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Thursday, August 21, 2008

How to Format a Hard Drive - wikiHow

Format a Hard Drive - wikiHow

How to Format a Hard Drive

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

This article includes the basics for high-level formatting a hard drive.


For Windows XP
  1. If you want to save any of the data on the disk, back it up by copying it to a CD or another hard drive. Formatting will destroy ALL of the data on the disk.
  2. Use the Windows XP CD-ROM to boot the computer.
  3. Select the "Recovery Console" option.
  4. At the prompt, type FORMAT C:

For Windows 9x (95, 98, Me)
  1. If you want to save any of the data on the disk, back it up by copying it to a CD or another hard drive. Formatting will destroy ALL of the data on the disk.
  2. Use a startup floppy (sometimes called a "boot disk") to obtain a DOS prompt.
  3. Type FORMAT C:

For Linux or BSD
  1. Boot from a livecd or diskette
  2. Open a terminal window (usually something like xterm or konsole)
  3. Log in as root by typing su and entering the password
  4. Type mkfs.ext2 /dev/hdaxx where you change the ext2 by the filetype you want (e.g. ext2, ext3, reiserfs,...) and the axx by the letter of your drive and the number of the partition you want to format. (e.g. /dev/hda1, /dev/hdc32,...). Using the -j option (mke2fs -j) will create the ext3 (or journaled) file system that is much more resistant to the unexpected power loss.
  5. Under Linux, you can also format the hard drive in FAT file system that is readable from Windows (use mkfs.vfat instead of mkfs.ext2). However such partition cannot store the root of the Linux operating system.


  • Partition(s) must be created on a drive before it is formatted.
  • Give the process some time to complete. Install your operating system of choice, or use the blank disk for another purpose.
  • For more secure formatting, there are programs available which write zeros or garbage characters over the entire disk, making the deleted information unrecoverable.
  • C: and /dev/hda are your primary partitions. If you are trying to format another partition or drive, replace C: or hda with the appropriate drive letter, such as D: or /dev/hdb, for example.


  • Make sure that you format the correct drive, and that you have backed up any data you don't want to lose.
  • Hard drives can have multiple partitions, so be sure to check which drive and which partition you're formatting. For example, a C: and D: partition may exist on one drive. It isn't unusual to have them exist out of sequence due to Microsoft's FAT and NTFS partitioning scheme. For example, C: and E: may be partitions on the first drive, and D: may be a partition on the second drive. If in doubt, you a partition tool such as Gparted or Fdisk to determine which partition is on which drive.

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Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Format a Hard Drive. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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