1. Backup your data! If there is anything on your computer which cannot be recreated, back it up. The easiest way to backup is to burn it to CD/DVD. You can also copy it to a second hard drive that is not being used for anything else. If you have a second computer connected over a LAN, you can copy your data to it.
  2. Driver Preparation. Gather all of the drivers you will need for your computer into one place. The easiest way I have found is to go to the manufacturers website and download all the drivers you will need then burn them to their own CD. If you are unsure as to what drivers you need, try using BeLarc, CPU-Z or some other hardware information tool to find out what hardware you have.
  3. Application Preparation. Determine what applications you use on a regular basis and ensure that you have the installers for them. This includes any games you play.
  4. Utilities. Just after a clean installation is a good time to install software that will help to prevent future problems. It would be a good idea to go ahead and get them now, before you reinstall, in case you won't be able to connect to the internet. I recomend AdAware and Spybot - Search and Destroy. This is also the time to build a good boot disk. If you are going to install Win2K or WinXP, you should have both a DOS and WinNT boot disk. If Linux is your installation OS, a DOS and Linux boot disk for your preferred distribution are recomended. I will not go into instructions for building a boot disk here. Check around, maybe someone else has done one or check
  5. Double Check! Make sure your backups are good. Test them. Make sure you can install your applications from their backups. Make sure your boot disk(s) work. Check that you have all of the correct drivers. Try installing them. Only when you are confident that all of your backups and utilites are in good shape, proceed. Nothing is worse then finding after a format that your favorite game or a critical driver does not work.
  6. fdisk. If you are installing Windows 2000 or XP, you can skip this step and the next. Boot using your boot disk from Step 4. Run fdisk.exe. Delete all of the partitions on the drive you will be installing onto. Next create a primary partition as big as fdisk will allow. If you still have unallocated space on the drive, you can create an extended partition with a second (or thrid, fourth, ...) logical drive in it. Once done, exit and reboot.
  7. format. Now that you have setup your partitions, time to format them into a usable format. Just run "format c:" and wait. If you setup additional partions, repeat for each drive.
  8. OS install. If you are installing anything other than Windows 2000 or XP, follow the directions included with the software. You should be able to boot to the CD installation disk and install from there. 2K and XP users; If you can boot to the installation CD, do that. Otherwise use the boot disks you created in Step 4. After it comes up, you will be prompted to repair or install anew. You want "new". Eventually it will ask if you want to overwrite an installation or delete existing. What you really want to do is to delete all existing partitions, then create a fresh new one. You will then be prompted to pick your filesystem. Make your selection and grab your beverage of choice.
  9. Restoration. Now that you have a clean OS, it's time to make it usable again. First, install any drivers that you have. Next, install and run those utilities I mentioned in step 4. Then install all the applications you so wisely backed up earlier. Finally, put your data back on the machine.
  10. Update, Update, Update! Update everything. Windows will need a boatload of updates. Update your spyware protection. Update your virus definitions.
  11. Test, again. Make sure you can do everything you want on your nice, clean OS. Examples include; connecting to the internet, printing, burning a CD, listening to music, playing your favorite game, typing a letter. If something does not work, try gaining access to the internet and asking your favorite newsgroup or bulletin board. If all's well, congratulations. You have just completed a FFR. Just one last thing....
  12. Cleanup. With all of the new data back on you machine, none of it is in its right place. Time to degrag. This will take quite some time depending on the amount of data restored, so it is best to do this overnight.