How to reformat your hard drive and reinstall Windows 95

Question: You have previously recommended that it is very useful to periodically 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. I know that this cannot be impossible for the lay person 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: Here are step by step instructions.

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.

A dialogue box will come up and 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.

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

Open Windows Explorer and use it to open the c:\windows\command directory.

Q: Do I have to reinstall and reformat?

A. It’s a good idea, but if you don’t want to commit the time and effort then there is software that might help improve your system performance, see our article on: Do I really have to reformat and reinstall?

Across the menu bar at the top click VIEW, then OPTIONS, then the VIEW tab.

Next click on SHOW ALL FILES, click OK. Look for the file “” in the command directory. Right click the mouse on “format” and a dialogue box will come up. Click on SEND TO and then 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.

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.

Inside this file, you’ll find a line like: device=c:\realmode\aoatapi.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 browse and download your CD-ROM driver from DriversHQ or any of these sites: The Driver Zone, WinDrivers.Com, WinFiles, or Frank Condron’s World o’ Windows.

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:



Replace “AOATPI.SYS” in the line above with the name of your CD-ROM driver, if it’s something else.

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

Click on FILE, NEW and type in:


Click on FILE, SAVE AS, and save the file as A:\AUTOEXEC.BAT.

You now have a bootable floppy that will fire up the CD-ROM drive as well as be able to format the hard drive.

Formatting the hard drive is quite simple.

Make sure you have the boot disk that you just made in the floppy drive. Reboot the computer.

This will do two things. It will ensure the floppy is going to work and will give you the A: prompt. When A:\ appears after boot, 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.

Once it is finished formatting, reboot the system using the boot disk.

Once the A:\ comes back put the Windows 95 CD in the drive. Type in D:\ and press enter.

This will bring the CD-ROM drive on-line. Next, type in SETUP and press enter.

You are now on your way to reinstalling WINDOWS 95. Just follow the prompts and within about an hour you will have reinstalled Windows.