With this tutorial, learn how to format your computer’s hard drive and permanently erase all your data. If you want to remove a stubborn virus, boost your PC or refurbish it for resale, then formatting the hard drive is the essential step.
How to format a hard drive in windows.
The process may differ depending on whether you want to format the hard drive that you have or that of an unused PC.
For example, you can not format the C : drive when you are using Windows. It will be necessary to turn off your computer then to restart it from a USB key or a bootable DVD which you will have created beforehand .
What does it mean to format a hard disk?
Formatting a disc consists of removing ALL data stored on your computer. It is therefore strongly recommended to save your photos, videos, music, drivers, settings on an external hard drive or a cloud , for example.
During the formatting process, explained later in this tutorial, you will see the Quick Format option . This one will not erase all the data even if it will be indicated that the disk is empty.
This option will not suit you if your goal is to sell or give your computer. If you have made deletions by mistake, know that in some cases, it is possible to recover them .
Format the partitions of a hard disk
Before you begin, it’s important to understand what partitions are.
A hard disk can be divided into several sections, called partitions. These can be formatted independently of each other. In this way, you can only delete the partition containing your personal data.
On the other hand, a complete formatting of your hard disk causes the deletion of the information stored in the partitions.
Format a hard drive from the BIOS
The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is the program that starts when you start your computer, it makes it possible to check that the motherboard and the peripherals work correctly.
Be aware that it is not possible to format a hard drive from the BIOS. But if you need to format a hard drive and you can not do it since Windows, then you will need to create a bootable CD, DVD, or USB stick and use formatting software .
With Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) , you can erase the memory of your PC and reinstall an operating system using a USB flash drive or a CD / DVD-R. Be careful, this operation is irreversible.
- DBAN can only create bootable CD / DVD-Rs; if you do not have a burner, you can use
- Universal USB Installer together . This software will allow you to convert the ISO image of DBAN and copy it to a USB key.
Then you will just be guided by the instructions on the screen. You should select DBAN, the image and the bootable disk and then click Create (Create). To access the BIOS, be prepared to press the F10 , Delete or Esc key when you launch your computer.
Once in the BIOS, navigate to the menu and select USB for the First Boot Device option (the key does not need to be connected in this step) . Now exit the BIOS and insert the USB key. Finally, restart your computer.
Your computer should launch automatically with the DBAN software, it will guide you in the complete cleaning of your hard drive. If data is stored on your Bootable USB key, we advise you to remove it immediately after DBAN restart otherwise the software will delete it.
Format a RAID
If you want to format a drive in RAID mode (to speed up the data transfer and distribute it to different devices), follow one of the three methods given below.
Remember, before you do anything, you need to back up your most important files. Use a program that is compatible with your motherboard or with your RAID controller.
Go to the BIOS RAID controller (when it appears on the screen while the PC is restarting), then format the drive (s) or reconfigure the RAID only.
Remove the disc format and connect it to a differen t SATA port on the motherboard that is not part of the RAID controller. Then use the Windows Disk Management program (explained below) because your disk will not be detected by your PC yet.
Fast formatting of the hard disk
Quick formatting is only used to erase the data you have previously selected. It can not be used for full removal of your hard drive.
To achieve this express format, go to This PC , and right-click on the disk of your choice. Then, select Format …
Note that formatting the drive where Windows is installed (C 🙂 is not possible.
NTFS must be selected by default, and the Allocation Unit Size field must be set, and the Quick Format option must be checked. If you wish, you can rename the disc. Finally, all you have to do is click Start.
Disk Management is another tool that can help you format your computer. To access it, type diskmgmt.msc or Disk Management in the Windows search bar .
Select your drive, right-click to display a drop-down list of options, and select Format .
If you have recently connected a new drive to your motherboard, Disk Manager will be able to locate it, access it, and therefore format it.
As soon as the program is started and your drive is detected, you are prompted to initialize it.
If this disk has storage space greater than 2TB, select the GUID Partition Table Partition option , this will also create more than 4 partitions.
Now, right-click on the Unallocated hatch box and choose New Simple Volume … and follow the instructions.
If the partition size is less than the available space on your disk, for example 500 MB on 1 TB, then the other half will be considered as unallocated space, which will need to be formatted.
Change the size of the partition
With the Disk Management utility, you can also increase or decrease the size of your partition. Just right-click on the disc and choose the appropriate option, Extend Volume or Reduce Volume . If you opt for the latter, the program will check the amount of free space available.
This is indicated in MB and not in GB, you can easily change it. The total size in MB after reduction will automatically adjust accordingly.
Note that extending a partition is only possible if your volume has unallocated space.
Reset Windows 10 and Windows 8
Your PC shows signs of weakness, you want to “restart” before it breaks down and lose all your data? So, it’s time to make a backup and reset your computer. This process will thoroughly clean your PC and keep only preinstalled system files.
To reset Windows, go to the Start menu , click Settings (Gear) → Update & Security → Recovery → Start under the Reset this PC section .
You can then choose to keep some files on your computer or erase everything.
The Keep My Files option , as the name suggests, will back up your files, but will remove your settings, drivers, and programs, and reinstall Windows 10.
If you select Delete All , all of your data will be erased.
Finally, Restore factory settings (option available on some PCs) will not keep any data, reset Windows 10 and reinstall the original applications.
For those who have gone from Windows 8 to Windows 10, you will have noticed that the Refresh your PC without affecting your files has been removed by Microsoft, it is now included in the Reset this PC option .
If your computer has Windows 8, you have the choice between Refresh your PC without affecting your files and Remove All and Reinstall Windows (Settings → Change PC Settings → Update and Recovery → Recovery → Start).
The first option will erase all installed software but will keep the default settings and your personal data.
The second will remove everything and reinstall your operating system.