How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (2023)

What to Know

  • Open Disk Management, right-click the disk, choose Format. Enter a name for the drive.
  • Under File system, choose NTFS. Under Allocation unit size, choose Default. Uncheck Perform a quick format.

To format a hard drive means to erase any information on the drive and to set up a file system so your operating system can read data from the drive and write data to the drive. You need to format a hard drive if you plan on using it in Windows.

How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows

Follow these easy steps to format a hard drive in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP:

If the hard drive you want to format has never been used or was just wiped clean, you need to partition the hard drive. Once partitioned, return to this page for help formatting the drive.

  1. Open Disk Management, the hard drive manager included with all versions of Windows.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (1)

    OpeningDisk Management can be done a number of ways depending on your version of Windows, but the easiest method is to typediskmgmt.mscin theRundialog box or theStartmenu.

    Another way to open Disk Management is through Control Panel.

  2. After Disk Management opens, which might take several seconds, look for the drive you want to format from the list at the top. There's a lot of information in this tool, so if you can't see everything, maximize the window.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (2)

    Look for the amount of storage on the drive as well as the drive name. For example, if it saysMusicfor the drive name and it has2 GB of hard drive space, then you've likely selected a small flash drive full of music.

    Feel free to open the drive to make sure that it's what you want to format if it makes you confident that you're going to format the right device.

    If you don't see the drive listed on the top or anInitialize Diskwindows appears, it probably means that the hard drive is new and has not yet beenpartitioned. Partitioning is something thatmustbe donebeforea hard drive is formatted.

  3. Now that you've found the drive you want to format,right-clickit and chooseFormat to open the disk-formatting wizard.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (3)

    (Video) How to Initialize and Format a New Hard Drive in Windows 10

    Now is as good a time as any to remind you that you really, really, really need to make sure that this is the right drive. You certainly don't want to format the wrong hard drive.

    • Existing Drive:If you're formatting a drive that you've been using and that has data on it, double-check in Explorer that the drive letter you're choosing here in Disk Management is the same as the one you see in Explorer that has the information on it that you want to erase. Once formatted, the existing data on the disk are probably unrecoverable for most people.
    • New Drive:If you're formatting a new drive, a great way to tell that it's the right one is to look at theFile Systemcolumn in the top part of Disk Management. Your existing drives will showfile systemsofNTFSorFAT32, but a new, unformatted drive will show RAW instead.

    You cannot format your C drive, or whatever drive Windows is installed on, from within Windows. In fact, theFormat option isn't even enabled for the drive with Windows on it.

  4. The first of several formatting details which we'll cover over the next several steps is thevolume label, which is essentially a name given to the hard drive.

    In theVolume labeltextbox, enter whatever name you'd like to give to the drive.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (4)

    If the drive had a previous name and that makes sense for you, by all means, keep it.

    Drive letters are assigned during theWindows partitioning processbut can easily be changed after the format is complete. You can change drive lettersafter the formatting process is done if you'd like.

  5. Next up is the file system choice. In theFile systemtextbox, chooseNTFS.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (5)

    NTFS is the most recent file system available and is almost always the best choice. Only choose FAT32 (FAT—which is actually FAT16—isn't available unless the drive is 2 GB or smaller) if you are specifically told to do so by a program's instructions that you're planning on using on the drive. This isnotcommon.

  6. In theAllocation unit sizetextbox, chooseDefault. The best allocation size based on the size of the hard drive will be chosen.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (6)

    It's not at all common to set a custom allocation unit size when formatting a hard drive in Windows.

  7. Next is thePerform a quick formatcheckbox. Windows will check this box by default, suggesting that you do a "quick format" but we recommend that youuncheck this box so that a "standard format" is performed.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (7)

    (Video) How to Format SSD or Hard Drive in Windows 10

    In astandard format, each individual "part" of the hard drive, called asector, is checked for errors andoverwritten with a zero—a sometimes painfully slow process. This procedure ensures that the hard drive is physically working as expected, that each sector is a reliable place to store data, and that existing data is unrecoverable.

    In aquick format, this bad sector search and basicdata sanitizationis skipped entirely and Windows assumes that the hard drive is free of errors. A quick format is very fast.

