Reformatting for dummies
Reformatting a hard drive is probably the best thing you can do with a computer. A word of caution to you: Reformatting means you lose everything you have on your computer: documents, passwords, emails in Outlook, Eudora, etc, settings, pictures, music, software, operating system... you get the point. Everything's gone. That said, here comes the fun part.
First thing to do is backup your important stuff listed above onto CD, DVD, Flash memory, Zip drive another hard drive, another computer networked, or anything else you can think of. don't trust just one way of backing up. i back up onto DVD, secondary hard drive, and USB drive just for safety purposes. Make a file with every serial number, password, and any other important number you have about your computer, and back that up as well. Print that file. It's also wise to do a virus scan before doing this, because a virus can reside within your backed up files as well. a free virus scan is available at http://www.trendmicro.com/housecall
but if your computer is messed up, this isn't possible. if you can't get in at all, you're going to lose a lot of important data. you could try backing up from safe mode, and if that doesn't work, try doing it in DOS. if you need info about this, ask.
Before you wipe your drive, you need to make sure that when it's clean you can reload all your programs back on. if you bought your computer already preloaded, you may be missing your operating system, office programs, and anything else. so get your hands on everything you have already on your computer.
Drivers for all your hardware
Office CD and any applications
3. GOOD BYE PROBLEMS
Make a boot disk for your operating system (some OSs don't need one to reformat, such as Windows XP usually) you can find most boot disks on http://bootdisk.org
so find it, download it, copy it to a black floppy disk, put it in your computer and reboot. if your computer just starts regularly then you need to restart, enter SETUP from the boot screen (usually press Delete) and change your boot order to have the floppy drive load first. reboot.
a black DOS screen should come up i believe. this depends on the operating system. Since you're using Windows ME, you should get DOS. at the command prompt c:\ or whatever it is, type "format ?:" (no quotes) where ? is the drive you're wiping. usually you'd type "format c:"
follow DOS's instructions from there and wait for a good half hour until it's done.
everything's clean. take the floppy disk out and stash it somewhere, pop in your Windows CD, and restart. from there, everything's a breeze, just follow the Windows setup instructions. make sure you have your Windows serial number available. without this you're fudged. mmm chocolate.....
Here's a guide of the best order to install everything when you're done all that. it's meant for windows XP but it's good for anything really.
2. Service Pack
3. Chipset drivers
4. Video Card Drivers. (run disk cleanup)
5. NIC/Modem Drivers and ISP software
6. Windows Update, High Priority Updates
7. Windows Update, Optional hardware updates
8. Windows Update, Optional software updates (don't load unnecessary items)
9. Other Drivers (try to automatically update first) (run disk cleanup)
11. Major applications. Fully update each application before installing the next.
12. The rest of your apps. (run disk cleanup)
13. Anti-Virus software and update it.
14. Configure email, move My Documents to another drive
15. Cleanup System Tray, organize Start Menu, activate Windows
18. Safe Mode, disk cleanup (advanced) and defragment.
20. Tweak it!
Your computer will be all set up now, and ready to go. it will run faster than it did when you bought it, it should have no viruses, adware, spyware, or any other malicious code, but that's no garantee if you have an infected CD. but other than that, you're all set. If i've forgotten anything, which i'm sure i have, let me know!
Don't forget to print this file out, along with your serial numbers.
I hope i've helped you out