Bringing Windows 95 back to life

Question: You have previously recommended that it can sometimes be very useful to reformat your hard drive and to reinstall Windows 95 and any loaded software. I would like to do this, but I am unable to find detailed instructions in library texts or computer magazines. I do have instructions on how to reformat, but I am unsure about getting back to the point of reinstalling Windows 95, which has to be preceded by using a boot disk and reinstalling the CD-ROM driver. I am not sure how to do this, but it can’t be impossible for a lay person like me to do. My computer vendor will reformat and reinstall Windows 95 for me, but it is inconvenient, involving taking the computer to the vendor. Could you point me in the right direction? —B.H.

Answer: It’s not really so bad. Before you begin, however, be sure you have on hand all the installation disks for the software you will want to reinstall when you’re finished, since this process will delete them. Also, since all your documents, photos, and other data will be deleted in the process, be sure you back them up to a floppy, CD, or different drive before you start so you can retrieve and refile them later.

Let’s get started. Here are step-by-step instructions. There may seem to be a lot of steps, but I’ve broken them down to make them easier to follow.

1.) Using Windows 95, simply format a floppy drive with the system files on it. To do this, you open MY COMPUTER on the Windows 95 desktop and right-click on the 3-1/2″ floppy icon.

2.) A dialogue box will come up. Left-click on FORMAT. Select QUICK FORMAT and COPY SYSTEM FILES, then click START. Be sure to insert a blank floppy disk in your “A” drive. This will create a bootable floppy disk.

3.) Next, copy a few files onto the floppy, as follows:

  1. Open Windows Explorer and use it to open the c:\windows\command directory.
  2. Across the menu bar at the top, click VIEW, then OPTIONS, then the VIEW tab.
  3. Next click on SHOW ALL FILES, then click OK. Look for the file “” in the command directory.
  4. Right-click the mouse on “format” and a dialogue box will come up. Click on SEND TO and then the 3-1/2″ floppy icon. This will copy the file to the floppy drive. Do the same with FDISK.EXE, and MSCDEX.EXE. In the c:\windows directory, there’s a file called HIMEM.SYS. Copy it to the floppy as well.
  5. If the system was loaded using a pre-load, there will be a directory called REALMODE in the C: directory (or root). Open this directory. Look for the CD-ROM driver. If it is one of Powercomp’s systems, it will be AOATAPI.SYS. Copy it to the floppy. If you’re stumped about what the CD-ROM driver is, open NOTEPAD and open the CONFIG.SYS file. You’ll find it in the c: directory of your computer.
  6. Inside this file, you’ll find a line like: device=c:\realmodeaoatapi.sys /d:oemcd000. The .SYS file is your CD-ROM driver. If you have trouble, contact your computer vendor, they’ll know which file it is. Or, you can browse and download your CD-ROM driver from DriversHQ or any of these sites: The Driver Zone, WinDrivers.Com, or WinFiles.

4.) The last step is to create two files for the floppy: CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. When you boot the computer with the floppy, the computer reads the instructions in these two files. Use NOTEPAD again and start a new file. Type in:

  2. DEVICE=A:AOATAPI.SYS /D:CD01 (Replace “AOATPI.SYS” in the line above with the name of your CD-ROM driver, if it’s something else)

4.) Be sure your floppy disk is in the A: drive. Click on FILE, SAVE AS, and save this file as A:\CONFIG.SYS.

5.) Click on FILE, NEW and type in: A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:CD01, then click on FILE, SAVE AS, and save the file as A:\AUTOEXEC.BAT.

6.) You now have a bootable floppy that will fire up the CD-ROM drive, and you’re ready and able to format the hard drive.

Formatting the hard drive is the next part, and it’s quite simple, so let’s keep the process going.

7.) Make sure you have the boot disk that you just made in the floppy drive, then reboot the computer. This will do two things: It will ensure the floppy is going to work and it’s going to give you the A: prompt.

8.) When A: appears after boot-up is finished, type in FORMAT C: /S and press enter, select “yes” when prompted. This command will format the hard drive and make it bootable. Everything on the C: drive will be destroyed. That sounds scary, but it’s the whole point of reformatting your hard drive – starting all over with a completely clean slate.

9.) Once the reformatting is finished, reboot the system using the boot disk you made earlier. Once the A: comes back, put the Windows 95 CD in the drive. Type in D: (replace D with your CD drive’s letter if necessary) and press Enter.

10.) This will bring the CD-ROM drive up. Next, type in SETUP and press Enter.

11.) You are now on your way to reinstalling WINDOWS 95. Just follow the prompts and in an hour or so, you will have reinstalled Windows. Congratulations!

Remember to finish up by reinstalling any software and data files other than Windows that you had before and want to be able to use again. The same applies to any documents, images, sound files, etc., that you had before reformatting.