How to Format & Partition a New Laptop Hard Drive

by C.D. Crowder

A new laptop hard drive must be formatted and partitioned in order to install an operating system. Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems provide you with a wizardlike process to help with the formatting and partitioning. Partitions allow you to divide the hard drive into segments. Users installing multiple operating systems or users wanting to separate the operating system from their applications and files typically use more than one partition. You need at least one partition in order to install any operating system.

Insert the operating system disk into the laptop. Even without an operating system, the laptop will turn on, allowing you to insert the disk. Restart the laptop by pressing and holding the power button. Press the power button again to turn the laptop on and boot from the disk. Press any key to boot from the disk when prompted.

Press the correct function key or use your arrow keys to agree to the license agreement for your chosen operating system. For instance, Linux uses arrow keys. Windows uses the F8 key. Directions are provided at the end of the license agreement that state exactly how to agree.

Use your arrow keys to select the unpartitioned space. New laptop hard drives will not have partitioned space already. Press either "Enter" or "C" to create a new partition. Windows and Mac only require a single partition. Linux requires three. Linux operating system disks use a wizard to help you set up all three partitions during this stage of the process. For all three systems, choose the amount of disk space you wish to use with each partition. For Windows and Mac, use the default amount unless you wish to create more than one partition. For multiple partitions, divide the total disk space by the number of partitions to determine the size for each. For Linux, you will be given a suggested amount for each partition type. Most users should use the suggested size. Select the newly created partition on which you will install the operating system and press "Enter" to install the operating system.

Choose the type of formatting. You can either choose NTFS or FAT. Choose NTFS for best results. Use the "Full Format" option for new hard drives. Wait for the hard drive to format. This can take up to 30 minutes depending on the size of the drive. NTFS formatting provides you with security and better disk utilization. Most operating systems provide system recovery tools that no longer require FAT partitions. FAT formatting allows files to be shared by multiple operating systems on the same computer and provides a partition for system recovery, but provides no security.

Select your time zone, computer name, network settings and enter a license key, if required, when prompted. These will all appear in a wizard format during the operating system setup stage.

Restart your laptop when setup is complete to finish the process.


  • check For help with varying types of Linux operating systems, print out the installation steps for the exact version of Linux you will be using. Use a public computer or friend's computer if you can't print the instructions at home. Different Linux operating systems can vary in the partitioning process. Two popular versions are Ubuntu and Redhat.


  • close Create all three partitions in Linux or the system will not work correctly.

Items you will need

About the Author

C.D. Crowder has been a freelance writer on a variety of topics including but not limited to technology, education, music, relationships and pets since 2008. Crowder holds an A.A.S degree in networking and one in software development and continues to develop programs and websites in addition to writing.

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