Reformatting a computer's hard drive is never a fun process, but it is often an unfortunate necessity. If your Compaq laptop is loaded down with unneeded files or virus infections, a complete reformat will wipe the hard drive and return the laptop to its normal factory settings. Some Compaq models don't include a Windows recovery disc, or you may have misplaced your disc since getting the laptop. A Compaq laptop includes a pre-installed program for reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system.
Attach a USB memory device to your Compaq laptop's USB port. Click "Open a folder to view files" in the AutoPlay window. Click and drag any files or folders you need to keep to the USB device's window.
Close the window and remove the USB device. Disconnect any peripheral device cables attached to your Compaq laptop, such as network or printer cables.
Navigate to the "Start" menu and choose "All Programs." Access the "Recovery Manager" folder and click the "Recovery Manager" icon.
Click the "System Recovery" link, which is located underneath the "I need help immediately" heading. Wait for your Compaq laptop to automatically restart and click "Next" when the System Recovery program loads again.
Select "No" at the "Microsoft System Restore" screen and choose "Next." Click "Next" at the "Recover without backing up your files" screen.
Choose the "Next" option again to start the process of reformatting the Compaq's hard drive. Use the drop-down menus that appear to select the time zone and language for your Compaq.
Type in a new operating system username and password when prompted and choose "Finish" to finish reinstalling the operating system.
There may be instances where you need to reformat the Compaq laptop, but can't access the operating system to load the Recovery Manager software. In that instance, power off the laptop and turn it back on again. Repeatedly tap "F11" until the Compaq's recovery partition loads. Choose the recovery options as normal from that point.
All the files or folders you don't transfer to an external device become permanently deleted when you go through the reformatting process.