How to Reformat a Dell Laptop Computer

By Christopher Capelle

  • Overview

    As with all other computers, it's sometimes necessary to reformat the hard drive of a Dell laptop. If you have installed a new hard drive yourself or want to eradicate all of your data, reformatting is mandatory. While early versions of Windows made the process more complex, as most of them depended on floppy disks, recent models make it as easy as installing a CD-ROM.
    How to Reformat a Dell Laptop Computer
    How to Reformat a Dell Laptop Computer
    • Step 1

      Determine whether reformatting is the answer. By running a diagnostic utility, you'll see how healthy your hard drive is. If you have installed a new hard drive, reformatting is required. If you get the "blue screen of death" (see the photo), a reformat will most likely be necessary.
    • Step 2

      Back up your data if your hard drive is still functioning. Reformatting destroys all of the data on a computer.
      Some older laptops include an external floppy drive.


    • Step 3

      Change the boot settings on the computer by holding down the "Delete" key upon rebooting and selecting either the A: drive (floppy) or CD drive with the up and down arrow keys.
      The software restore CD
    • Step 4

      Reboot the computer with the media installed. Older versions of Windows may require you to monitor the steps and hit "Yes" or "Enter" when required. Newer versions are generally auto-run.
      A Windows bootable floppy
    • Step 5

      Once the computer boots up with the new OS, use the restore CD to install any required drivers, patches and the like on the laptop. Run any Windows updates at this time. Then reinstall your applications and run the updates on them.
      Dell HQ: Round Rock, Texas
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Ingredients:
    • Dell OS Restore CD or Windows Install CD
    • Bootable floppy disk (for older laptops)
    • Tip: Back up your data on a regular basis.
    • Warning:
    • Formatting destroys all data, so be careful.
    • Installing a hard drive in a laptop is harder than it looks.

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