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How Do I Format a Hard Drive?

How To Format a Hard Drive in Windows 8, 7, Vista, & XP

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Photo of a Western Digital 1 TB SATA Hard Drive (WD10EZEX)

Western Digital 1 TB SATA Hard Drive (WD10EZEX)

© Western Digital Technologies, Inc.

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.

"How Do I Format a Hard Drive?"

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, data may or may not actually be erased after formatting the drive. Depending on the type of format, it's very possible the data is still there, hidden from Windows and other operating systems but still accessible in certain situations. 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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