Format a Hard Drive
Edited by Sean, Dougie, MsBarbs
There are so many situations in which you might want to format, reformat or partition a hard drive, and thankfully newer technology has made it rather easy to do. Anyone who owns any type of computer will have to deal with formatting a hard drive at some point, or pay someone else to, and with this guide you can see step by step instructions for formatting a hard drive on PC (Windows 7 or 8) or Mac. However, first and foremost, if you need to back up anything on your hard drive then do it before you start thinking about formatting, because once you format all data is gone.
Format a PC
If you are formatting a hard drive on Windows 7 or Windows 8 you are in luck, because they both basically have the same steps. I'll add extra information where they differ. However, there are mainly two different ways to format your hard drive. Let's start:
Formatting via Disk Management
- 2On the very top of this search a program will pop up that says Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions, click on that to open up Disk Management.Advertisement
- 4Find the hard drive you need to format and right click on it.
- 5On that menu find Format and hit that, which will give you a few options for quickly formatting the drive.
- 6Whatever drive you format will be wiped clean and good to go, but you may notice that you cannot format your active hard drive that Windows is installed on, the only way to do that is through installing Windows.
-This method is mainly used for formatting drives that are not your main drive, but are also currently connected and installed.
Formatting via Windows Installation
- There are several different ways to install Windows, like via USB or CD/DVD, and some may require you to install while you are computer is starting, but this is just going to focus on installing either once you are on your desktop.
- 1First, find your USB or CD/DVD that has the Windows installation software on it and get yourself to your desktop.
- 3Open that up, find the Setup file and run that.
- 4Now you should be staring at the Windows Setup Screen, which may look slightly different depending on Windows 7 or 8.
- 5This will ask you about Windows Update and a service pack, but past those two screens you are given the option to Upgrade or Custom (Advanced).
- 7Select whichever drive you want to be your main drive and for Windows to be installed on, then click Next. This will warn you that the drive will be completely wiped and that all files will be gone.
- 8Acknowledge and accept the previous warning and Windows will start installing on your now empty hard drive.
-This may take a while depending on the speed of your hard drive, so be prepared to leave this installing for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
Formatting a USB drive
- Lastly, if you want to format a USB's hard drive you may notice that it isn't listed on Disk Management or during Windows Installation, but it is very easy to do:
- 1Open up my computer and make sure that your USB is showing up.
- 2Right click on the icon for the USB and open up that menu.
- 4On this menu you are given options for how to format the USB, but unless you are after something specific then leave it on the default settings and press Start.
- 5This will fairly quickly empty that USB and reformat it.
Format a Mac
The main way to format most versions of Mac is with the OS X Utilities Tool, which works on OS X 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.9 Mavericks, but if you are using an older Mac version then you will have to use an OS X installation DVD. Follow these steps to formatting your hard drive using the OS X Utilities Tool:
- 1First, make sure the drive you want to format is accessible, so if it is an external drive you want to format make sure to plug it in and make sure that it is visible in the Finder.Advertisement
- 2Go to Applications and then Utilities and find Disk Utility, and open it.
- 3In the OS X Utilities Tool, Disk Utility, you will see your hard drives listed on the left and any applicable information.
- 4From here select the drive you want to format and press the Erase button.
- 5Make sure you have everything backed up and then press Partition.
- 6Once this is done, which could just be a few minutes, you will have an empty drive that is ready to have an operating system installed on it.
Side Note: Some Mac operating systems do not have the OS X Utilities Tool visible and it is hidden, so in this case when your Mac is starting up you have to press Command and R at the same time and hold them for about 15 seconds. After this the hidden folder containing that tool should be accessible and visible.
Reinstalling a Mac
Mac's make this so easy to do that this is hardly worth explaining, but here are the few steps to doing this after you have formatted your drive:
- 1Right after you format a drive you are sent back to OS X Utilities' main menu.
Reformatting a hard drive can seem like a massive task and it certainly used to be, but these days there are so many easy ways to back up all of your data and to reinstall your operating system in a short period of time. If you still have any questions after all of that, or need more visuals, then check out these two video tutorials that show some of what I've described:
Windows 7 Video Tutorial for Formatting and Installing
Mac Video Tutorial for Formatting:
- Mac Computer - Apple.com
- How to Format a Mac Hard Drive - Tutsplus.com
- How to format a start-up drive for a Mac - MacWorld.com