The short answer is no; at least you shouldn’t format it yourself. Formatting your hard drive erases all of your data, and unless you do it properly the chances are good that you will lose something essential. There are instances when your hard drive has to be formatted, but in that case you should always take it to a professional.
Let’s look a little more closely at formatting, why it might be necessary, and what it does.
When is it necessary?
There are several scenarios that require formatting.
1) You want to increase your storage space by adding a new hard disk drive.
2) You’ve accumulated so much junk that your computer operates at slower-than-snail-speed.
3) You’ve contracted a serious infection that is resistant to everything you’ve thrown at it.
4) Your operating system is on the fritz (it refuses to boot, or boots normally and then crashes when the mood takes it).
5) You’re getting registry errors.
What does formatting do?
At a basic level, it wipes your computer clean and gives it a fresh start. This means that it deletes all of your files, everything from your operating system and your music playlists to your bookmarks and history. And this means that you need to make backups of everything – everything.
Now, it is possible for professionals to recover data from a formatted hard drive, but why would you want to put yourself under that kind of stress? It’s far better to go to a professional company and get it done properly in the first place.
If you absolutely have to do it yourself
If you fancy your computer skills you can try to format your computer yourself, but make sure that you take the following precautions:
- Make a written list of all your files and all the software installed on your PC.
- Backup all of your files and check the completed backups against your list.
- Make a copy of your drivers.
- Ensure that you have all the necessary CDs and licence keys. These are the disks that will reinstall your operating system and your drivers and assorted software, and ensure that you can still connect your printer and scanner and fax to your PC.
- As soon as you have reformatted your drive, reinstall your operating system and follow it by reinstalling antivirus software. You don’t want to leave your good-as-new PC vulnerable for a second. Then you should get online and update your antivirus software and security patches.
Should formatting be a regular occurrence?
Not necessarily. Some people, usually IT uber-professionals (power-users) who are obsessed with performance, swear by formatting their PCs two, three or even four times a year. They might not do a complete format every time, but they like to keep their systems clean, uncluttered, and fast.
Regular Joes, however, tend not to download every version of every software package available, and they tend not to add hard disk drives to increase storage capacity every couple of months. So they might not need to format their drives until things start to go wrong.
If you’re not sure whether your hard drive needs to be formatted, or you want to increase your storage space but don’t trust your computer skills, always consult a professional.