Step by Step Format Hard Drive Under Windows

Posted at Friday, May 30, 2008

Step by Step Format Hard Drive Under Windows

Sometimes you have to format your Hard Drive. You are washing away all data from it, making it new, fresh, giving it a new beginning. I know people feel formatting can be a traumatic experience, but if it's any comfort to you, most computer pros format their computers more often then most beginners. The difference is: Computer Geeks can get their computer up and running in an hour after a format (maybe less time than that) and a beginner might get it up and running in 4 to 5 hours (sometimes longer). So let me walk you through the important things you should do before, during, and after a format:

Pre-Format steps (The stuff before you go nuts and format):
Backup your important data - Just because you have to format doesn't mean you have to lose everything on your computer. Backup outlook, important documents, downloads, just about anything you can burn to a disk that will make your computer like home again. Just think of this step as if you're pack up all the junk you want before you move into the new place.
Startup Disk - Make a bootable startup disk, in Windows 98, ME, 2k, and XP they have where you can make a startup disk. So, get yourself a startup disk.
Go to your device manager and write down the hard drive components you have on your computer. This will make it easier if you can't find the drivers you need, you'll be able to get them off the net or the original CD's that came with your computer or components.


If you already have a partition on your hard drive you can skip this step. I personally like to make a new partition and really have a clean start when installing an operating system or if I want to manage the partition size of a large hard drive.

So here are the steps:

Insert the startup disk that you made in the first part of this tutorial. Restart your computer and your computer will boot from the floppy disk drive. In Windows (98 and ME) you'll get a question asking if you want cd support or not, go ahead and scroll down to: "Start Computer Without CD-Rom support"
At the command prompt type fdisk
If your hard drive is bigger than 512 mb (ugh, like who's isn't now) It will ask if you want large disk support. Type in Y or yes

You'll then see an option menu that contains the follow choices:
Create DOS partition or Logical DOS Drive
Set Active Partition
Delete Partition or Logical DOS Drive
Display Partition information
Change current fixed disk drive

Once you get to this you'll have a few options and there are a few things you need to know. If you already have a DOS partition and you want to delete it then you go to 3. Delete Partition or Logical DOS Drive and you'll select to delete this drive.

To create a new partition on your hard drive you select 1. Create DOS Partition or Logical DOS Drive then press enter. Then on the next menu select 1. Create Primary DOS Partition and then press Enter. After you do this you'll get the message "Do you wish to use the maximum available size for primary DOS partition?" That basically is assigning how much space you want on the partition (only for Fat38 or NTFS if you want to install using a FAT 16 you'll have to follow a few different steps not covered in this tutorial...mainly because I haven't formatted anything in FAT16 in such a long time I forgot off the top of my head). If you have a large hard drive you might want to break it up into smaller partitions. For now let's say you just want to use the whole hard drive space for this partition. You'll type Y and then Enter. After doing this you'll hit Esc and then Esc to quit Fdisk.

This will create one large partition hard drive...(if you've wanted to make multiple partitions you would basically not assign all the space to the one partition and then go 1. Create DOS Partition or Logical DOS Drive and then on the second menu you would hit choice 2. Create Extended DOS Partition and then you can create another partition with the remaining space.)

Formatting your Hard Drive

Insert Start Up Disk

Get to the command prompt

Type Format C: (or whatever letter is assigned to the drive you want to format) **Note if you get a message like "Bad command or file name" you'll have to extract the file to do this just type: extract at the command prompt and then type Format C:

Proceed with Format (Y/N)?" Now once you hit Y everything on your hard drive will be deleted. Type Y

After the format is complete it will ask "Volume label (11 characters, ENTER for none)?" Either put a name in or just hit enter

There you have it a formatted hard drive!!! Ready for you to install an operating system get going and install one already.