Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why Did I Lose Applications After My Machine was Formatted?

Question: Using Windows XP, Home Edition, 32-bit. I had my computer formatted and the technician lost my Corel Windows programs and Veritas to burn music CDs. Is this normal for it to happen?

Well, yes and no.

It’s important to realize that formatting a computer erases everything that’s on that hard drive. You start with a hard disk that contains Windows, other applications, and data and after you format, you have an empty hard disk. That’s normal. That’s expected. That’s what formatting means.

What concerns me here is that the technician should have told you.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Reformatting with a technician

Whenever you reformat your machine, you subsequently need to reinstall all of the software. Usually, the technician does this for you or at least tells you that you needed to reinstall Corel and any other applications that were lost in the reformatting process.

What bothers me is that the technician didn’t seem to tell you beforehand that reformatting would erase everything. For the Corel program, that tech should have asked you if you had the original reinstallation media for those programs.

ExplosionWhat now?

If you have the original reinstallation media for those programs, I’d reinstall those programs now.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention backing up. Before you took the machine to the technician, I hope you created a backup. You can use that to then to restore your files (though restoring programs from a backup in a situation like this can be exceptionally difficult).

If you haven’t done so, I recommend that you do a backup of the entire machine so that you save everything. Then, in the future, should you ever need to reinstall Windows, you can first restore this backup, which will restore everything – Windows, programs and data. If you actually need to reinstall Windows from scratch, you’ll still then need to reinstall your programs from their original reinstallation media, but the backup will at least prevent you from losing any data.

So, is this normal?

Yes, the formatting process was.

Is it acceptable for a technician to do a reformat and not warn you that you’ll need to reinstall your programs? Probably not. It’s certainly something that I would have expected the technician to tell you before he erased everything on your machine.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

2 comments on “Why Did I Lose Applications After My Machine was Formatted?”

  1. As a technician who does house calls, this REALLY irritates me when my “competitors”, who charge peanuts compared to what I charge, do this. The clients can’t find their programs, and call me hoping that I can do something. In many cases, they can’t find the CDs or never had them (another tech put the program on using a bootleg copy) etc. and now, even though I had nothing to do with the formatting, its “My Fault” that they can’t get MS Word on their computer without having to buy it.

    When I do a format, I have my client dig out all the CDs they have, and I go through them and compare them to what I see on the desktop (if I can – sometimes I can’t even boot into safe mode or even the command prompt). It’s really annoying when they rely on an “ancient” piece of software that hasn’t been released in years.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly Mr Geldheart. I have come across the exact same cenario with many clients over the years. Dodgey copies of MSOffice and even XP and they don’t have the original.
    “Oh a friend of a friend put it all on for me and I have no discs”. The friend of a friend is usually never heard from again. A technician that just blindly formats a drive and hands it back to the customer has no customer QoS and has no customer service skills. My first question is always “do you have backups of your data?”. If not and the system is operational I sit down with customer and go through all the data they want to keep and original program discs for re-install. As an IT professional it should be a best practice to backup all the users profile folders, My docs, music, pics, emails. At least you get most of the data. Techs that just format and hand back are one time service providers as the customer usually never goes back.
    But then again in enterprise environments you should not keep any personal data on the workstation as it usually restored from a base image if and when required. I try to encourage my SMB users to keep there personal data at home or at least in a folder on the server where it gets backed up.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.