How to Uninstall an Operating System

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How to Uninstall an Operating System

Even the most stable operating systems can crash, and suffer from irreparable damage that you may need to uninstall and reinstall them.  Some users, though, may like to change their operating system to suit their own preferences or purposes for their computer.  Here’s how you can uninstall an operating system.

Uninstalling: An Overview

You can think of your operating system as the computer’s “command center,” where you can access your programs and other utilities.  Some viruses and malware may attack your computer, and damage the very core of your operating system.  In most cases the damage is still reparable and you can still rescue damaged components and restore your operating system, but in some cases you may need to completely reinstall your operating system.

If you installed an operating system in your computer as part of an upgrade (for example, you upgraded from Windows 98 to Windows XP), the computer will revert to the previous operating system provided you have not yet uninstalled it.  If you do not have a previous version of an operating system on your computer, however, you should back up as much of your data as you can before formatting the drive and installing a new operating system.

Uninstall Process

There are two ways to remove an operating system from a computer:


In Microsoft Windows XP, you may opt to uninstall service packs and updates downloaded to your computer automatically (if you have Automatic Update turned on); it will not remove the existing Windows XP install on your computer.  What the uninstall shell performs is a downgrade of your XP installation to accommodate legacy programs not supported by the service pack.  To perform the uninstall, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start menu and select the Control Panel.
  2. Select “Add/Remove Programs.”
  3. Select “Uninstall Windows XP” and follow the instructions on the screen.
  4. The computer will then prompt you to restart the computer, and you’ll boot to the previous version of Windows.


The uninstall only works if:

  • You have a previous version of Windows installed on your computer.
  • You did not change partitions, or make any changes to the physical or logical drives already existing in your computer.

When your computer does not satisfy the requirements of an uninstall, you need to back up your data and perform a complete low-level format of your computer (typing Format C:\ at a DOS prompt outside of Windows).  That way you can completely erase everything and start with a fresh install.

Uninstalling an operating system may seem dangerous, but it’s fairly easy as long as you have a backup.  With these steps, you can easily remove the old, damaged operating system, and replace it with a new one.