How to Format a Hard Drive on an HP Laptop (5 Steps)

By Gemma Craig

Laptops can be formatted to reinstall an operating system
i laptop image by martini from

Wiping, or formatting, your HP laptop's hard drive will remove the operating system and all of the data from the device, allowing you to sell the computer without risk of having your data harvested or reinstall the operating system and software without worrying about residual viruses or infections. Once you've backed up all of the data from the laptop that you want to keep, such as photos, documents and music, you can format the hard drive using a Windows installation disc, which includes a tool for formatting hard drives.

Step 1

Insert the Windows installation CD that was included with the HP laptop into the HP laptop's optical drive. If you did not receive a Windows installation disc with the laptop, or no longer have the CD, purchase one that matches the Windows sticker located either on the bottom of the laptop or inside the battery compartment. For example, if the Windows sticker on your laptop is for Windows 7 Home Premium, you must purchase a Windows 7 Home Premium disc if you plan to reinstall the operating system after formatting.

Step 2

Click Start, then click the arrow next to "Shut Down." Select "Restart" from the menu that appears.

Step 3

Press the button to enter the boot screen when prompted. The exact button depends on which HP model laptop you own. For example, the boot screen may read "Press ESC to enter boot menu." When the boot menu appears, use the arrow keys to highlight "CD/DVD Drive," then press "Enter." If you do not press the indicated key quickly enough and the computer proceeds to boot up Windows, shut down the laptop and start again.

Step 4

Follow the on-screen prompts that appear once the Windows installation disc loads. After accepting the license agreement, click "Custom (advanced)." Select your hard drive's main partition, then click "Format." Wait for the hard drive to be formatted.

Step 5

Click "Next" after the drive has been formatted if you want to install a fresh copy of Windows. Otherwise, remove the installation disc, then press and hold the "Power" button to shut down the laptop.