How to format a hard drive on Windows – internal or external drives
Your Windows hard drive may be partitioned into several different drives. Aside from your primary C drive, you may have smaller internal drives with names like D, E, F, etc. External drives are, again, hardware like USB drives or other external storage devices. Luckily, it’s much easier to reformat all of those drives, because they don’t contain the OS.
Here’s how to format either an internal or external hard drive:
- Start up your computer as usual, but hold down the WINDOWS key and type in R to open the Run dialog box.
- When the box opens, type in diskmgmt.msc and then click OK.
- The Disk Management window will open. Select the drive you want to format (internal or external) by right-clicking and choosing Format…. You can also rename drives here if you wish.
- A Format box will pop up. That’s where you’ll choose the file system for your drive. (See above for our guidance on file systems.) You’ll also have the choice to do a “quick” format or not. A quick format is — wait for it — quick. It’ll do a basic delete of the hard drive in just a few seconds, but it doesn’t truly erase or wipe anything, meaning that it’s out of sight but not irretrievable. It’s a good option if you want to clean the drive, but also want to continue using it yourself. If you’re preparing your computer before giving it away or selling it, you should do a normal format by unchecking the Perform a quick format box. This may take several hours, but will more thoroughly wipe your personal information. It will also scan and remove any bad sectors, which prevents future corrupted files. Click OK and you’re done!
While formatting your disk will wipe it clean, it also deletes your files. If you’d prefer to keep your disk clean without taking the nuclear option, you can perform some disk maintenance instead. Why is this necessary? During the normal computing process, Windows accumulates a ton of junk that bogs it down: residual files, leftover installers, temporary files, cached data, and more. If you don’t clear it out regularly, your machine will start to slow down, freeze, and serve up error messages. Need some help with that? ClickAway can quickly do this for you in our shops or we can come to your home or business.
How to format a hard drive on Mac
Formatting a hard drive for Mac isn’t rocket science, but I wouldn’t let your neighbor’s first-grader do it for you, either.
Here’s how to format a hard drive on Mac:
- Start up your computer and log in.
- Open Finder, click the Go drop-down menu, and select Utilities.
- Then select Disk Utility.
- Here you’ll be able to select the hard drive you want to format.
- Click Erase to format the drive. A window will pop up to let you choose the file system you want, and how many times you want to overwrite the drive. Multiple overwrites will take longer, but they’re more secure (and will prevent your files from being recovered).
What about formatting external hard drives or flash drives?
The steps to format external drives and flash drives (also called thumb drives and USB drives) are basically the same as formatting internal drives. Luckily, that means learning how to format an external hard drive is fairly straightforward. See above for our step-by-step instructions on Windows or Mac. And remember that if you want your external drive to be both Mac and Windows compatible, your best bet is to use the exFAT file system.
Do new hard drives need formatting?
No! New hard drives are formatted automatically, either by default or when you first plug them in. So there’s no secret sauce to formatting new hard drives — just plug them in and you’re good to go. Further questions about how to format a hard drive can be answered by calling ClickAway.
Keep your hard drive performing at its best
Over time, your hard drive becomes cluttered with temporary files, cached data, duplicate files, apps you never use, and other junk. All that clutter will slow down your computer and could cause issues such as crashes and freezes. You can remove everything by completely wiping your drive as we’ve described above — but that’s not a long-term solution. The same junk data will quickly build up again with regular computer use. Call opens in a new windowClickAway for either a free diagnosis of your hard drive or to purchase and upgrade your hard drive today.