(updated 12/16/2012)

Wiping your hard drive for a fresh start...

Periodically, it pays to wipe all the data off your hard drive and give yourself a fresh start. Here is a series of steps you can follow that will accomplish this task. Be aware : these instructions cannot account for all the peccadillos and idiosyncrasies of every computer user, so if something doesn't make sense, ask first.

1) Back up your data. You need at least two copies of any personally-created original file you do not want to lose. When wiping the hard drive, all files presently on the drive will become irretrievable. Besides the obvious work files you will have on your drive, you also need to back up copies of your email folders, address books and any other personally-created program preference files. The backup can be in the form of floppy disks, ZIP disks, tapes, etc. If you have a CD writer, make CDR copies of the data so the data can be read in any CD player.

2) Gather all original disks for all the programs you intend to install. This would include your operating system (Windows 9x), all hardware drivers, all major programs and all license- and registration numbers and passwords these programs might require. Make note of any settings that are required for programs to work or to run in a preferred way. These settings would include any that will not be restored automatically by the installation of your software. (Keeping a running text file record of these settings with your other data helps with this. Any time you install a program, you should make notes for yourself as to what you had to do to make it work correctly and what settings you made within it to get it to perform the way you prefer. When migrating your data, this text file will go with it, and will become a valuable reference tool.)

Note : if your machine's BIOS is older (pre-1999) and your hard drive is large (greater than 2 GB), you may have issues with not all of the hard drive space being made available in a single partition. If this is so, you may need to install the brand-specific disk management software. This special software can allow or force your machine to see the drive the way you want it seen, that is to say, as a single full-size partition. Generally this is not an issue, but should it become one, it is a formidable one to overcome for the average user.

3) Create a system diskette. In fact, make one, make it read-only by moving its tab, then make a copy of this diskette. Having this diskette will insure that you will be able to get to a DOS prompt.

When ready...

To install the operating system (OS)...

1) Set your BIOS to boot to the floppy drive.

2) Boot to the floppy. From the A:\ prompt, run FDISK.EXE. Remove any existing partitions and create a single new one. (This involves a second boot.)

3) Set your BIOS to boot from the CD. Boot to OS (usually Windows) CD. This self-starting software should format the drive correctly and begin to install itself.

Note : in the event that you cannot set your BIOS to boot to the CD, boot to your floppy drive once again. Run D:\SETUP.EXE from there to begin the installation of your OS.

4) Whether you booted from the floppy drive or the CD, when your OS wants you to reboot, jump in when your machine restarts and set your BIOS to boot to the hard drive. When your machine successfully boots to the hard drive, it will automatically pick up and finish the installation of the OS.

5) After the installation of the OS, accept any automatically-installed, recognized hardware drivers (video, sound, SCSI) where the devices seem to be working entirely and properly. (There is little advantage in using the hardware vendor's drivers if the hardware is already working.)

To install all other hardware drivers....

1) Create a folder - C:\Util.

2) Create sub-folders for the other drivers. i.e. C:\Util\Network Card, and C:\Util\Modem.

3) Copy relevant driver files from their sources to the appropriate sub-folders.

4) Install the drivers from these locations.

To install other software and set preferences...

1) Setup your OS with its general preferred options (quick launch, classic folders, etc.)

2) Install some kind of anti-virus software.

3) Install both of your Internet software components - the connection software and your browser.

4) Update your virus definitions via the Internet.

5) Install any other desired software.

To complete the job...

1) Restore data files from the backup you made to specific data-only folders.

2) Test all programs for functionality and test your data for integrity.

3) Scandisk and Defrag the hard drive, in selective startup mode (Run MSCONFIG to access this option).

4) If using Windows Millennium, make a final Restore Point when complete. If using Win95 or WIN98, make backups of your registry.

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