How to rebuild your Windows computer (guide)

Dell Windows XP CD

Personally I think of a rebuild as giving up. If my personal computer has an issue, I will troubleshoot it until it’s fixed, but I like doing it of course. At the IT shop, if we can’t figure something out in the first 20 minutes or so of troubleshooting, we generally rebuild the computer at this point. This also applies to spyware/virus infections. We will generally try to use the AV program or recommended removal procedure/removal tool. If the virus is not removed, it’s time for a rebuild.


DISCLAIMER: This is designed to be a guide to assist users with rebuilding their computers, there is a potential for data loss if you do not properly backup your data, you alone are responsible for your computer and data, read this guide in its entirety before proceeding.

Doing a system rebuild will ensure that all of the files are restored back to normal and viruses that were removed will not reappear as they sometimes do.

Here is the procedure for properly rebuilding your PC.

What you will need:
-The original reinstall disks that came with your PC.
-Driver disks or downloaded drives (especially for your network card)
Microsoft office disk
-Something to save your backup to (USB key, external harddrive, writable DVD.
-An internet connection (optional)
-This guide (print it out)

Step 1 BACKUP YOUR DATA!!!!!
This is defiantly the most important step. During the rebuild process, your harddrive will be formatted and without a backup, you will not be able to restore your data.

You can backup to a thumb drive, external USB harddrive, cd, DVD, whatever you prefer. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an external harddrive around to create regular backups on.

The data that needs to be backed up in usually stored in each user’s profile.

On Windows XP this is usually C:\Documents and Settings\username

The Desktop, My Documents, and favorites are where most of the data will be stored,

On Windows Vista this is usually C:\users\username

Special note for Outlook users

You will want to backup your personal folders aka PST files located at the patch below.

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

You will also want to backup your NK2 or auto-complete list for Outlook addresses. (Take notice that the path is similar to the location of PST files but it is in fact different

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.NK2

Step 2 Create a create a system profile and save it with your data backup.

You will want to use a program like Belarc Advisor to create a system profile which shows you mapped printers, drives, and more importantly software keys which you will need to reinstall.

Step 3 Once you are absolutely sure that you have everything that you need, boot your computer from the Windows re-installation or factory restore operating system disk.

Most newer computers are set to boot from the cd drive first, so watch for a prompt that says “press any key to boot from CD.” If you do not see this prompt, you will need to set your computer to boot from the CD drive first. (Hint: press F12 on Dell systems for one time boot menu)

Once booted from the CD, follow the onscreen instructions to reinstall Windows. You will want to delete your old partition and create a new one that is formatted with the NTFS file system, then, start installing Windows on the new partition.

Follow the onscreen instructions for the initial system configuration.
XP setup
Step 4 System Setup

Once Windows is reinstalled, you will need to install drivers for your hardware, you can see which devices need drivers by right clicking on “My Computer” and choosing manage, click device manager. Any devices with a yellow exclamation point needs a driver. You can download drivers from the device manufacturer’s website.

Step 5Reinstall programs

Reinstall any programs that you had before, you should have the list of software and keys on the Belarc report that you made earlier.

Step 6 Install all critical Microsoft updates.

HINT: You may want to look at using some imaging software at this point so that it will be a little easier next time.

Step 7 Restore your data from the backup.

If you had a virus, you will want to install an updated anti-virus program and scan your data before you put it back.

That should do it. Feel free to post any questions here.

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