    You, of course, can do whatever you like—either method will get the drive formatted. However, especially for older and brand new drives, we'd prefer to take our time and do the error checking right now instead of letting our important data do the testing for us later on. The data sanitization aspect of a full format is nice, too, if you're planning on selling or disposing of this drive.

  8. The final format option is theEnable file and folder compressionsetting that isuncheckedby default, which we recommend sticking with.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (8)

    The file and folder compression feature allows you to choose files or folders to be compressed and decompressed on the fly, potentially offering considerable savings on hard drive space. The downside here is that performance can be equally affected, making your day-to-day Windows use much slower than it would be without compression enabled.

    File and folder compression has little use in today's world of very large and very inexpensive hard drives. In all but the rarest occasions, a modern computer with a large hard drive is better off protecting all the processing power it can and skipping on the hard drive space savings.

  9. Review the settings you've made in the last several steps and then clickOK.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (9)

    As a reminder, here's what you should see:

    • Volume label:[label of your choosing]
    • File system:NTFS
    • Allocation unit size:Default
    • Perform a quick format:unchecked
    • Enable file and folder compression:unchecked

    Look back at whatever previous steps you need to if you're wondering why these are the best options.

  10. Windows is usually pretty good about warning you before you might do something damaging, and a hard drive format is no exception.

    ClickOKto the warning message about formatting the drive.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (10)

    Just as the warning says, all the information on this drive will be erased if you clickOK. You can't cancel the format process halfway through and expect to have half of your data back. As soon as this starts, there's no going back. There's no reason for this to be scary but we do want you to understand the finality of a format.

  11. The hard drive format has begun! You can check the progress by watching theFormatting: xx%indicator under theStatuscolumn in the top part of Disk Management or in the graphical representation of your hard drive in the bottom section.

    (Video) Completely format hard drive removing all partitions (including OEM)

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (11)

    If you chose aquick format, your hard drive should only take several seconds to format. If you chose thestandard format, which we suggested, the time it takes the drive to format will depend almost completely on the size of the drive. A small drive will take a small amount of time to format and a very large drive will take a very long time to format.

    Your hard drive's speed, as well as your overall computer's speed, play some part but the size is the biggest variable.

  12. Disk Management in Windows won't flash a big "Your Format is Complete!" message, so after the format percentage indicator reaches100%, wait a few seconds and then check again underStatusand make sure it's listed asHealthylike your other drives.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (12)

    You may notice that now that the format is complete, the volume label has changed to what you set it as (New Drive in our case) and the% Freeis listed at 100%. There's a little overhead involved so don't worry if your drive isn't completely empty.

  13. That's it! Your hard drive has been formatted and it's ready for use in Windows. You can use the new drive however you want—back up files, store music, and videos, etc.

    If you'd like to change the drive letter assigned to this drive, now is the best time to do that.

    How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows (13)

Formatting Deletes Data, But Doesn't Always Erase It

When you format a drive in Windows, data may or may not truly be erased. Depending on your version of Windows, and the type of format, it's possible the data is still there, hidden from Windows and other operating systems but still accessible in certain situations. There is technically a difference between deleting and erasing a drive.

More on Formatting Hard Drives in Windows

If you want to format your hard drive so you can install Windows again from scratch, your hard drive will be automatically formatted as part of that process. You can also format a hard drive via Command Prompt using the format command.


  • How do I format an external hard drive?

    The steps for formatting hard drives are the same whether they are internal or external: connect the external hard drive to your computer and select it in the Disk Management tool.

    (Video) How to Format an External Hard Drive on Windows and Mac
  • How do I completely erase my hard drive?

    To completely erase a hard drive, use free data destruction software, use a degausser, or physically destroy the drive.

  • Why can't I format a drive on my computer?

    If you can't format a drive, it could have a virus, or you might need to repair bad sectors. You can try formatting the drive from the Command Prompt as an alternative.

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How do I completely format my hard drive? ›

PC Instructions

Right click on the drive and select Format. Enter a name for the drive in Volume label and select the format type in the File system dropdown box. Click OK. It will take a short while to delete all the files and change the format of the disk.

