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You probably want to perform a clean installation. With Windows 8, Microsoft slightly changed the terminology and added a few more options, which make a re-installation much more convenient.

Moreover, since Windows 8 typically runs on computers with modern hardware, formatting isn’t an accurate procedure anymore. What you do instead, is reset the computer. Let me give you an overview.

What Is Formatting?

Technically, you can’t format Windows. What you can do is format your hard drive disk How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need To How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need To Read More (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD), although we don’t recommend the latter, see below. Formatting simply means erasing all data on the disk.

format drive

But not all formatting is made equal. When you perform a quick format The Difference Between Windows Full Format & Quick Format [Technology Explained] The Difference Between Windows Full Format & Quick Format [Technology Explained] When installing Windows, the installer will ask you a strange question - how do you want to format your hard drive? For Windows systems, there are only a few possible answer choices. You either format... Read More , you only erase the information in the file system.

The file system is like a database What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives Read More , which has a record of where information is stored on the drive. By clearing this database, the computer will eventually overwrite the stored data. Until then, nothing gets deleted and with the right tools, it’s possible to recover the data What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? If you've ever experienced a major loss of data, you've probably wondered about data recovery -- how does it work? Read More . At least if we’re talking about anHDD.

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How Do I Know Whether I Have an HDD or SSD?

Click the key combination Windows key + R to launch the run command window. Type in msinfo32 and hit Enter. This will launch the System Information. Expand Components, then Storage, and look for what it says under Disks. The Description or Media Type should reveal whether your drive is a hard disk or solid state disk.

Windows System Information

How Can I Format My HDD?

If you want to prevent the recovery of sensitive data Why It Is Impossible To Recover Data From An Overwritten Hard Drive [Technology Explained] Why It Is Impossible To Recover Data From An Overwritten Hard Drive [Technology Explained] Recovering deleted data from a hard drive is generally possible because typically the actual data is not deleted. Instead, information about where the data is stored is removed. In this article I will explain how... Read More from your HDD, you should irreversibly delete the data by overwriting it 5 Tools To Permanently Delete Sensitive Data From Your Hard Drive [Windows] 5 Tools To Permanently Delete Sensitive Data From Your Hard Drive [Windows] In a recent article I explained why it is impossible to recover data from a hard drive after overwriting it. In that post I mentioned that simply deleting files or formatting your hard drive typically... Read More . A full low level format How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive Read More with a tool like Darik’s Boot And Nuke will do that. In case you have an SSD How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More , read on.

destroy data

Can I Format My SSD?

Formatting an SSD can damage it How To Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It How To Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It SSDs can only be written to a limited number of times. This is a challenge, particularly for erasing data and doing so securely, which can vastly reduce performance and shorten SSD drive life. Read More ! Besides, due to the way SSDs manage data, it’s not necessary. What you do instead, and only if you must delete sensitive data, is run the ATA Secure Erase command, which essentially resets the drive.

ATA Secure Erase

This is what my colleague Tim wrote on the topic:

This command does not actually write anything to the drive. Instead it causes the SSD to apply a voltage spike to all available NAND in unison, resetting every available block of space in one operation. By doing this, you will use one whole program-erase cycle for your drive – a small dent in drive life, but still unnecessary unless you’re troubleshooting.

You need to check with the manufacturer of your drive for a tool that can reset your SSD using ATA Secure Erase. Alternatively, you can use Parted Magic (our review Parted Magic: A Complete Hard Drive Toolbox On One Live CD Parted Magic: A Complete Hard Drive Toolbox On One Live CD Take control of your hard drives. Whether you want to edit your partitions, clone an entire drive, check SMART data or otherwise manage the way your computer's data is organized, Parted Magic is the tool... Read More ), boot it from a USB stick, and erase your disk, as Tim describes in his article.

Is There an Easy Way to Reinstall or Reset Windows 8?

Yes, several. With Windows 8, you don’t have to format your entire drive to start from scratch. You can restore, refresh, or reset Windows 8 How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More .

Briefly, a restore reverts your system to an earlier state; a refresh is like a fresh Windows installation, but your personal files remain untouched; a reset is like starting from scratch, with a fresh Windows installation and all personal data removed. All three options can be launched from within Windows, as Chris’s article linked to above explains.

Troubleshoot

If you can no longer boot into Windows, it will hopefully offer the Advanced Startup Options screen (shown above), which allows you to refresh or reset your PC. If that doesn’t work, you can boot from the manufacturer’s recovery partition, use a Windows 8 recovery disk How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk The days of reinstalling Windows when it acts up are long since gone. All you need to fix Windows 8 is a recovery disk, either on CD/DVD, a USB or an external hard disk drive. Read More , or Windows 8 installation media to perform a factory reset or recovery 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer A reset to factory conditions is the quickest and easiest way to return to normal. Not only does it get your computer clean, it will also run at optimal performance. Read More . We have covered all these options previously, please follow the respective links above.

As mentioned before, it’s not recommended to format your drive if it’s an SSD.

What If I Want to Install Windows 7 Over Windows 8?

Boot from your Windows 7 installation media (you might have to change the boot order How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) What happens when you start up your PC? In most cases (and putting it very simply), after the power switch has controlled the flow of electricity to the motherboard and the fans have started up,... Read More via the BIOS How To Enter The BIOS On Your Computer How To Enter The BIOS On Your Computer Inside the BIOS you can change basic computer settings, like the boot order. The exact key you need to strike depends on your hardware. We have compiled a list of strategies & keys to enter... Read More ), select a clean install, and before you choose the drive to install Windows 7 on, click Advanced Options to format the drive. Only do this if your drive is an HDD. Otherwise, use Parted Magic or skip the formatting step.

