How to Format or Erase a Hard Drive

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you are looking for the best external hard drives, this will be helpful.

Learning how to format a hard drive can be a useful tool for freeing up space, reinstalling your operating system (OS), preparing for a new OS or even as a troubleshooting measure, albeit an extreme one. The Seagate 2TB USB 3.0 Backup Plus Slim Portable Hard Drive is also a great backup option.

While formatting a hard drive is not difficult, the process varies depending on whether you are formatting the boot drive or an external drive. Whereas an external drive is commonly used for extra storage and backups, your computer’s boot drive is the internal hard drive that contains your computer’s operating system.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to format a hard drive using the latest versions of Windows or Mac OS X.

WARNING: You will not be able to access any of the drive’s previous data once you format it, so make sure you have a current backup before proceeding.

Table of Contents:

Things You’ll Need to Complete This

  • Computer
  • Hard drive (either external or the boot drive)
  • OS installation disk
  • Recent backup of the drive you plan to format

How to Format a Hard Drive Windows (Boot Drive)

1. Boot off of your Windows installation disk

To format your Windows PC’s hard drive, insert your Windows disk and restart your computer. When you see the manufacturer’s logo, hold the appropriate key (displayed on-screen) to boot into BIOS Setup.

2. Select the Boot Menu

Select the Boot menu and use the arrow keys to select the CD/DVD drive as the boot drive.

Save the changes, exit and restart your computer. Your computer will now boot off of the installation disk.

Read: Best External Hard Drive for Mac

3. Follow the on-screen installation prompts

Follow the on-screen prompts until you see the screen asking you to choose the drive on which to install Windows. Select the computer’s hard drive from the list and click Format.

How to Format a Hard Drive Windows(External Drive or Partition)

1. Navigate to Computer Management

Click the Start button. Then select Control Panel > Systems and Security > Administrative Tools > Computer Management.

2. Admin Password

Next, enter your Admin password if prompted.

3. Select the Disk Management tool

In the left pane of the window, select Storage > Disk Management.

3. Format the drive

Right-click the partition or volume you want to format and select Format.

How to Format A Hard Drive Mac (Boot Drive)

1. Restart using the OS X recovery partition

Start, by restarting your computer. Once you hear the startup chime, hold down the “Command” and “R” keys until the Apple logo appears.

2. Run Disk Utility from the recovery partition

Once your machine has booted off of the recovery partition (the step above), select Disk Utility.

3. Erase the computer’s hard drive

Choose the hard drive from the list in the left pane, select the Erase tab and click the Erase button.

How to Format A Hard Drive Mac (External Drive or Partition)

1. Open Disk Utility

Navigate to Applications > Utilities and open Disk Utility.

2. Select the drive or partition to format

Select the drive or partition from the list in the left pane.

3. Erase the drive

Select the Erase tab and click Format.

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