Formatting old computer, any ideas?

By jamiescottlomax · 26 replies
Apr 15, 2008
  1. I've recently purchased a new computer and want to format the old one.
    there are several reasons for this but mainly because i want my 8 yr old son to have it so he can learn the ways of the P.C.

    But, I cant format!
    If i try going through the setup screen upon bootup there is a password that i don't know, and if i try formating in windows i get the message, unable to format.

    I've bought a new windows XP OS, and some extra ram because the p.c is quite old so all i need is to format so he can have a fresh p.c to do what he wants with.


    Intel celeron processor
    trident video card
    lg cd rom
    56k modem !wow!
    wdc 20 gb hard drive
    windows xp

    Any suggestions kindly welcome

    I do need to format because it runs very very slow
  2. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Boot from the XP CD. Follow on screen instructions from there.

    If you have the cd in the drive, reboot, and it doesn't boot off the CD you will need to change your BIOS to check the CD before HDD. If that is where you are having problems because of a password then you may be able to put the Windows CD in after the computer boots up, start installation from there and choose Advanced on one of the screens (the only one that has that to click) and choose New Installation. Shortly after you'll have to reboot and can begin the install.
  3. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    you may not need to format. run msconfig and turn off unnecessary programs from booting up. remove all the junk you don't need.

    might save some time.
  4. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    What is msconfig? sorry if that's a silly question, is it something that the computer will do on its own if i put that in or do i need to download something.
    Also if i delete all the stuff no longer needed wont it still be on HDD therefore still take up some space?
    and the copy of windows on there at the moment is not genuine and microsoft love telling me so, that's why I've bought a new copy to put on. but if i can just over-write then it could well save a lot of time
  5. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter


    when i type msconfig i get a list of options but i dont understand what exactly it is i need to do, and as im still having no luck formating from c,d i was hoping you could give me some pointers please.

    1st options

    Normal Startup
    Diagnostic startup
    Selective Startup


    process system ini file
    process win ini file
    load system services
    load startup items
    use original boot ini
    use modified boot ini

    I now dont get a proper bootup sequence and have several options from start,
    ie; windows startup

    but cant change to boot from cd cus of a password on bios screen (is second hand hdd due to breakdown of first) it wont let me overwrite with new windows disk so i am pretty stuck as you can see

    please advise
  6. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    You can't format Windows from within Windows because you'd have no way to run your OS as its being wiped.

    What happens when you launch the install process from the CD within Windows? Like I said before one of those screens should have an advanced option where you can choose new installation, shortly after it reboots the computer and then begins the actual installation.
  7. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Advanced option

    I'm not coming across an Advanced option
    I'll start the process again and post all options i come across for you to take a look at if you dont mind
  8. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    first i get 2 options

    Microsoft windows XP Professional
    Microsoft windows XP Professional Setup

    I have to chose one of these before it will carry on with anything else
  9. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    welcome to setup

    This portion of the setup program prepares Microsoft (r) windows (r) XP to run on your computer

    To set up windows xp now, press enter

    To repair a windows XP installation using Recovery console, press r

    To quit setup without installing Windows XP, Press F3

    Advice would be much appriciated

    These are the options i get after chosing setup on thread 7
  10. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    ..Hit "Enter".
  11. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Which one next? please

    If one of the following Windows XP installations is damaged setup can try to repair it.

    Select an installation

    to repair the selected Windows XP installation press r
    to continue installing a fresh copy of Windows XP without repairing, press esc

    C:\WINDOWS "Microsoft Windows XP Professional"
  12. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Don't do a repair, you said "all i need is to format so he can have a fresh p.c to do what he wants with."

    Installing a fresh copy does exactly that.
  13. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    I'm not putting you down, really. I know what it's like to be a new user and I appreciate your inquiries here. However, these are simple questions if you just remember your overall goal there shouldn't be any question; You want to reformat your HDD and you want to reinstall Windows XP.

    Here is a guide for you:
  14. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    but when i go into installing it starts giving me lists of partitions and if i try to setup windows it wont let me.
    sorry if its simple qusetions but im going round and round but not getting anywhere.

    Following advice on your link with the guide I end up with this;

    Your computers startup program cannot gain access to the disk containing the partition or free space you chose. Setup cannot install windows XP on this hard disk

    Then on other partition i get;
    you chose to install windows xp on a partition that contains another operating system. Installing windows XP on this partition might cause operating system to function inproperly.

    Should i just delete this partition with XP allready on it or is that a bad move?
  15. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    Delete your current partition, the options will be on the bottom of the screen. It should be "D" I believe and then it will ask you to confirm (I think with the "L" key). Then, create a new partition in the unallocated space via the "C" key and it will probably ask how large you want the partition to be, just use the entire drive.
  16. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    thanks, but!

