How to Force Format an XP Hard Drive

By Ruri Ranbe

A regular format checks the hard drive for bad, or damaged, sectors.
i Images

Windows XP can format a volume or drive so long as the operating system is not installed on the designated hardware. Erasing the primary volume from within Windows XP is not possible, since the program responsible for deleting storage devices is integrated into the OS. You can, however, erase the full contents of the drive using the Recovery Console, accessible from the Windows XP CD or Recovery CD. For the best results, perform a regular format, as opposed to a quick format, of the drive. A regular format makes it difficult for others to recover confidential data from the device and also prepares the drive for the installation of a new OS.

Insert the Windows XP CD or recovery disc into the optical drive and then restart the computer.

Press any key, when prompted, to boot from the disc drive. Press "R" on the Welcome to Setup screen to go to the Recovery Console.

Follow the instructions on the screen to select your operating system if you have a multi-boot system. Type your administrative password or press "Enter" if your password is blank.

Type "format c: /fs:NTFS" (without the quotations) into the prompt and then press "Enter."

Press "Y," then "Enter" to format the hard drive. The process may take several minutes to several hours, depending on the size of the drive.


To perform a quick format, use the command "format C: /q /fs:NTFS."

If you intend to install a legacy OS on the drive, replace "NTFS" with "FAT" or "FAT32."