If your computer is blocked from the network because it was found to have a virus, Trojan, worm or other malicious software, it will need to be reformatted and secured before it will be allowed back on the network. ITS does not reformat student computers. You either have to reformat the system yourself or have a local vendor perform the service for you. After reformatting, you will need to have ITS verify and secure your system before it can be unblocked from the network. Please read the information below for more details.

What is a reformat?

Reformatting a computer means completely erasing (formatting) the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system and all other applications and files. All of your data on the hard disk will be lost, so you will need to back it up to a CD, DVD, flashdrive or another computer.

Why does my computer’s hard disk need to be reformatted?

When computers become deeply infected with viruses, Trojans or other malicious software, it takes far less time to reformat them than it does to successfully to clean them. Formatting a system also guarantees that all malicious software has been removed—manual cleaning will not always get everything.

What do I need in order to reformat my computer?

You will need a valid, licensed copy of your current operating system or a system restore CD which should have come with your system when you purchased it. The license code should be attached to the computer itself, usually on the underside.

You must back up your personal data—make sure all documents, music and any other personal files (not programs) are safely backed up somewhere other than on your hard drive—depending on how much data you have, this is easily done to CDs, DVDs, a flashdrive or an external disk drive. ITS may be able to assist you with backing up your files provided you have functional hardware to do so and some local repair shops will do this for a fee (see below).

How do I reformat my computer?

Assuming you have a system CD and have backed up your data, you have three options for reformatting:

  • Use a System Restore CD
    • Most computers ship with a “Restore CD” or a “System CD.” These CDs will restore your computer to the factory settings without any input from you at all. If you have your original disc, this should be your first choice. DO NOT use a disc that you borrow from someone else—instead, try contacting the manufacturer of your computer, you may be able to order one made for your particular system.
  • Go to a local computer repair shop
    • Local computer shops will reformat your hard drive and install an operating system for a fee. They can also perform a data backup for an additional fee. They will require you to have a valid operating system license.
  • Format and install an Operating System
    • Colby ITS does not provide this type of service to students, and cannot advise users on how to do it.  If you have a Windows operating system CD and license, you can do the operation yourself but will need to consult documentation elsewhere.


Remember that after your system has been reformatted, you will need to bring it in to ITS for additional software and verification before you can rejoin the network. For more information, contact the ITS Support Center at support@colby.edu or ext. 4222.