Have You Backed Up Your Data?

Before you proceed with formatting your drive or re-installing Windows in any way, be sure to back up your data 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More !

What made you look into an article about reformatting Windows 8? And did you find an answer to your question? If not, please use the comments below.

  1. rohit
    April 19, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    i had bought a new laptop two year back oh hp. recently i dropped it and internal HD got damaged. so i had to purchase a new HDD and got it replaced with old one from a local repairing store . but they installed unauthorized version of windows 8.1 hence i am not getting windows 10 update. what do i do to get the original version of windows 8/10?

    • Tina Sieber
      April 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Do you have a product key for the Windows version that came with your laptop?

      If you bought the device two years ago, you should have UEFI, not the old BIOS. The product key is stored in the UEFI, allowing you to activate Windows and upgrade to Windows 10.

      This article explains how to find out whether you have UEFI or the old BIOS: http://kb.parallels.com/en/115815

      You can extract the product key from UEFI.

  2. Loida Tade
    August 4, 2015 at 5:04 am

    If I refresh my PC will I lose installed apps not from windows/ microsoft be removed?
    and will I lose files (from external devices) I stored on my fixed hard drive?

  3. scott reddest
    May 7, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    i have a windows 8 laptop and i forgot my login password and the email my sister use to set it up is fake how can i just reset the whole computer so it would be just brand new? please e-mail me instrutions? @ sreddest8@gmail.com

  4. adlai
    May 6, 2015 at 5:07 am

    Thanks reinstalled is same ad reset pc?

  5. adlai
    May 3, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Because avast detects dpservice and I cant removed that one

  6. adlai
    May 3, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    I have a question if I refresh. Windows 8 is it like a format and removed all the virus?

    • Tina
      May 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Refresh is not quite like formatting. It's like a fresh installation and all your personal files, modern apps, and software that came pre-installed with your computer will be retained or automatically re-installed. It could be enough to remove malware, if it only sits in the system files that are being replaced. I'd give it a try; all you'll lose is installed software. Do make a backup first.

  7. theclearmoon
    April 12, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Thank you! It was helpful!

  8. sara
    April 11, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Tina i Have Question my laptop is working so slowly and every time i scan it , it shows many viruses my laptop is ASUS windows 8 so how can i pack up my programs ? and about the battery it takes so much time to charge what should i do ?? Help ><

    • Tina
      April 12, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Sara, to get rid of the malware, I'd recommend to wipe your system or refresh Windows 8.

      Make a list of programs you have installed and back up your data. Windows should create Windows.old folder (provided there's enough space on your system drive) and your personal files should still be there, but I wouldn't rely on it.

      Afraid I can't help with the battery. Could it be normal?

  9. Anonymous
    March 7, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    My laptop has been reformat it came back to windows 7 but my laptop is windows 8 before. How to bring it back to windows 8? :(

    • Tina
      March 7, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      What did you do? Did you try to reset Windows 8?

    • Sam
      May 5, 2015 at 1:35 am

      Did you use a windows 7 CD? You cant pop in any windows disk, it has to be windows 8

  10. R
    January 22, 2015 at 4:55 am

    I'm trying to go from Windows 8 32 bit to Windows 8 64 bit and yes, my processor can handle it. I'm confused as to how to do this. Please help. :( I have SSD

    • Tina
      January 24, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Unfortunately, you cannot simply upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit from inside Windows. You'll have to re-install the operating system.

      You will not be able to keep your files, software, or apps, but if you log into Windows with a Microsoft account, some of your settings should be backed up. You can also move your personal files to a separate partition, so they are not affected when you re-install the OS.

  11. Emily
    November 9, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I don't know about registered & full version of windows , that's why I was purchase a genuine windows 8.1, Which was very costly, But before some days ago, I really shocked, When one of my friend tell me that, I can use windows product keys to use to activate windows 8 full version, Then he told me an Online Store, Where I can get cheap product keys for almost all Microsoft Products, Now I've purchase my personal windows 8.1 license here, Working very well.

  12. Zhong
    October 27, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Sometimes, the computer will restart but there will be an error that there's a missing file, what does that mean?

  13. Huyenchau T
    September 22, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Thanks Tina very much!

  14. Jimmy
    September 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Recently I had to reinstall Windows 8 on some laptops that the HDD's died out of warranty. An interesting thing I came across was that when I replaced the drive theres no OEM serial sticker on the bottom of laptops anymore, it is instead stored in bios. Little tricky to reinstall without a dvd drive, but plugged in an external dvd drive and it picked up the activation from bios automagically which was nice! Finding the iso from Microsoft was the hardest part.

    • Tina S
      September 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      From what I know, Microsoft makes the Windows 8 ISO freely available, you just need a valid Windows 8 product key to download it. What did you find hard about finding it?

    • Jimmy
      September 22, 2014 at 6:07 am

      The new laptops don't give you a product key to download it. The product key is stored in the Bios, so had to use an image I got from the University servers then it validated on install. Also the USB recovery program MS provide needs a product key and another Windows machine to make it. Of which I only had my mac, so just burnt the DVD iso and away I was.

    • Tina S
      September 22, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Good point about finding the product key. That's indeed not obvious when buying a computer which came with Windows 8 pre-installed. Hence we covered that in an article: Four Places To Find Your Windows 8 Product Key

      It's a good idea to make a backup of the key.

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