP and Compaq computers come with a recovery DVD that will format the computer and put it back the way it was, but other brands often come with several disks that require some extensive technical knowledge on your part.

As far as cost is concerned, I usually charge three hours of labor for re-installing Windows and getting the computer set back up the way it was. It really takes me a full day because I make sure all the security updates are installed and the computer is protected from future malware attacks.

I hope this helps answer your questions.

Previous Post

How To Forward Web Pages

Next Post

AutoArchive Outlook 2003


    • jkharman
    • July 16, 2009

    But what about the data that you are backing up? Isn’t it infected too? If so, how do you retrieve it without infecting another computer?

  1. Hello,
    I am a first-time user of your service, so please forgive me for posting in the wrong place. I couldn’t find a place to put a new post.
    I have a custom-built, quite high-powered PC which came with Windows XP Media Centre. I have had countless problems with the computer freezing. It was returned to the Manufacturer (Mesh Computers, UK) 5 times. It is now no longer under warranty. Mesh insists that my problems are software not hardware. Two subsequent independent testers have reported that they can find no faults They have tested over a long period, admittedly not using the software I use regularly, which is particularly needed for my job as a professional photographer, namely Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Each of these programs has been upgraded over the period I have had the problems, and I am currently using Photoshop CS4 and Lightromm 2.6. The freezing, which can be as many as 5 times in a day, occurs whilst in these programs and also before they have been opened, even when the computer is idle. I have had conflicting advice from “experts”, one of which suggests that the operating system is not up to the demands of my kind of image processing, and that I should upgrade to Windows 7, possibly 64 bit. I would be interested in your thoughts about this.
    Ian Cartwright

Comments are closed.