Windows can take as little as an hour or as long as a long weekend, depending on how far you want (or need) to go. There are three kinds of reinstalls. In order of difficulty, they are "install in place," the "clean install," and the "format and install." Before you do any of these, it's prudent to do a few things.
It's often possible to fix computer problems with a little tweaking here and a little banging there. But if things just won't get better, or your system seems to be bogged down with old bloated software, then it may be time to (insert dramatic organ riff here) reinstall Windows.
Don't fret. Like death and root canal, it's something we all have to face sooner or later. Reinstalling Windows can take as little as an hour or as long as a long weekend, depending on how far you want (or need) to go. Here is your complete guide from an
expert. I've reinstalled Windows hundreds of times.
This is the simplest reinstallation, and it often does the trick. Insert your Windows installation disk into your CD-ROM drive and run the setup program. Windows will install on top of your existing installation, preserving all your settings and data. This will restore missing and damaged files, and it often fixes an otherwise unreliable machine.
There are few side effects to the install in place, but occasionally some settings disappear, and software that used to work might stop working. You may need to reinstall some programs, but that's rare. Before you do the install in place, make sure you have master disks for all programs. If you are using a boot manager to run multiple operating
systems, note that reinstalling Windows will usually overwrite the master boot record, which can disable your boot manager. Either make a copy of your modified boot record for restoration later, or be prepared to reinstall your boot manager. If you don't know what a boot manager is, don't worry.
Use the clean install when install in place doesn't work. The clean install is identical to install in place with one exception: you'll delete the Windows directory and all its subdirectories first. This is most often required when you have upgraded from Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 to Windows 98. Old files from previous versions of the system can remain in the Windows directory, confusing software and causing crashes. Deleting
the Windows directory clears these old incompatible files. Unfortunately, it also deletes
the Registry and all your settings. Your data should remain intact, but you will have to reinstall all applications.
Before you do a clean install, make doubly sure to have all the master disks for your programs available. Allow a day or two to get everything back in working order.
The clean install requires nearly as much work as the format and install, but it saves you the trouble of backing up and restoring your data.