If I format my laptop will software packages such as Microsoft Office (Microsoft Word, Power Point, etc.) be deleted? If so can they be recovered after deletion?

  • 2
    Your real question seems to be how you can remove all the personal information from the laptop before giving it to a friend. A factory recovery/restore sounds the most sensible, though some programs would likely still need to be installed. – ernie Jul 29 '14 at 0:52

In the simplest terms, if you format your laptop's hard drive you will erase all the contents of that drive and your drive will be empty. All your programs and data will be gone. Will they be recoverable? Again, in the simplest terms, no, they cant be recovered.

Now to get more advanced. Technically speaking, a standard format of a drive does not erase any of your data and programs. It deletes the information that where operating system says it stored that data is on the drive. All of your programs and data are still sitting right where they were before you formatted them. So, technically, it is possible to recover everything, but this is not a trivial task.

There is a lot more to formatting and data recovery that can be discussed, but I believe that would be outside the scope of your question. And speaking of your question, you left out a lot of information from your question, perhaps you should explain why you want to format your drive.

  • I'm formatting the drive so I can give a friend the laptop but I don't want a situation whereby my friend has to get a new OS or basic software packages. I basically want to remove all my saved documents, pictures etc and restore all the factory settings so he can use it with ease – Phillip Jul 28 '14 at 22:36
  • This is definitely getting beyond the scope of the original question. If you want to securely erase the drive so your data cant be recovered, use a drive erase utility like DBAN. However, this would mean reinstalling the OS and applications. If you have the original installation media, you can easily reinstall the OS and applications. Of course, you would have the media and license keys to him as well to stay legal... – Keltari Jul 28 '14 at 23:03
  • @Keltari DBAN? That is EXTREME.. This is a friend that cannot format a laptop himself, do you really think he's going to be doing data recovery on a formatted drive seeing the old info? Many people who have fixed computers for 10 years+ haven't ever done that! I doubt his friend is interested in doing data recovery on a formatted drive either – barlop Jul 28 '14 at 23:53
  • @barlop it would prevent recovery of old data. and giving an explanation on scrubbing just the "essentials" is out of the questions scope. – Keltari Jul 28 '14 at 23:55
  • @Phillip please ask the question more clear. You don't really want to know what happens during a format but how to wipe personal data only. This is a completely other topic. – ju.kreber Jul 29 '14 at 21:52

If I format my laptop will software packages such as Microsoft Office (Microsoft Word, Power Point, etc.) be deleted?


If so can they be recovered after deletion?


Unless you have an old-style hard drive that doesn't erase things you delete. But even then, it's tough to recover the data stored in the registry. It's hard enough that I'd advise you to buy a new copy of Office rather than attempt recovery.

I apologize that this answer conflicts with the 4 existing answers, but many technical users don't yet understand how SSDs reclaim sectors using TRIM, GC, and when formatted. Undelete is a thing of the past.

  • So if I want to avoid getting a new copy of Office formatting should be avoided – Phillip Jul 29 '14 at 0:28
  • Yes;Isn't that what you want to do? – Ramhound Jul 29 '14 at 19:54
  • If you have a retail copy of Office, or some other way of installing Office, you don't need to buy a new copy. – Sophit Jul 30 '14 at 22:46

In simple words:

  1. Formatting a partition just changes some information on the partition table and marks the space as available, deleting it just marks it as free space, but neither actually zeroes it. See this other answer for info on deleting files.
  2. Since the information isn't completely deleted, you can recover it again using recovery tools like undelete.
  3. If you start creating new files on the newly formatted partition, you start using some sectors that previously contained information, and if those sectors contained information you wanted to restore, they're unrecoverable.

But for most cases: once a partition is formatted or deleted, the information is lost.

  • 1
    This is technically completely correct. But i think you should mention that for a normal user, the files do get deleted and it is certainly not that easy to recover them. – ju.kreber Jul 29 '14 at 19:01
  • Sure it is; I could lost 30 program all free that are not very technical at all – Ramhound Jul 29 '14 at 19:56
  • @Ramhound Sorry, I don't understand your comment. – arielnmz Jul 29 '14 at 20:10
  • Well sorry I thought the question was more about restoring the data after a format and not to completely wipe it all. Maybe i missed the questioners intention... – ju.kreber Jul 29 '14 at 21:49
  • @arielnmz I said I could lost 30 free programs all that anyone even the most basic computer user could use to recover files. I was basically saying your answer is fine and saying its hard to recover files is a fallacy ( in other words not true ) – Ramhound Jul 30 '14 at 1:47

In very technical terms, No, formatting doesn't delete everything.

But practically, unless he'd doing some advanced data recovery, if he looks on the drive for any files, and the drive is formatted, he won't see any files there. And if it's a 150GB drive, the drive comes up as having 150GB free.

If you want to really wipe the drive so data is unrecoverable even by advanced data recovery techniques, then I suppose writing zeros on the drive will do it. But it's most probably not necessary to do that.

When you format it, then all the programs and files are gone (data recovery aside).

If you want to remove your personal files, and have everything as default, then one option is contact your laptop manufacturer. Sometimes they provide a CD/DVD that has a process that puts the laptop back to how it was when you bought it. If it didn't have Office originally, it won't have it when you do that. And if it had junk software on it originally (like McAffee - a bloated anti virus program), then it will have that on there again. Sometimes they have an option at startup to do it.

You could remove personal files manually. You know what your personal files are.

And note that -technically- deleting files doesn't delete them, it just deletes references to them.. So somebody that knows data recovery techniques could 'undelete' them. But I don't think you or your friend are likely to be doing data recovery but there are programs to delete files securely. This program http://eraser.heidi.ie/ but that's really if you want to be paranoid. Many people just delete files and consider them deleted. If you had sensitive info and your friend was very technical and a thief and cunning then you might want to use that program.. or better, not give him your laptop.

  • Thanks, the information given was more than enough and I doubt my friend would try to recover info but I'll the program into consideration. – Phillip Jul 29 '14 at 0:20

Formatting your hard drive means erasing every single piece of date written on it. So jep, your software (and your data) will be deleted. For this purpose, there are many backup & restore programs out there (some are free!). Some have the ability to restore only several parts of a backed up archive, your Word and Powerpoint for example. Also, if you plan to format your hard drive, be sure you have something (a DVD, or a recovery partition) to set up a new Windows installation as this also gets deleted.

[Edit: Well yeah if you have a real close look on it, no data really gets erased, nobody just knows it is there. And it is possible to recover (as long as you don't write new data on it), yet for a normal user this is not useful]

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