How to format your computer and do it right!

Ok, so you gave up and formatted your computer, not the worst thing. I would have just renamed the Windows Folder and gave it a Hidden attributes; Windows Setup would not find. Then reinstall Windows from DOS. This would have allowed me to save all my DLLs and Start Menu. But OK, let's go from here, a nice clean hard drive. I hope you wrote zeros to the disk and Fdisked.

I would first write zeros to the hard drive. Most hard drive manufacturers offer a utility to do write zeros and test their hard drives. I found one at IBM called ZAP that writes to the first 128 sectors, where the File table or FAT and boot sector are. This does the trick and it is quick. Leaving no unwanted info on the drive. You can download a tool from the hard drive manufactures site. After downloading it, make sure you have a startup diskette or startup Windows 9x CD. You did make one, didn't you? Now let's go to work.

If you do not have a floppy drive, you will be using the startup CD in your CD-ROM instead.

Insert the diskette and reboot. We do not need CD-ROM support yet, so don't waste the time loading the CD-ROM drivers. When you get to the A:> prompt type the command the manufacture of the tool you downloaded told you to. Answer all the questions.

Now when that is done, you will need to create a primary partition.Type Fdisk at the A:> prompt and it will load. In most cases you will have a FAT32 MSDOS version so it will ask you do you want to enable large disk. Answer Yes, if you want to use FAT32. No if you want FAT16(FAT); but nobody today uses FAT16. Then make sure you are Fdisking the correct drive, by selecting option 5. If you are going to use NTFS you should select FAT32, and Windows will reformat the Drive to NTFS when it installs itself.

You get to make the decision on how many partitions you want. I am going to assume most users will use one large C drive.

If you are going to use NTFS, I recommend making a FAT32 partition, about 2 - 2.5 gigs for your C Drive. and the balance will be D drive, the larger portion of the drive. You install Windows, on the D drive. C will remain FAT32, D will be NTFS. In one of my other editorials I explain why. In the rest of this article I am talking about using FAT32 only. So, if you want two partitions you need to make adjustments to have the two partitions.

Now create a Primary DOS Partition, and you want the largest possible size for this partition. Now reboot with the startup diskette in the A: drive. When you get back to the A:> prompt type Format C: and press enter. When it is done, reboot again and select With CD-ROM support this time. Place the Windows CD in and install Windows. For those of you who do not know how to do this, watch the screen as you boot, the Drive Letter will be identified as the CD-ROM Drive letter on the screen. If you only have one hard drive and one CD-ROM it should be E: for Windows 98 and ME. D: for Windows 95. Windows 95 does not load any file to hard drive.

Then at the A:> prompt type E: and press enter then Type CD\Win95 for Windows 95, CD\Win98 for Windows 98, CD\Win9x for Millennium. For Windows 2000, XP and 2003 reboot with the Windows CD-ROM in and check the BIOS is set to boot to a CD-ROM as one of the options. Or you can run the file I386\Winnt.exe. Now type the word Setup and your off and running.

After you have installed Windows, I recommend you install WinSafe. Then start setting up all your hardware, one item at a time. Rebooting and backing up with WinSafe between them, if you mess one up you can use WinSafe to go back to the last Registry. Make sure all the hardware is correct in the Device Manager.

When you done with all the hardware, you can start setting up your computer the way you want it. Do not install programs yet,  you may add files such as your Desktop picture, sound files and Icons. Get your computer customized as you want it without install any programs. For Windows 9x and ME copy the file System.dat to C:\System.1st , overwriting the existing file. Windows XP already is make system restore points for WinSafe to use. This will allow you to start from here should you ever need to replace the Registry with the First Registry. Now Defrag, you will not believe how fragmented the files are.

Next step is to install System Sentry and Registry Watch . Use Registry Watch and take a snapshot of the system. Install you first piece of software, and finish up the snapshot. Review it and see if any files have changed. If so it is now time to use System Sentry and see if that file needs to be updated. Reboot and check the program, and if all is well make a new backup with WinSafe . Do not forget to update the Safe in WinSafe every now and then. Repeat this operation for each piece of software, remember to reboot between installations.

Now that you have installed all your software again, your system need another Defrag. Then it is on to clean the Registry, so install RegRepair and get the boot up all straighten out if you are not using XP or 2003. Then on to the System Backup files and the duplicate fonts. Then onward and upward to the Registry Cleaner in Perfect Companion , re-registering the DLLs and OCXs. If you really want to get it clean get the Registry Drill out and run the Quick Drill fixing and deleting errors. Then run the Deep Drill, you do not need to fix all the errors here just keep going till it finds the SharedDLLs Key and get this Key cleaned up. I have a hard time believing that the file Balloons.bmp from Microsoft Office is a shared file and that some of my software will not run if I ever deleted this file or the entry. If you have the time fix the errors in the Deep Drill as you go.

Now that you have spend a good deal of time rebuilding your computer, you going to want to keep it this why. Well not yet, did you check the CPU temperature? Do you have the computer box cool enough? Did you set your Swapfile or Pagefile up for optimal performance? 

Now that you have successfully built your computer and it is running smooth, maybe you want to install a faster drive or CPU and start over!!!

Startup Windows 9x CD

This is simply a CD that you create use a program like Nero to copy a startup Diskette to a CD. There is more to a startup diskette or CD then just the files. They have information written to the boot sector of them . Windows XP cannot make this for you.

On XP 2000 2003 the option is available in the Windows Explorer.

  • Open My Computer , and then click the floppy disk drive to select it.
  • On the File menu, point to the name of the floppy drive, and then click Format .
  • Under Format options , click Create an MS-DOS startup disk .

Add the files ***Fdisk, Format and Scandisk from a Windows ME CD. Fdisk and Scandisk is not available on XP or 2000, and XP

If you can get someone to make you a Windows 98 Startup Diskette, you will have everything you need. Make the bootable CD using the 98 image and all the files.

If you don't have a Floppy drive then, get your old computer out and make a few startup diskettes with it; and store them in a safe place. Vista is not be offering a startup diskette either.

***The files Fdisk, Format, Scandisk must be the same MSDOS version.



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