It is a good idea to reformat. There's not much risk to it as long as you backup your important personal files and not any infected programs or installers.
What you should do is backup all of your personal files BUT NOT PROGRAMS or INSTALLERS onto portable flash drives, or CD-ROM or DVD-ROM or external hard drive.
Technically you could back up your hardware drivers, but you'll probably want fresh copies of those anyways since your system is
having troubles. You don't want to save programs and installers because those might be infected. But it is good to be aware of where your installers are on CD-ROM of
programs that you'll be using.
One thing that you probably should backup is any registration files for programs. Make note of serial numbers and usernames and registration codes
that you used to get your bought programs working. I like to save these in a file as well as print them up. Make sure that you write the version number and name of the software that
they go with.
The best way to reformat the hard drive(s) is to use any process that complete erases everything on it, including the partition tables and directories and all of that. I mean everything. Wiping the slate clean. Reinstalling windows without completely erasing everything first could result in still being infected or having further drive problems. The kind of reformat I'm talking about requires starting up the computer from a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM and launching a format or erase program off of that CD or DVD. Really, all you need is something that deletes all the partitions and hopefully freshes the MBR (master boot record) with a clean one.
I know of a program that does this. Just plain old AEFdisk.exe (Not AEFdisk32.exe). AEFdisk runs on DOS, but can format drives for Windows (NTFS format) or delete the partitions and refresh the MBR. The only issue is getting finding a "boot" (startup) CD or DVD to launch from and getting AEFdisk on a DOS-compatible ISO 9660 CD-ROM. I don't have an immediate solution for you on that. If you can get AEFdisk on a floppy diskette, that would work too if your computer has a floppy diskette drive. http://www.aefdisk.com/
I had a difficult time searching Google to find just a simple boot CD freeware that also has a "disk wiper" or partition deleter or whatnot. The best one I could find was Ultimate Boot CD. You could use the disk wiping tools on there, but disk wiping can take a much longer time than simply deleting partitions and the MBR. Does anybody else know of anything else? Does the Windows install CD really erase everything if given the option? http://ultimatebootcd.com/
Edited by BlackBurst, 25 September 2008 - 11:48 AM.