How do I format my hard drive without a Windows CD? ›

Formatting a Non-System Drive
  1. Log into the computer in question with an administrator account.
  2. Click Start, type “diskmgmt. ...
  3. Right-click the drive you wish to format, and click “Format.”
  4. Click the “Yes” button if prompted.
  5. Type a volume label. ...
  6. Uncheck the “Perform a quick format” box. ...
  7. Click “OK” twice.

Does formatting a hard drive completely erase it? ›

Otherwise, formatting a hard drive using the quick format option (or an earlier version of Windows) will not actually erase all of its stored data. When you choose to format a hard drive, you are essentially only removing the pointers to the data as the partition table is either cleared or rebuilt.

How do I force a hard drive to format? ›

Formatting a hard drive or SSD is the same as buying a new hard drive since the process erases all the data in one fell swoop.
Follow the steps below to format a drive:
  1. STEP 1: Open Command Prompt As Administrator. ...
  2. STEP 2: Use Diskpart. ...
  3. STEP 3: Type List Disk. ...
  4. STEP 4: Select the Drive to Format.
Aug 17, 2018

How do I wipe my hard drive and reinstall Windows? ›

Go to Settings > Change PC Settings > Update and recovery > Recovery. Click Get Started under the Remove everything and reinstall Windows section. Click Next, then choose Fully clean the drive to ensure everything is deleted.

How do I fix a corrupted hard drive? ›

Methods to Fix Corrupted Hard Drive
  1. Go to Computer/This PC >> Select Hard Drive >> Choose Properties.
  2. Select Tools >> Error checking >> Check now >> Check local disk >> Start.
  3. Shut down all open and running programs >> wait for the system to check upon the next boot >> restart the PC.

How do I fix a hard drive that Cannot be formatted? ›

Based on the possible causes, there are six workable solutions to the problem "External hard drive not formatting":
  1. Remove the Virus.
  2. Update Hardware Driver.
  3. Run System File Checker Tool.
  4. Run CHKDSK.
  5. Format External Hard Drive via DiskPart.
  6. Delete the Partition and Recreate a New Volume.
Nov 30, 2022

Why can't Windows format my hard drive? ›

What causes the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error? There can be multiple different causes for this error. Most of the time, it is either related to poor system configuration, or an issue with your drive. In rare cases, even malware can cause this error, especially if it's on the drive itself.

Can I just format my C drive? ›

To format your C drive only, you'll need to create a bootable USB drive or CD/DVD. Once you have your bootable media, boot from it and select the option to format your C drive. This will erase all the data on your C drive, so be sure to back up any important files before proceeding.

How do you fix a hard drive that won't read without formatting? ›

How to Fix External Hard Drive without Formatting
  1. Method 1: Scan Your Computer for Viruses.
  2. Method2: Use CHKDSK to Fix File System Errors.
  3. Method 3: Replace Corrupted Files with SFC.
Dec 7, 2022

How to format hard drive using BIOS? ›

How to Format A Hard Drive from BIOS?
  1. Step 1 Change the Booting Sequence from BIOS. ...
  2. Step 2 Load the Windows Installation Media. ...
  3. Step 3 Format the Hard Drive Entirely. ...
  4. Step 1 Launch Command Prompt. ...
  5. Step 2 Format a Hard Drive in BIOS via Command Prompt. ...
  6. Step 2 Recover your data from the drive.

What does it mean to format a hard drive? ›

Disk formatting is the configuring process of a data storage media such as a hard disk drive, floppy disk or flash drive for initial usage. Any existing files on the drive would be erased with disk formatting. Disk formatting is usually done before initial installation or before installation of a new operating system.

Is formatting the same as erasing? ›

Formatting is essentially the same process as deleting a file on a hard drive, except you delete every file at once.

Can files be recovered after formatting? ›

However, the data still remains on the drive until overwritten with new data. Once it's overwritten with new files or folders, you won't be able to recover files on the formatted hard drive. Hence, it's always advised to stop using the drive immediately after accidental formatting and data loss.

How do I format a disk manually? ›

Open Computer Management by selecting the Start button. The select Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools, and then double-click Computer Management. In the left pane, under Storage, select Disk Management. Right-click the volume that you want to format, and then select Format.

Can you fix a corrupted hard drive without formatting? ›

Yes! You can use a reliable data recovery software, such as Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Windows. It is a DIY software that efficiently retrieves data from formatted, corrupted, and RAW hard drives.

