I’ve got this friend. He’s a bit of a PC buff. Building computers (building anything he can, really) is a hobby he attacks with a sort of characteristic zeal. And his knowledge about computers rivals (if not surpasses) that of many so-called technology experts.
However, there’s this weird thing he used to do. Every couple of months (I believe it’s every 6-8 months, if memory serves) he’d take his computer and delete all the things. He’d completely reformat and perform a fresh re-install.
Regardless of whether or not he was having issues with it.
Believe it or not, some people swear by this technique, claiming that without regular re-formatting, overall performance tends to degrade over time. Others claim that, if you properly take care of your computer (regular defragments, error checks, virus scans, etc.), there’s really no need to do this.
I’m firmly in the camp of the latter. Operating systems are better designed than they used to be and so long as you aren’t stupid with your PC there’s really no reason to constantly reinstall.
Of course, there are some situations in which a reformat might be the only course of action. They are as follows:
#1 – Eaten by a Virus
There was a time when I didn’t bother taking proper care of my system. At one point, it was refusing to restart. Unable to discern what went wrong, I brought it in to the PC repair shop that was run out of my University campus. The next day when I returned, an employee there came up to me shaking his head saying something about “twelve viruses” and “binary soup.”
Occasionally, you might well find yourself infected with a virus that’ll do something like this. Unfortunately, the only course of action if you can’t remove it is to reinstall.
#2 – Consistent, Unmanageable Performance Issues
If you find your system’s been lagging entirely more than usual lately, maybe a clean re-install is the way to go. Make sure you try everything you can to solve your performance problems before you attempt a reformat though.
Of course, if it’s a hardware issue, reformatting won’t solve the problem. Make sure it’s not.
#3 – Too Many Programs/Too Much Clutter
Hey, it’s a valid reason. If you’re finding your hard drive way too cluttered, or your system can’t handle the thousands of programs you’ve choked it with (which may or may not include adware), it might be time to wipe things and start with a clean slate.
#4 – Time for a Change
Don’t like your operating system, and don’t want to be bothered with a dual-boot? Formatting’s the answer.
How to Do it
So, you’ve decided that it’s time to start over with a clean slate? It’s actually surprisingly easy to delete everything that makes your system unique. On a PC, simply go to “My Computer,” then right click on the drive you want to reformat. The menu that pops up should include a “format” command.
Oddly enough, the process is more complicated on a Mac. You’ll need to boot the system from the original install CDs and format it from there.
As for reinstalling, most systems have recovery or installation discs included with them. Make sure you know where yours are.
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