    Setup is unable to perform the requested operation on the selected partition. This partition contains temporary setup files that are required to complete the installation.

    Dont want to upset people on this forum, I know i must seem thick.
    I'll go buy a new HDD. It'll be easyer.

    Thanks for help
  17. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    :) You aren't upsetting anyone. This forum is here for people such as yourself to request help and/or discuss technology. That said, it sounds like you're making this out to be a bit harder than it is. Slow down, start from the top and maybe take a look at this guide as well:

    If anything, use another utility to format your drive. Don't waste your cash...
  18. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter


    I tried starting from the beginning and checked out your links along with a lot of other sites with different approaches to my problem but nothing has done the trick.

    You say I'm making it out to be harder than what it is? so why wont anything work? I'm quite confident I'm doing what each site suggests, from lifehacker to Microsoft help but its not happening.

    Not even this works (instructions below) when i come to format or delete partition its not bold on screen for me to select

    Right-Click on the “My Computer” icon either on your desktop or in the Start Menu and select “Manage.”

    A new window titled “Computer Management” comes up. Select “Storage” from the left hand side by clicking it once, then select “Disk Management(local)” from the right side by double-clicking it.

    Now in the lower part of the main frame (right side) of the window you should see a nice visual of all your hard drives. Each line is a different drive. Each box on a line (with a colored bar at the top and a size displayed in MB or GB) is a partition on the drive. Partitions are separations of space on a drive. Unless you are doing something specific that requires multiple partitions, you only want one partition per drive.

    First you must delete any existing partitions on the drive you are going to format. Do this by right-clicking on the partition's box and selecting “Delete Partition...” Since you already know that you will be deleting everything on the drive, and have already backed everything up, you can safely say yes to any warning the computer presents you with.

    any other suggestions or give up !

    i tried to format in the command prompt
    format c:

    but need to dismount (?) first then says "cannot lock the drive. The volume is still in use

    Can you see the pattern ?
  19. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    Yes, I see a pattern. You continually try to format your Windows partition from within Windows! That advice would work great, if you were accessing that partition from an outside source, such as another Windows partition.

    Try using a third party software to delete your existing partitions. Check out GParted. That is a .iso and you'll need to burn it to a CD as an image file (do not burn it as a "Data" CD), and then boot off it. After it finishes loading you'll delete all of the existing partitions and then reboot with your Windows XP CD in the drive.
  20. jamiescottlomax

    jamiescottlomax TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Silly Question:

    What am i missing to copy cd after to PC that needs formating?
    The computer cant find correct program to read iso file, i copied as image not data like you said but when i try to load it just comes up with picture and fax viewer.

    cant quite put my finger on whats missing
  21. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,975   +2,527

    Sometimes you have to wipe the drive completely and start over. This is your "buy a new HDD" idea without the expense. As long as you have a full version of Windows (CD) you can just follow the screen instructions and make the install. Now the only problem, we have is whether the Windows CD that you may have, is not already registered to another owner, since you won't be able to activate it if it is.
    With a clean (or new drive) I would create a partition (C:/)of say 30 or 40 GB to install the OS and programs and the rest of the drive I would dedicate to "Volume" storage.
    Software is available to "wipe" a HDD, either, paid or a free downloadable iso burnable (to CD) file>

    What does everybody else think about that idea?

    Zeno; The "Deepburner" at is supposed to be a good free utility. One caveat; I think there's some adware in the installer package, but I think you can opt out. It's just an "uncheck"me box.
  23. Cybersciver

    Cybersciver TS Rookie Posts: 35

    Far as I can see Cpn Kranky is spot on.
    Boot from something like 'Disk Wipe' and totally erase the entire disk contents.
    Then boot from your Windows disk and install.
    Windows will format (painlessly) as part of the installation process.
  24. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    There shouldn't be any problem just using the Windows install disk to format the partition, I believe he's already been to that point and just got confused and backed out.

    Now if he got confused during the Windows setup and couldn't get that straightened out I think it is a mistake to have him try to download, burn, boot from (which he apparently can't do anyway because of some bios password preventing reconfiguring), delete partitions, and then try to get Windows installed.

    In fact the only hope there is that his BIOS is set to look towards the cd drive after it doesn't find an OS on the HDD. There is no guarentee that it is, and if it isn't, we've just hosed his system.

    He's already been to the right places doing it the way I outlined above (In the first reply to this thread, post #2, and also again in post #6). His post 9 and 11 show he's been to the right place. But for whatever reason he's apparently not making a selection.
  25. Cybersciver

    Cybersciver TS Rookie Posts: 35

    Fair enough, that's why the simpler approach could work better for him. He wants to erase everything on the old computer and the best way to do that is to use a specialised utility available on CD for a couple of bucks. If he can follow the instructions how to use that he's all set to install Windows when it's finished.
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