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How Do I Format a Hard Drive in Microsoft Windows®

September 22, 2011  |  Difficulty: Medium

How to completely format your hard drive in Microsoft Windows®

Hard drive (hard disk drive or HDD) formatting is a sure way to erase all the data stored on a disk drive. This is especially useful when acquiring second hand drives and is the first operation that should be performed prior to using it. Previously used computers could still retain the former owner’s data on it and should be removed. The formatting process prepares the hard drive or flexible disk for use by creating a file system, deleting all stored data, and reformatting the drive to avoid using corrupted clusters.

The instructions in this article are not intended to format hard drives that have an operating system installed that is in use, this is covered in a separate article. To completely format your hard drive in Microsoft Windows®, follow the directions below.


  1. Click on the “Start” button and open “My Computer“ (“Computer” in Windows Vista® and Windows® 7)
  2. Right-click on the hard drive you would like to format and choose “Format...”
  3. When the “Format DATA” dialog box appears, check that all the dropdowns are correct. It is recommended to leave all as the default but you can change “Volume Label” if desired..
  4. Click on the “Start” button.
  5. The formatting process takes several minutes, which is dependent on the hard drive capacity.
  6. When the formatting is finished, click on the “OK” button.

Tips and Tricks:

  • If you only need complete data deletion you can check the “Quick Format” checkbox in “Format DATA” dialog box.


  • Be 100% sure as to what disk are you formatting, the system won’t allow you to format the system disk, but if you have more hard disks, it’s best to double check.

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