My systen (Win8.1) is screwed royally. I need to reinstall, having issues (I'm far more amateur than expert), and would love some direction.

Win 8.1 Pro (was told to install 32 bit, then upgrade to 64, but never was able to upgrade it, either for original install 2-3 years ago).  I want 64-bit version.
Backed up my data as much as possible. Think I've got that covered.
240GB SSD Drive is the C: drive.  A 2TB drive inside computer is backup. Other external drives are to be a part of it.

Okay, BSOD's galore, etc.  Tried doing a number of Microsoft suggestions, and it's working... barely.  I just want to start over. Why is it so difficult to get a fresh start?  And...

...when I DO get it all reinstalled, when and how do you suggest I back up so that this all works without a hitch?  I LOVE EASY.  I kind of need easy, because I am not so bright when it comes to computers.  That's why I'm here.  Help is MUCH appreciated, particularly in point and step by step form for EASY implementation!  Thanks so much!!
JeffereenerAsked:
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JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Yes, I'm an amateur, but MIcrosoft makes their software so incredibly difficult to comprehend.  Posts the problems constantly, but never offers a solution.  These things are quickly turning me to consider the higher cost and reliability of Apple computers.  Because the frustration I feel is beyond anything I should have to endure for such frivilous matters that should come with solutions already intact.  I shouldn't have to be Mr. PC Doctor in order to do what I want with a computer.  And I'm far more equipped for this stuff than most of my friends and family.  It's almost beyond my comprehension how successful their product is at driving me insane.

An added question: what if I installed Windows on a completely separate, external drive?  Could I do that, and THEN format the SSD drive it WON'T LET ME FORMAT in order to reinstall Windows?  I can't repair it, I can't reinstall it, I can't start over... I can't seem to do squat.  This is unbelievable, to me.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I assume you have a Windows 8.1 x64  installation DVD and a Windows 8.1 key -- correct ?

If so, this really is pretty simple.

First, be SURE all of your data is backed up to your 2nd drive.

Then shut down;  UNPLUG the SATA connector from the 2nd drive, so the ONLY drive currently installed is the SSD.

Now boot to your install DVD ... when prompted with the "press any key to boot from CD" prompt hit the spacebar (or any other key) ... and then choose to install Windows -- NOT to repair it.    When you get the opportunity, select Custom install; then DELETE the current partitions on the disk (this is the SSD with your old installation).

At that point Windows will proceed to do the installation => and when it's done you'll be running Windows 8.1 x64.

If you don't have installation media you'll have to purchase one.
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Sounds beautiful, Gary, if I can be so lucky as to have it go that smoothly! Love that, my question is with regards to the unplugging of the SATA... you mean unplug the jumper that I ran directly to each the TWO backup drives... correct?  Man, this does sound simple... I'm looking forward to letting it unfold exactly as you say it should, thanks Gary!  Will come back to post my results... and yeah, I have the disks...
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JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Re: being SURE all of my data is backed up to 2nd drive...
I'm going to need all of my disks for stuff like Kaspersky, etc., right?  (In process of moving, everything is in storage, this could be really bad timing).  Some of that is in my email, I think.  So long as I back up my outlook file, I should be golden for that, right?  But all of the other programs could be a bit of a pain, the Kaspersky one is the one that is most prominent at the beginning, along with my Office 365.  That's the essential part of my computer in a nutshell, anyway, as I don't play games.  If I have those, I have the essence of what I need. Might I be missing something?
nobusCommented:
you said hou had several BSOD's
if you can post the dmp files, we may have an idea of the cause of the problem
find them in windows\minidumps

also - i would run some diagnostics on ram and disk, before reainstalling, i use the UBCD for this :

Hardware diagnostic CD    UBCD

go to the download page, scroll down to the mirror section, and  click on a mirror to start the download
Download the UBCD and make the cd   <<==on a WORKING PC, and boot the problem PC from it
Here 2 links, one to the general site, and a direct link to the download

since the downloaded file is an ISO file, eg ubcd527.iso - so you need to use an ISO burning tool
if you don't have that software, install cdburnerXP : http://cdburnerxp.se/

If you want also the Ram tested - run memtest86+ at least 1 full pass,  - you should have NO errors!
 
For disk Diagnostics run the disk diag for your disk brand (eg seagate diag for seagate drive)  from the HDD section -  long or advanced diag !  (runs at least for30 minutes)

http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/                        ultimate boot cd
http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/download.html             download page

**  you can make a bootable cd - or bootable usb stick

for completeness -here's how i handle disk problems : http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Hard_Drives/A_3000-The-bad-hard-disk-problem.html

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noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
You cannot upgrade from x32bit to x64bit version of Windows.
Then disconnect all drives except your SSD drive by simply removing the SATA cables from them. Keep only SSD connected.
Then boot the PC from installation DVD and on the step where you need to select the destination drive - delete all partitions on the drive and install Windows 8.1 x64 as new OS. Install all drivers and take full system backup using one of available tools (Paragon, Acronis, Macrium etc).
This way you have fresh image saved. Then install all programs needed, configure the OS as you wanted it and take second image of entire SSD drive.
This way you can restore back to original stand if something goes weird.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I wouldn't bother with the UBCD ... that can be a bit intimidating for an amateur.   It's not, however, a bad idea to run MemTest to confirm you aren't having memory issues.

