Have ALL driver disks on hand. If any of your hardware is using drivers from the manufacturer make sure that you have them. Do not proceed unless you have downloaded the most recent version of all drivers to floppy disks, or you know for a fact that Windows detects and installs drivers for all your hardware. These are things you must know before you format your hard drive. To find out more about your hardware and drivers, use the Device Manager utility in System Properties. The fastest way to get there is to right-click on the My Computer icon on the desktop and choose Properties from the menu. This is System Properties (same as double clicking System in Control Panel). Click the Device Manager tab and you will see hardware categories in a familiar expanding tree structure. Click the + sign to expand a tree and highlight a device and right click to the Properties button. Click the available tabs to view things like resources used, device status, driver files used and provider and date of the device driver. For example, if they say “Microsoft” as the provider, then you are assured that the driver came from the Windows CD and wasn’t installed from a third party vendor’s diskette. You can print all of the information in device manager too if desired; this could make it easier to troubleshoot problems and also make it easier for someone else to help you if you have this to refer to in times of need. When you first open Device Manager, “Computer” is highlighted at the top of the tree. Clicking the Print button will print all of the information in device manager.
Back Up Your Data Files. Save your data files like documents, spreadsheets, pictures, sounds, address books, mIRC script, etc. to another drive (or floppy disks, Zip disk, CD-R, etc.). Don’t forget your web browser’s bookmarks! Do not proceed until you have triple checked to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. Even after triple checking you may discover something you forgot after its too late. For more detailed tips about backing up, click here.
Make SURE you have a boot disk that can access your CD ROM drive. I cannot stress this enough. Boot with your boot disk and ensure that the drivers that are loading can access your CDROM. Insert the Windows CD, change to the CDROM drive letter, and type DIR to make sure you can read the Windows CD. To make double sure, open a file like ReadMe.txt. Click here to find out how to create a bootable floppy disk with CD ROM support. Make sure you test it before proceeding! Newer machines may have the facility of booting from CD/DVD drives. Check your motherboard manual to see if this is a feature you have.
Make SURE you have the Product Key for your Windows installation. Depending on how it was purchased, the Product Key could be on a little sticker on the back of your Windows CD jewel case (or cardboard sleeve) or in the case of an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) CD, it could be on the front of the OEM booklet. If somehow you have lost your Product Key, it can be obtained from your current installation by looking in the system registry. To find your Product Key, open Regedit and navigate to the following registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ MICROSOFT \ WINDOWS \ CURRENTVERSION
Click on the CurrentVersion key in the left pane of regedit, and in the right pane, scroll until you find the value ProductKey. This is your CD Key (not to be confused with ProductId which is the number Microsoft assigned to you when you registered Windows. This is for Retail Versions). If this is an OEM version, the key will have OEM in it and MAY be called ProductID rather than ProductKey. Write down both values if you are unsure!
One more thing I should mention. If your version of Windows is an “upgrade” version, make sure you have your previous installation disks because setup will ask for them to verify eligibility for upgrade. Since you are about to do a clean install, there will not be a previous operating system installed. This is not a problem as long as you have your previous installation disks. Setup will prompt you accordingly.