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Revised May 9, 2005
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Can some one please tell me how to format my hard drive and reload Windows 98 or Windows ME? I cannot uninstall it. That option has been disabled.

Broad steps:

Make a Windows Startup Disk. To do this, go to Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs | Startup Disk. You will need a diskette and your Windows CD.

Test the Windows Startup Disk. Make sure it will boot your computer, and will give you access to your CD-ROM drive. Test the CD drive’s functionality: A DIR (directory) command of the CD drive letter will be sufficient to confirm this. Also, make sure you can access/read your hard drive.

Think through, step-by-step, everything you will want to do for your distinctive system setup. That is, what do you need to do to get everything exactly the way you want to do it? Make sure that all necessary utilities (including such things as FORMAT and FDISK) are on the Startup Disk. Make sure:

Measure twice, cut once.
Check the map and the gas tank
before you leave the driveway.
Think ahead.

Most of the mistakes people make in a process such as this will be avoided if you simply think it through first, have all of your wits about you during the job, pay attention, and think of what you are doing as you go.

Do a complete system backup so that you can recover your system entirely in the event of a midstream disaster, and so that you can later recover whatever bits and pieces you will later want to retrieve.

Get a good night’s sleep, have a bite to eat, and sit down to the job.

Reboot your computer with the startup diskette. If you are religious, say a little prayer. Prepare to kiss your old system good-bye.

Reformat your hard drive with the FORMAT C: command. Do any other prep stuff you want to do, such as repartitioning (with FDISK or another partitioning tool of your choice). Then run the SETUP program from whatever letter is assigned to the CD-ROM drive (if you didn’t notice what letter this is, just reboot from the startup diskette and watch the screen; DOS will tell you).

Personally, I prefer the following variation: Once I get my partitions the way I want them, and the hard drive formatted, copy the entire Win98 CD-ROM contents to where I want them permanently stored on the hard drive. (My I: partition is reserved for full CD-ROM downloads.) Some people only copy the win98 folder (in Windows 98) or win9x folder (in Windows ME), but I prefer to copy the entire CD, since I might (will!) need something else it houses. Run SYS from the startup diskette onto the C: drive. Remove the diskette and reboot the computer so that it comes up in MS-DOS on the C: drive. Run the setup program from the hard drive.

MS-MVP MrScary suggested the following: Before running Win98’s setup, change your bios date to 4/23/99 10:22PM (for Win98 SE) or 5/11/98 8:01PM (for Win98 “gold,” that is, original edition). This way, once you are done with install and run System File Checker (SFC.EXE, an important maintenance and repair utility) to add those other folders to be tracked, the timestamps will be very close for almost all the files. This makes it real easy to spot changes once you change the date & time back to the “present” and need to run SFC for whatever reason again.

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