Does formatting fix a corrupted hard drive? ›

Whether it is an internal hard disk or an external hard drive, there are solutions to repair a corrupted hard disk. The most straightforward way to fix a corrupt hard disk is by formatting it, which will cause data loss.

How do I wipe my hard drive before selling it? ›

How to Securely Erase Your SSD via Your Motherboard
  1. Look for a secure erase option under a tools or storage menu. ...
  2. Select your drive, choose options and confirm. ...
  3. Create a bootable USB flash drive. ...
  4. Hit Enter to select Default settings (option 1) when prompted for a boot method. ...
  5. Launch the Erase Disk app.
Nov 22, 2022

How do I reset my computer and clean all drives? ›

Open the Start Menu and select Settings.
  1. Click Update & Security.
  2. Go to the left-hand side, scroll down and click on Recovery.
  3. From there, go to Reset this PC. ...
  4. A prompt will appear with two options, Keep My Files or Remove Everything. ...
  5. Click the Change settings option.
  6. Turn the Data Erasure toggle switch to on.
May 16, 2022

What are the symptoms of a damaged hard drive? ›

Here are the most common hard drive failure signs:
  • Overheating.
  • Strange sounds.
  • Corrupted data, files, and folders.
  • Major slowdowns.
  • Stuck spindle motor.
  • Frequent error messages.
  • System crashes.
  • Blue Screen of Death.
Nov 19, 2021

Can a failing hard drive be fixed? ›

For the most part the answer is no as when a hard drive fails it's often to a degree that it can't be repaired. There are, however, some instances where you can raise your hard drive from the dead. Let's investigate hard drive failures in terms of identifying them, the causes and possible solutions.

How do I know if my hard drive is corrupted? ›

This tool is called Check Disk (chkdsk). To run Check Disk on a drive: Open My Computer (Start, My Computer) then right click on the drive you want to scan and select Properties. Select the Tools tab, then click on the Check Now button.

How do I fix a corrupted hard drive that won't boot? ›

You can fix it by:
  1. Restart the computer.
  2. Open the BIOS.
  3. Select the Boot option from the drop-down menu.
  4. Change the order of the options such that the hard disc is the first option.
  5. Save these options.
  6. Restart the computer again.

Is exFAT better than NTFS? ›

In a debate regarding exFAT vs NTFS vs FAT32, NTFS is the best format for storage devices with Windows operating system. However, exFAT is best for portable storage devices due to more efficient power and memory management. It also allows you to use a storage device on both Windows and macOS.

Does Windows 10 format delete everything? ›

The answer is no. Formatting does not erase data on the disk, which only makes file recovery much more difficult.

How long does it take to format a hard drive? ›

For your information, you can always format a hard drive within minutes or half an hour, depending on the hard drive capacity and used space on it. As estimated, to do a "full format" on a 1TB hard disk in Windows, it will take a long time, like 2- hours, and over a USB 2.0 connection, it may take a day!

How do I completely format my computer Windows 10? ›

You can choose to preserve just your personal files or to erase everything, depending on what you need. Go to Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery, click Get started and select the appropriate option. Then follow the on-screen instructions to restore Windows 10 to a factory fresh state.

Does formatting C remove virus? ›

But formatting doesn't work always because the virus can write itself onto the portion of the drive that remains unaffected by the process of formatting and it is hard to tell whether the virus is truly gone or not.

What happens if we format C drive in Windows 10? ›

When you format C, you erase the operating system and other information on that drive. Unfortunately, it's very much not a straightforward process. You can't format the C drive like you can format another drive in Windows because you're within Windows when you perform it.

Can you recover a corrupted hard drive? ›

Yes, files can be recovered from a failed hard drive by using a skilled data recovery service. Failed hard drives cannot be salvaged with recovery software since the operating system cannot access the device to allow the application to recover the data.

How do I format a hard drive to make it bootable? ›

FAQs About Bootable USB Format Tool
  1. Connect bootable hard drive or USB to PC, press Windows + R keys and type diskmgmt. ...
  2. Open Disk Management, right-click the dive you want to format, and select "Format".
  3. Set the partition label, and file system format.
  4. Check "Perform a quick format."
  5. Click "OK" to start formatting.
Dec 7, 2022

Can you format a drive from command prompt? ›

Formatting a disk can be done via the command line on Windows, using a utility called Diskpart. Diskpart is a built-in Windows utility.

