Rejuvenate a Sluggish Computer




In under an hour your personal computer can be running as good as new!  Over time a computer is bogged down by all the programs and files added to it.  Eventually this will cause severe disorganization in the hard drive and greatly reduce how quickly your computer can process stored information.  Reformatting the hard drive erases all the information that has built up in the storage memory of a computer.  This brings the hard drive back to its original state, allowing for an operating system to be freshly installed.  Once this is done, the computer will operate like it was just pulled out of the box!

Save money by doing the maintenance yourself.  Retail stores typically charge sixty dollars or more to complete a computer reformatting process.  That is $60/hr!  Why would someone pay this when it is so simple following these steps?

Tools needed for completion: 

1) Windows-based personal computer

2) Windows Vista Re-installation Disc

3) External Memory Storage

Note:  All Windows-based PCs are shipped new with a re-installation disc.  The Windows Vista re-installation disc is a DVD, therefore a DVD drive is required

Note:  External memory storage comes in many forms and must be chosen based on the amount of storage needed.  Shown are two examples, an external USB hard drive and a USB flash drive.

Note:  Although this process is shown using Windows Vista, the process is very similar for most other operating systems.

Step 1: Backup Files

Create backup copies of all the personal files that need to be saved:

    A. Select files to be copied then either:

        Option 1. Drag and drop onto hard drive

        Option 2. Copy and paste onto hard drive

Note: USB flash drive shown in photograph is not required but may be used in place of the external hard drive depending on the amount of memory needed.

Step 2: Hardware Drivers

Obtain copies of the hardware drivers for your computer by either:

    Option 1
. Locating the original driver disc that was included with computer when purchased

    Option 2. Downloading the drivers from the manufacturers website (example                                     

                       i. Use service tag 

                       ii. Select computer model from a list

                       iii. Select drivers from a previous list

Note:  Windows Vista automatically installs most drivers but having a backup just in case is always a good idea.

Step 3: Installation Disc

Place the Windows Vista Re-installation Disc into the Computers Disc Drive:

   A. Push the button located on the disc drive to open it.

   B. Snap the installation disc into the drive
   C. Close the drive


Step 4: Computer Reboot

Restart the Computer:

Go to the start menu. 

Choose the restart option. 

   C. Quickly press any key when screen shows:  "Press any key to boot from CD or DVD..."

Step 5: Computer Language

Choose the Language to be Used by the Computer:

Place cursor over the desired language and left click the mouse.

   B. Verify desired language is selected  


Step 6: Time and Currency Format

Choose the Time and Currency Format Desired:

Select the proper country 

Step 7: Keyboard Input Type

Choose the Keyboard Type of the Computer:

Verify the proper country is selected

   B. Click "Next"

Step 8: Installation

Start the installation process:

Click "Install Now -->"

Note:  Choose either "What to know before installing Windows" or "Repair your computer" if desired.  Not needed for successful installation. 

Step 9: License Terms

Accept Licensing Terms for Windows:

Read licensing terms

Note:  Reading the licensing terms for Windows Vista is important because it states the terms of agreement you make with Microsoft by installing this operating system.

   B. Select "I Accept the license terms"

        i.  Verify the white box contains a check mark

    C. Click "Next"

Step 10: Installation Type

Choose the Type of Installation:

     Option 1.
Select 'Upgrade" to install an upgrade to the current Windows 

     Option 2.
Select "Custom" to erase hard drive and reinstall Windows (Reformat with this option)

Note:  Select "Help me decide" if you are unsure what route to choose.  We would like option 2 for our purpose.

Step 11: Hard Drive Partition

Create a Partition on the Hard Drive to Install Windows:

Select "Drive Options (advanced)"

   B. Delete all partitions by highlight them individually and selecting "Delete" 

Note:  Do not delete any partitions that you wish to keep.   

   C. Select "OK" when warning appears: "If you delete this partition, all data stored on it will be permanently deleted"

   D. Create a new partition by selecting "New"

   E. Set the size of the new partition

Note:  Using all available space is the default setting but any desired value may be used as long as the minimum of 7340 megabytes is met.

   F. Select "Apply" to complete creation of partition

   G. Click "Next"

Note:  Setup will begin to install Windows.  The computer will restart several times during installation.  When the computer restarts, do not press a key when screen displays: "Press any key to boot from CD or DVD..".

