Reinstalling Windows is one of the easiest ways to fix software problems on your computer, whether it’s running slow or infected by viruses. You should also reinstall Windows before you get rid of an old PC.
Depending on your version of Windows and how you installed it – or whether it came with your computer – there are a number of different ways to reinstall Windows.
Before Reinstalling Windows
The process of reinstalling Windows will erase all the data on your computer. Your files, the programs you’ve installed, and the settings you’ve configured on your computer will be wiped out. (Note that, if you use the Refresh feature in Windows 8, your personal files will be kept.)
Before reinstalling Windows, you should make backup copies of all your personal data – of course, you should always have up-to-date backup copies anyway, because hard drives could fail at any time. However, when you reinstall Windows, these backup copies will be the only copies. Ensure you have up-to-date backups of all your important files before continuing.
Read More: Checklist Guide for Reinstalling Windows
Refreshing and Resetting on Windows 8
If you’re using Windows 8, reinstalling Windows is easier than ever. Instead of installing from a Windows disc or activating a recovery partition, you can use the Refresh your PC or Reset your PC options built into Windows. These options will quickly reinstall Windows for you, automatically saving and restoring your data and not asking any questions during installation.
Your Computer Came With Windows
if your computer came with Windows, the easiest way to get it back to its factory default state is by using its recovery partition. You can also use recovery discs – computers generally don’t come with recovery discs anymore, but you may have been asked to burn the discs when you set up your computer.
To use your computer’s recovery partition, restart your computer and press the key that appears on-screen during the start-up process. If you don’t see this key, consult your computer’s manual (or use Google) to find the necessary key for your specific model of computer.
To use recovery discs, insert the first disc into your computer’s disc drive and restart your computer. You should see the recovery environment appear. (If it doesn’t, you’ll need to change the boot order in your computer’s BIOS so the computer boots from the disc drive.)
You should now be in the recovery environment. With a few clicks, you can instruct your computer to reset itself back to its factory default state. You’ll have to set up your computer like you did when you first acquired it, providing a username, reinstalling your programs, and configuring it.
You Installed Windows or Upgraded Your Computer’s Version of Windows
If you installed Windows yourself or installed a new version of Windows on a computer that came with an older version of Windows, you’ll have a Windows installation disc lying around. You can use that Windows installation disc to reinstall Windows. (Some geeks also like doing this on computers that come with Windows to perform a fresh installation, getting rid of the junk software preinstalled by computer manufacturers.)
First, insert the Windows installation disc into your computer’s disc drive and restart your computer. You should see the Windows installer appear. (If it doesn’t, you’ll need to change the boot order in your computer’s BIOS so the computer boots from the CD or DVD drive.)
If your computer doesn’t include a physical disc drive, you can use the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to place the Windows installation files on a USB drive (this method works with both Windows 7 and Windows 8.)
Complete the installation process, answering all the questions and providing your Windows product key. Once you’re done, you’ll need to install the hardware drivers for your computer’s hardware and all your favorite software.
If you frequently reinstall Windows 7, or install it on many computers, you may want to create a customized Windows 7 installation disc.
Reinstalling Windows used to be scarier, but the days of manually loading SATA drivers and using a text-mode environment to reinstall Windows XP are behind us. Reinstalling Windows – or restoring from a factory partition – is very simple, especially with Windows 8.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 01/10/13