How to Format a Hard Drive

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Want to know how to format a hard drive? If you install a new one, you may need to format it before using it. Beware that, if you format your primary hard drive, you may need to reinstall your computer operating system.

What hard drive are you formatting?
If you’re installing a second drive in your computer, you’ll need to format it with a specific file system before you can use it to store data. If you’re formatting your primary hard drive, however, you’ve got a lot more to do. The primary drive holds your computer operating system, and formatting this hard drive erases all data, including the operating system. Therefore, if you’re formatting your primary drive, you’ll need to re-install your computer operating system.

Back up all data.
Before you format a hard drive, you should back up all data that you want to save. When you format a computer, you lose everything, including programs, files and pictures. If there’s anything you want to save, back it up before you format your hard drive.

How to format a secondary drive.
If you have Windows XP or Windows Vista, formatting is relatively easy. If you’re formatting a second drive, simply go into My Computer, select the drive you want to format, and right-click or select the File menu. You’ll see an option for Format. Select the NTFS file system, and follow the prompts to format your drive. If you want to install partitions, don’t format your whole volume, but leave space free to install partitions. Essentially, partitions enable you to run multiple drives off the same volume.

How to format your primary hard drive and reinstall Windows.
You’ll need to be prepared to re-install your computer operating system. With Windows XP or Windows Vista, put your operating system disc in the drive, and boot from your disc. From the disc, you’ll have an option to re-install Windows or to fix your current Windows installation. Follow the command prompts to delete the existing partition on your drive. When you get the option, create a new partition in the space you’ve just freed up by deleting the old partition. Select NTFS file system for your new partition, and then proceed with your Windows installation.

How to format your hard drive from the command prompt.
If you don’t want to reinstall Windows, you can create a floppy boot disk and boot directly to your floppy drive. A floppy boot disk gives you the ability to boot your computer with CD-ROM support. When you get to the command prompt, type fdisk and press Enter. This takes you into the formatting utility. Press Y to enable support for large disk sizes, and then create a partition. When the utility is complete, restart your computer with CD-ROM support again. When you get to the command prompt, type format C: (or whatever is the letter of your hard drive) and press Enter. Press Y, and wait while your hard drive formats.

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