How to Format a Hard Drive

by ContributorUpdated September 15, 2017

Formatting a hard drive can be a "new beginning" for your computer. It's best to do this before sending an old PC to either a friend or a salvage facility. A standard hard drive format does not permanently erase your files, and there are many programs on the market that allow PC users to retrieve deleted information.

Place your Windows XP or 2000 CD into your CD drive. Reboot your computer. The Windows Setup Menu appears on your screen.

Press "Enter" and accept the Windows licensing agreement by pressing "F8." The computer will check for a prior Windows installation, and if it finds one, the computer will ask permission to repair it. Attempting to repair your software can save time (reinstalling drivers and setting up the desktop) but may not address the issues that required formatting the hard drive. "ESC" bypasses the repair option.

Choose a partition. Pressing D will erase an existing partition. Pressing C will create a new partition. Use the Arrow keys to navigate the existing partitions.

Enter the size of the new partition. Computer users who want to run more than one operating system must specify the partition size. Simply pressing "Enter" makes the partition equal to the size of the hard drive.

Choose "NTFS" format and press "Enter." Windows will format the partition. Depending on the hard drive size, this can take either several minutes or a little more than an hour.

Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the Windows installation.


Use specialized software such as Wipe Drive to completely erase your personal data (see Resources below).

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