The easiest way to run MemTest is to create a bootable USB Flash drive.   The instructions for doing that (from the MemTest site) are:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.Download the Windows MemTest86 USB image.
2.Right click on the downloaded file and select the "Extract to Here” option. This places the USB image and imaging tool into the current folder.
3.Run the included imageUSB tool, it should already have the image file selected and you just need to choose which connected USB drive to turn into a bootable drive. Note that this will erase all data on the drive.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

The download you need in Step #1 is here:  http://www.memtest86.com/downloads/memtest86-usb.zip


After you've created that bootable flash drive; reboot the computer and press the appropriate key for a boot menu [usually either ESC or  F12, but it varies based on your BIOS => it should display for a VERY brief time when you the boot starts];  and then boot to the flash drive.    Let that run for at least a few hours.


Assuming the memory is okay, you can then do as I noted earlier.    To answer your question about disconnecting the drives ==>  The SATA cables are small cables that connect to the drives inside the computer.    Google "SATA cables" for some pictures.    Each of your drives will have a SATA cable and a SATA power cable (a wider connector) connected to it.    What you want to do before you start the installation process is remove at least the SATA cable from all drives except the SSD  (you can also remove the power cables if you want).    CAUTION:   Many SATA cables have "locking" connectors => to remove them you simply squeeze the lock (the metal tab you can see in the picture below ... basically just squeeze the two sides of the connector together and pull it off.

SATA Connector
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Computers have equalled tremendous upheaval and frustration for me. It's why I've tended to disappear after asking a question. Still, I adore - and need - my computers, if I am to fulfill my future goals.
      I had to step back and reassess; and realized that I have to alter my attitude/approach in order to get different results.
      So it is that I return, with new ideas, new intentions, and most importantly: a new attitude and appreciation for computing. I philosophically hit the reset button. This is the reboot stage. I have a vision, now. And you Experts are going to be key to my future, so Thank You in advance.
      The answers I received on this question go above and beyond; they have helped me clarify where I want to go next. Thanks to every one of you who stepped up. My situation changed drastically in the time since I posted the question, and so a reassessment of this is in order, too.
      I have to close this question to open another, but I will award the points allowed. Wish I could give everyone 1000 points, as the responses were excellent.  Among them, I found nobus' answer, and subsequent link to his HDD to be excellent - and closely related - however, I wish to pursue a simple, more direct approach now.

      I have tried working around everything I've learned since then, but nothing has worked for me or my PC.  

WHERE I AM NOW:
(1) I cannot seem to install any OS on any drive that I connect to this computer
      (a) It's as if computer refuses to acknowledge the presence of any drives, but they show up in BIOS. Is this ROOT DIRECTORY related (whatever that means)?
      (b) Does my BIOS need to be updated somehow?
(2) My laptop crashed and burned, so now I have nothing to work on.
(3) I desperately need a WORKING SYSTEM.
(4) Right now, I am running Ubuntu on a USB in order to do this on EE, it's my only way of connecting.
(5) I have many plans beyond this which I will seek to fulfill one by one. First things first, and that's to be functional once again.

TESTING & ASSESSING
(A1) I wish to be able to fully TEST or ASSESS my hardware and system and drives in order to assure functionality
(A2) nobus recommended running Disk Diag from HDD Manufacturer. Do I do this BEFORE installing the new O/S's?
(A3) garycase recommended running the memtest86 - on my USB stick... or a HDD?
      (a) also, you said let it run for hours, which is fine, but... what am I going to accomplish with this?
(A4) What is the best free software to Test my HDD's for functionality?
(A5) What is the best free software to Test all of my SYSTEM Hardware?

COMPUTER SETUP:
(B1) Mount Obuntu on a SATA HDD.
(B2) Mount Win10 on another SATA or IDE HDD.
(B3) Mount Win8.1 and several Obuntu versions on another drive.

ESTABLISH BACKUP SYSTEMS:
(C1) I wish to back up the base O/S's I install.  (Both Linux and Windows)
(C2) I wish to back up the O/S's after I've installed all personal necessities (printer drivers, etc, etc.) - is there a LIST I can utilize to procure this?
(C3) I wish to set up Backup Systems that operate independently and automatically to back up data accordingly.
(C4) I think it best if I set up the O/S's on their own HDD's... and store ALL new data on an additional drive.  This should guard the O/S from potential failure... is this accurate?

FAST DATA TRANSFER:
(D1) I have much Data to Transfer amongst the many drives I have, and would like the FASTEST DATA TRANSFERS possible. Looking for recommendations.

INFORMATION & QUESTIONS TO COME:
I have documented the failure to boot process somewhat.  And I want to pursue this as a new question, in order to achieve those simple goals.  Regarding some of your responses, a few things came up for me:
(a)  I wonder if I do need this cdburnerxp if I am installing Ubuntu first?
(b)  So far as running this memtest86+ ... do I do so NOW, when my system can't even find a hard drive, or after the OS is installed?
(c)  Can I set up a way to easily switch drives (Internal & External) in and out (hot swap?) as needed?
(d)  Automated Backups - many questions about this to come
(e)  Planning to keep a BOOK OF SYSTEM CHANGES I make, as I go.  Good idea?  Suggestions welcome.


You don't have to respond to any of this.  I'm going to award the points and close this question.  I will open new questions to assess my next actions, with your help.  Big thanks to all of you for your patience and assistance!
nobusCommented:
tx for the feedback - and what is happening to you looks far from normal imo
and i suggest a start from zero - with no disk or CD drives connected
then connect one at the time -and check if it shows up
so you can test all drives
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