How do I initialize a new hard drive? ›

In Disk Management, right-click the disk you want to initialize, and then click Initialize Disk (shown here). If the disk is listed as Offline, first right-click it and select Online. Note that some USB drives don't have the option to be initialized, they just get formatted and a drive letter.

Can I fix a corrupted hard drive by formatting? ›

Yes, you can fix a corrupted hard drive by formatting it with a new file system. Logical hard drive corruption is often caused by a damaged or corrupted file system. Formatting the partition will correct this.

How do I completely wipe my SSD and HDD? ›

How to Securely Erase Your SSD via Your Motherboard
  1. Look for a secure erase option under a tools or storage menu. ...
  2. Select your drive, choose options and confirm. ...
  3. Create a bootable USB flash drive. ...
  4. Hit Enter to select Default settings (option 1) when prompted for a boot method. ...
  5. Launch the Erase Disk app.
Nov 22, 2022

How do you uncorrupt a hard drive? ›

Methods to Fix Corrupted Hard Drive
  1. Go to Computer/This PC >> Select Hard Drive >> Choose Properties.
  2. Select Tools >> Error checking >> Check now >> Check local disk >> Start.
  3. Shut down all open and running programs >> wait for the system to check upon the next boot >> restart the PC.

How can I tell if my hard drive is corrupted? ›

Common symptoms of hard drive corruption include: The drive is completely inaccessible. Sluggish performance. Missing files.
Interruption during writing
  1. A sudden loss of power.
  2. Impact damage from a drop.
  3. Water or fire damage.
  4. Extreme temperatures.
Apr 7, 2022

How do I know if my hard drive is damaged? ›

Here are the most common hard drive failure signs:
  1. Overheating.
  2. Strange sounds.
  3. Corrupted data, files, and folders.
  4. Major slowdowns.
  5. Stuck spindle motor.
  6. Frequent error messages.
  7. System crashes.
  8. Blue Screen of Death.
Nov 19, 2021

Is there a downside to exFAT? ›

Disadvantages of exFAT

Not as compatible as FAT32. It does not offer journaling functionality and other advanced features built into the NTFS file system.

Which format is best for hard drive? ›

NTFS file format: If you want to format your primary drive (with your OS), you must use NTFS (New Technology Files System), the default and modern Windows file system. NTFS is also a good choice for external drives, because it's compatible with a wide range of devices.

Is there any reason not to use exFAT? ›

exFAT is bad if you want to store a lot of very small files on it. E.g. a 500KB file will waste up to 12% of disc space because of the 64KB block size. Mainly pics and videos.

How many times can an SSD be wiped? ›

An SSD that stores two bits of data per cell, commonly referred to as multi-level cell (MLC) flash, generally sustains up to 10,000 write cycles with planar NAND and up to 35,000 write cycles with 3D NAND.

Is it OK to wipe an SSD? ›

You Can Securely Wipe Your SSD

Wiping an SSD clean requires different tools than a regular hard drive. Now you know the options, you can securely erase your SSD before selling or donating it. Manufacturer secure erase options are handy, but the Parted Magic secure erase option is best.

Will removing the hard drive erase everything from my computer? ›

If you remove a hard drive from your computer, the data will still be present on the hard drive. However, it will no longer be present in that computer.

Can a failing hard drive be repaired? ›

Hard drive repair is possible, but they should not be reused after a recovery! Of course, HDDs can be repaired! However, a repaired HDD should not be reused, but rather, have its contents recovered immediately and then be discarded as it cannot be trusted to work into the future.

What happens if your hard drive is too full? ›

A hard drive that's too full can slow down your computer, causing freezes and crashes. Think of it this way -- if you have a storage trunk that's jam-packed with stuff, taking up every available inch of space, it'll make it harder, and take longer, for you to find what you're looking for.

Why is my hard drive so full for no reason? ›

The possible causes can be: Too many applications or files saved on the disk. There is not enough disk space. File system corruption on the hard drive.


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