How to Wipe a Hard Drive & Reinstall Windows Vista

Updated March 23, 2017

Wiping a hard drive clean when reinstalling Windows Vista is the easiest way to ensure your installation of Windows Vista is trouble-free. If you have encountered problems with your Windows Vista installation, wiping the hard drive clean and reinstalling the operating system is an easy, but time-consuming, process. Thankfully, Windows Vista includes easy-to-use tools that can format, or wipe clean, the hard drive before reinstalling Vista. When formatting a hard drive, all information stored on it is deleted, so be sure to back up important files and applications before beginning this process.

Archive important files and applications. Wiping your hard drive and reinstalling Windows Vista will delete all information on your hard drive. If there are any files or applications you need to make backup copies of, do it before proceeding. You can make backups by burning files to an optical disc (CD or DVD) or by copying them to an external hard drive.

Insert the Windows Vista installation disk. Power on your computer and insert the Windows Vista installation CD or DVD.

Select Install Now. When the Windows Vista installer opens, choose Install Now. If you have a Internet connection while doing the installation, Vista will ask if you want to download security updates to protect your Vista computer from malicious activity on the Internet.

Type your product key. On the next page, type the 25-character Windows Vista product key that came in the box of your Windows Vista CD or DVD. If you do not have the product key handy, you can input it later, once you have booted into Vista.

Accept the Microsoft license terms. To continue with the installer, you must accept the Microsoft license agreement. If you do not agree to the terms, the installer will close.

Start a custom installation. When prompted to choose an installation type, select "Custom." This will let you choose the partition to which you want to install Vista.

Select the destination drive. Choose the partition on which your faulty installation of Windows Vista resides. Select Next to begin the installation process. Depending on the status of your installation, you may be asked several questions as the installer proceeds.

Restart and log in. When the installer is finished, your computer will restart and launch Windows Vista. You will be required to create a new administrator account before logging in to the reinstalled operating system for the first time.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows Vista installation disk (DVD or CD)
  • Product key from original purchase
  • Media to back up files
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About the Author

Michael Ryan is a freelance writer with professional experiences in the auto industry and academic training in music. Ryan earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Olivet College. Since college, he has been a featured speaker at music conferences at the University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University. Ryan is a published writer, with work featured on websites including eHow and