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How Do I Format a Hard Drive?

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Drive Format Options in Windows 7 - Format Hard Drive

Drive Format Options in Windows 7

Drive Format Options in Windows Vista - Format Hard Drive

Drive Format Options in Windows Vista

Drive Format Options in Windows XP - Format Hard Drive

Drive Format Options in Windows XP

Question: How Do I Format a Hard Drive?

Formatting a hard drive is a necessary step before it can be used. Formatting a hard drive involves erasing the data (see the "Note" at the bottom of the page) and then setting up a file system.

No operating system, Windows or otherwise, can work with a hard drive that hasn't been formatted.

Answer: The best way to format a hard drive in Windows is by using the Disk Management tool.

The steps involved to format a hard drive from the Disk Management tool depend on the specific version of Windows you're running:

Important: You can only format a hard drive after you've partitioned it. A hard drive that you want to format but that you've already been using in Windows has already been partitioned. However, a brand new hard drive installed in a computer will not be partitioned. See How To Partition a Hard Drive in Windows for instructions on partitioning a hard drive.

Important: You can not format the C drive, or whatever drive Windows is installed on, from within Windows. See How To Format C for help if you want to format this drive.

Note: When formatting in Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows, data isn't actually erased during a format, it's only hidden from Windows and other operating systems. See How To Wipe a Hard Drive for instructions on truly removing all the information on a hard drive.

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Format a Hard Drive for Windows 7

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