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Things You Need to Know About Formatting a Hard Drive on Windows
1. What Does Format Mean
"Format" is a very mainstream and well-known computer word among computer users. The method of producing a data storage device (a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, or USB flash drive) for early use with Windows files is known as formatting. Almost all people have done it, particularly with USB drives.
2. File Systems Available on Windows 10/11 to Format Drives
When you format hard drives on Windows 10, you will be prompted to choose a format type. You can choose between the Windows file systems: FAT, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, and ReFS. FAT32 and NTFS are the standard file formats used by Windows. FAT32 was widely used but has since been replaced by NTFS. Meanwhile, NTFS provides secure modern enhancements, and macOS can also read it.
3. Types of Formatting a Hard Drive on Windows 10/11
The format command in Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows does not write zeros to the disk when processing a full format. However, the default format command's behavior changed in Windows Vista and later versions as it writes zeros to the entire disk.
The new format behavior may interfere with the on-demand allocation modes supported by a volume storage provider. Problems may arise due to the new format behavior prematurely allocating backing space.
In some scenarios, zeros can be written to disks because the volume storage provider starts the on-demand-allocated data. Therefore, it would be best if you used these format options to avoid unnecessary on-demand allocation:
- Quick format: Files are erased from the formatted volume, but the disk is not scanned for bad sectors. Only choose this format option if your hard disk has previously been formatted and isn't destroyed.
- Full format: All files on the volume are overwritten, erased, and the drive is scanned for bad sectors. Because of the scan for bad sectors, the Full format takes twice as much time as the Quick format.
4. Tips/Notes Before Formatting a Hard Drive on Windows 10/11
- Formatting a hard drive erases all data, so you should carefully follow the instructions while choosing the drive to format. Before formatting your drive, create a backup of any critical data, or you can recover data from formatted hard drives using data recovery software.
For Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10/11
For macOS X 10.10 - macOS 13
- If the hard drive you would like to format was never used or was recently taken down, you must partition it first.
How To Format Hard Drives on Windows 10/11 [6 Methods]
The formatting process seems complicated, but don't be concerned. Here are the 6 methods how to do it on your Windows 10 PC:
1. Format Drives Using File Explorer
The simplest way to format drives is by using File Explorer which is a built-in tool in Windows 10/11. Follow these steps to complete the formatting process:
Step 1. Launch File Explorer and go to This PC.
Step 2. Right-click on the drive you would like to format and press Format.
Step 3. Choose a file system for the drive. For external storage, you should consider exFAT and FAT32. Ensure Quick Format is chosen, and then select Format.
Step 4. Click OK to format the drive.
2. Format Drives Using Disk Management
The Disk Management tool necessitates administrative access to format a drive on a Windows computer. It lets you create, delete, and merge partitions. So, if you want to increase the partition size of the primary drive because you're running out of space, this tool can help. It should only be used if there are no other options because it takes a lot of time. Here’s how to format drives using Disk Management:
Step 1. Right-click the Start button and launch Disk Management.
Step 2. Right-click the drive you would like to format and click Format.
Step 3. Name the drive. Select a file system (NTFS is recommended) and put a checkmark on the Quick Format box. Click OK.
Once the procedure is completed, the drive will be accessible. You can do this for as many partitions as possible, excluding the primary drive where Windows is installed.
3. Format Drives Using Diskpart
Diskpart is a Windows-integrated command line tool that can easily format drives, but it must be used with extreme caution because there is no user interface. Here's how to format drives using Diskpart CMD:
Note:You should be logged in as an administrator to use Diskpart.
Step 1. Open a boot-up command prompt or an elevated command prompt.
Step 2. One at a time, enter each of the below commands into the command prompt.
- list volume
Step 3. Enter the commands:
select volume <number>
For Quick format:
format fs=<FileSystemType> label="<FriendlyNamel>" quick
For Full format:
format fs=<FileSystemType> label="<FriendlyName>"
Step 4. Run the commands and hit Enter to allocate a specific drive letter to this drive. When a drive is formatted, Windows will assign an available drive letter to it by default.
assign letter=<new drive letter>
Close the elevated command prompt once you're done.
4. Format Drives Using PowerShell
It is simple to format a drive on a Windows PC and prepare it to store data via PowerShell. Remember that following these instructions will erase everything on the drive. Follow these steps to format a hard drive in Windows 10 using PowerShell commands:
Step 1. Open the PowerShell and choose Run as administrator.
Step 2. Type the following commands and press Enter:
- Get-Disk (to identify the drive to repair)
- Get-Disk 1 | Clear-Disk -RemoveData (to wipe out the drive on Windows 10)
- Initialize-Disk -Number 1 (to initialize the disk with the default GUID Partition Table (GPT) partition scheme)
- New-Partition -DiskNumber 1 -UseMaximumSize | Format-Volume -FileSystem NTFS -NewFileSystemLabel myDrive (to format and create a new partition on the drive)
- Get-Partition -DiskNumber 1 | Set-Partition -NewDriveLetter G (to assign a drive letter to the disk drive)
5. Format Drives in Settings
The Storage section of Windows 11's Settings app allows you to manage and format the drives connected to your PC. You can easily do the formatting process in settings and remember that this feature is only available beginning with Windows 10. Follow these steps:
Step 1. Click System in Settings.
Step 2. Tap Storage and click the Manage Disks and Volumes.
Step 3. Expand and open the disk containing the volume you want to format.
Step 4. Click on the drive you want to format and select Properties.
Step 5. Under the Format section, choose Format.
Step 6. Enter the volume label for the drive.
Step 7. Choose a supported file system for the drive.
Step 8. Select the supported Allocation unit size for this drive. It is usually best to stick with the default allocation size.
Step 9. Choose between the Quick or Full Format of this drive.
Step 10. Check or uncheck the Enable file and folder compression box.
Step 11. To format the drive, click Format.
6. Format Drives by Connecting to Another Computer
Using another computer to format a hard drive entirely is the best option. Moving your hard drive to a different computer is completely safe. You won't risk damaging your hardware as long as the interfaces match. However, if you utilize the hard drive to install Windows on the new computer, your operating system may encounter conflicts.
Plug in your external drive to begin formatting drives by connecting to another computer. Proceed with the following steps to prepare it for use:
Step 1. In your Start Menu, type Disk Management.
Step 2. Select Create and format hard disk partitions.
Step 3. Choose your new drive.
Step 4. Select New simple volume when you right-click on the disk.
Step 5. Follow the wizard steps to configure the new partition's size and format.
Step 6. You can change the Volume label to the drive's preferred name.
Using the methods presented, you can easily format a new hard drive, format an internal or external one, and wipe a hard drive completely in Windows 11/10. We hope the instructions for each step were clear and before proceeding with the steps, make a backup of the critical data.
For Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10/11
For macOS X 10.10 - macOS 13