"Wipe" (format) the Hard Drive?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I had my first "customer" today. A friend asked my for some tips on wiping her hard drive and re-stalling the operating system. I asked why she wanted to do that and she told me that the machine was an "old" Dell, had been used for gaming for many years and was now VERY slow and asked "Should I just junk it"?

Long story short, I asked 3 questions.....

  1. How old is the machine? "Purchased in 2002" - um, newer than mine
  2. What is the processor? "Pentium P4 running at 3.0 gHz" um, better than mine
  3. How much RAM is installed? "512 MB" - ok, I had her THERE !!!
My immediate reaction was this system is definitely worth "saving" (or donated to ME!!!), especially since my experience leads me to like the processors that Dell builds there machines with, often using models with a fast FSB and high levels of L2 cache... ok, I HAD to get technical there. What that means is that not all P4 3.0 gHz processors are the same and I've been happy with the performance of the Dell processors I have had.

Now, obviously I first directed her to my earlier post as her machine sounded like a prime candidate for a complete optimization. I chose this option first, based on not knowing much about her model (but WILL be doing some research) and assuming that there may be files on her system that she didn't necessarily want to lose by "wiping" the hard drive. Plus not having my hands on the... uh MACHINE, makes it difficult to consult - especially through IMs.

However, should you have a machine that you feel needs wiped , understand that you may have options here, but wiping WILL delete any personal files, at the very least, so I recommend using my optimization tips first, in order retain personal files.

System (Disk) Recovery - NOT System Restore - Should your heart be set on formatting your hard drive, the first and best option MAY be System Recovery. Older machines included CDs to facilitate this, but just because those CDs aren't supplied (or if you lost them), does NOT mean your particular system doesn't include the utility. Oh, this utility will restore your system to the original "out of the box" configuration, yes INCLUDING pre-installed software applications.

If you don't have the disk and it isn't readily obvious if your system includes the utility, here's a simple way to tell....
  • Right click "My Computer"
  • Select "Manage"
  • Select "Disk Management" from the left hand menu
OBVIOUSLY my system doesn't include this partition !!!

That will bring up a list of the drives on your machine. IF your "Main Drive" is comprised of multiple "partitions" (segments) and one of those partitions is at least 4 GB, then most likely your system includes the System Recovery utility and the original "out of the box" configuration of it is contained on that partition. So, you CAN restore the machine to it's original condition... but be sure to continue to maintain it from now on.

Wipe The Hard Drive (re-install Windows) - I personally would never COMPLETELY wipe my hard drive... doing so could also wipe that System Recovery partition, if it is included on your system, or any other info that is located on separate partitions.

If your machine does not include the System Recovery utility but you "need"to re-install the operating system, it could get a bit tricky. And understand at this point that ALL of your personal files AND software applications will be gone forever. Also gone will be the drivers that run the hardware and programs of your system.

So, if you don't have copies of the "System Utilities" and software applications disks, it could get REALLY complicated. Either way, In order to return your operating system to it's original state or install it on another drive, here's the link to Microsoft's way of doing so. Note that it is much easier than it sounds, but will take about an hour (mostly unattended).... basically insert the CD, reboot and "boot to CD" then follow the on-screen instructions, which include formatting (wiping) the partition which you will be installing the OS to.

Now you have reformatted only the partition that the new OS is installed on. Next you will have to re-install the drivers for your particular system, if XP doesn't include a generic driver. Again, if you have the disk, GREAT. If not, you may be able to purchase the "System Utilities" CD from the manufacturer... and as a last resort, you may be able to download them. Just be sure to install the most updated drivers.

You will also need to update your XP Service Pack but that's it... install your software applications and you have a brand new system !!!!!!

**Note: if your machine has 2 hard drives, applications and files may be able to be copied over to the second drive in order to be saved.

The "doctor" has left the building...


Anonymous said...

Seeing these kind of posts reminds me of just how technology truly is ever-present in this day and age, and I can say with 99% certainty that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory drops, the possibility of downloading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I dream about all the time.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://www.leetboss.com/video-games/r4i-r4-sdhc-nintendo-ds]R4i[/url] DS NetSurf)

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