Step 12: User Name

Create a User Name:

Type in a desired user name

   B. Select an icon

   C. Click "Next"

Note:  Include a password if desired.

Step 13: Computer Name and Desktop Background

Choose a Computer Name and Default Desktop Background:

Enter a computer name

   B. Select a background from default options

Note:  The background can be changed later at any time.  The computer can be nearly anything, excluding certain characters.

Step 14: Security Option

Choose a Security and Windows Update Option:

     Option 1.
Select "Use recommended settings" for standard security settings

     Option 2. Select "Install important updates only" for key security and windows updates and settings

      Option 3. Select "Ask me later" for no updates

Note:  If unsure which option to choose, select "Learn more about each option".

Step 15: Date and Time

Choose the Time Zone and Verify Date and Time:

Verify correct Time Zone is selected

   B. Verify correct date is selected

   C. Verify correct time is selected

   D. Click "Next"

   E. Click "Start"

Note:  Wait while windows starts for the first time.  Install any drivers that were not automatically installed by Vista.

Step 16: Enjoy a Rejuvenated Computer

Great work!  Now the computer is running smoother and quicker.  It is best to perform the reformatting process every few months to maintain a top-running computer.  Reformatting at home can save sixty dollars or more and takes only an hour to complete.



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    12 Discussions

    Amateurs defrag or reinstall. Real techs solve the problem and only use reinstall as a last resort. If you are in a corporate environment you might consider something like deep freeze to solve a lot of problems. Yes, I was a mswindows admin for over 10 years. I was tired of Microsoft problems. I had been running linux off and on since the 1990's. After I left the admin position, I finally bit the bullet and only used Linux. Except for ubuntu beginning to screw things up, Linux has made system and network management a breeze.

    Good question. I have not used Mint, but I know a lot of people who install linux for a living and they recommend Mint for newer users. Mint was based on Ubuntu, but they have gone back to Debian (one of the mother distros). I might suggest Mepis or Mepis Antix though. has a listing of the most prominent linux distributions. There are a lot of what is called live cds(dvds) so you can try them without installing linux. Something you really can not do with Apple or Microsoft. Then you can see which one you like most. Those same cd's are great for recovering data from foobarred MSWindows boxes. The core of linux is pretty much the same for most linux variations. If you do gui only, you may never know the difference. Getting under the hood is fun. Like different countries have different languages so do linux variations under the hood. it grows on you. I grew up on redhat and slackware based distros, but debian based distros are what I use most. I ran debian on an old p1 laptop till it died recently. Now I use a (piii class celeron) for traveling. people laugh till I show them what it can do.

    We have what is called a web server and install a lot of applications on it. So it does not matter what os you have. To access it you just use a good web browser. if a friend comes over with a Mac or a MSWindows machine, we can all use the same programs. Great for a biz environment. More and more of the so called cloud environment is going in that direction. Older computers can make great web servers, so that you can have your own private cloud at home. We use and old pentium 2 for a web server. For the home that is good enough. It will get replaced as newer computers become dirt cheap. The days of shrink-wrapped software are numbered. There is so much (free as in speech, but not as in beer) software for the web environment that it is unbelievable. Open source rules.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    It is worth adding that Dell put 2 hidden partitions on the hard drive, one contains the BIOS and the other the diagnostics mode. Do not delete these partitions. I put Linux on mu Dell (Inspiron 1501) and noticed the 3 partitions. Only install onto the largest partition otherwise you could lose recovery modes. They aren't required for day to day operations but can be handy for diagnostics. Either way good instructable on a re-install. :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    It might work for you, but it's equivalent to taking your car to pieces then rebuilding it instead of just fixing what's wrong with it.


    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah but sometimes its better to start off fresh than make the old parts work. Besides, there are other reasons to reformat a hard drive


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    If it's a total-mess and lots of things are broken & corrupted, you might think it is going to be easier to start again. But there you really want a ghost-image.



    8 years ago on Introduction

    To be honest this is ridiculous. Your solution to a slow computer is a complete reinstall? (Installing windows VISTA, by the way). Sorry. Not a good instructable.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Sometimes clearing everything is a good way to "clean" your computer and it is simple and has always worked for me. It is just a name, and like I said above there are other reasons to do this process.