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How to Format a Hard Drive | Tech Info Home | Hard Drives |

Creating a partition, Formatting the drive

The Process

The formatting of a hard drive is a two step process.

Note : There are times when a drive needs to be "low level" formatting. This is not done normally, but if the needs arises go to the "Low Level Format" page for more information.

The first step is to use the Fdisk program and create partitions.

The second step is to use the "format" program to format the hard drive.

If the drive is drive C: (a bootable drive) you will need to use the /s parameter in order to transfer the boot files to the drive and make it bootable.


Preparing a hard drive

Note: You must never try to Low-Level Format an IDE hard drive. This is done at the factory and if you do perform a low-level format on your own you will not be able to access the hard drive.

Several operations need to be performed in order to make a hard drive useable.

If you are installing DOS such as version 6.x you can boot with disk 1 and allow the program to format the drive for you. There are plenty of instructions shown during the DOS installation for you to follow. The DOS install can also perform the Fdisk part of the drive. It is very simple using the installation disk, basically you insert disk 1 in the computer and turn the computer On.

If on the other hand you have either windows or DOS already installed and have or can create a boot disk you can follow the directions below to prepare a hard drive for use.

A hard drive needs to have partitions created, and then the drive has to be formatted.

Creating a partition

To create the partitions you need to use the program fdisk.exe which is found in the Dos disks, and also in the c:\windows\command folder. You would of course want to boot the computer with a boot disk, and the boot disk must have the fdisk program on it.


Please Note: 

According to Microsoft KB article Q263044, "When you use Fdisk.exe to partition a hard disk that is larger than 64 GB (64 gigabytes, or 68,719,476,736 bytes) in size, Fdisk does not report the correct size of the hard disk.

The size that Fdisk reports is the full size of the hard disk minus 64 GB. For example, if the physical drive is 70.3 GB (75,484,122,112 bytes) in size, Fdisk reports the drive as being 6.3 GB (6,764,579,840 bytes) in size."



If you already have the partitions and just want to reformat the drive, go to the format the drive section of this page.

The following example takes an existing hard drive, which is already formatted, and after wiping the drive clean, reformats the drive.

  1. Place a boot disk into the floppy drive and start the computer. This disk should have the file fdisk.exe on it.

    The computer should boot and give you the A:> prompt.

  2. At the prompt type on the keyboard

    Fdisk <enter>

    You will see the Fixed Disk Setup program with the following menu

    1. Create DOS partition or Logical DOS drive
    2. Set active partition
    3. Delete partition or Logical DOS drive
    4. Display partition information

      enter choice: [1]

    At this point if you already have an existing partition and want to delete it, continue with the instructions below.

    If the drive has NO partitions you can go to Create a Partition section below.

    press the 3 key on the keyboard and press <enter>

    the "delete DOS partition or Logical DOS drive" screen will be displayed with 4 options

    1. Delete Primary DOS partition
    2. Delete Extended DOS partition
    3. Delete Logical DOS Drive(s) in the Extended DOS partition
    4. Delete Non-DOS partition

    select option 1 by pressing the 1 key on the keyboard and pressing the <enter> key

    The screen will change and you will see...

Current fixed disk drive: 1

Partition... Status.. Type......... Volume Label Mbytes System.. Usage
C: 1 ............A.....PRI DOS............................540.......FAT16...100%

Total disk space is 540 Mbytes (1 Mbyte = 1048576 bytes )

Warning: Data in the deleted Primary DOS partition will be lost.
What primary partition do you want to delete...? [1]

Press Esc to return to FDISK Options

The cursor will be flashing at the bottom right next to " delete..?[1]"

In this example the partition 1 will be deleted, so you press the number 1 on the keyboard and then press the <enter> key.

a new line will be displayed...

Enter Volume Label...........[ ________ ]

You need to type at the cursor the name of the existing volume which you can see on the top of the screen below the words "Volume Label". If the volume does not have a label you can leave it blank. Then you press the <enter> key.

A new line is displayed

Are you sure {Y/N)......? [N]

The default entry at the cursor is N. Since you are sure you want to delete the partition you press the Y key on the keyboard and press <enter>. (this operation can not be undone, so make sure you want to delete the partition).

You will next receive the message

Primary DOS Partition deleted

Press the <Esc> key to continue

3) Create a Partition

at the prompt 'Enter choice: [ 1 ]

press the 1 key on the keyboard and press <enter>

you will see a new screen


Create DOS partition or Logical DOS drive

Current fixed disk drive: 1

Choose one of the following:

1. Create Primary DOS Partition
2. Create Extended DOS Partition
3. Create Logical DOS Drive(s) in the Extended DOS Partition

Enter Choice : [ 1 ]


Select choice 1 by pressing the 1 key on the top of the keyboard and press <enter>

you will see....


Current fixed disk drive: 1

Do you wish to use the maximum available size for a Primary DOS Partition
and make the partition active (Y/N}..........? [ Y ]


Choose Yes by pressing the Y key on the keyboard and pressing enter

You will now see....


System will now restart

Insert DOS system diskette in drive A:
Press any key when ready


Note: You must also activate the DOS partition which you create. Use the "activate partition" option.


When you press any key the computer will reboot

4) Formatting the hard drive

Make sure you have a boot floppy disk in the computer. Allow the computer to reboot, or just shut off the computer and turn it back on with the disk inserted in the floppy drive. After the computer reboots, you should get the A:\> prompt.

If you need any files such as Fdisk for windows 95 go to the "Windows 95 files" page. There you will also find a link to a site that has a file you can download which will create a boot disk.

You should already have the file on the disk. At the A:\> prompt, type on the keyboard

format c: /s <enter>   ( for bootable drives like drive C:)

format d: <enter>       ( for non-bootable drives like drive D:)

{ the word format is followed by a space then the forward slash the letter S and the enter key. }

you will receive the message...

Proceed with Format (Y/N) ?

select the Yes option by pressing the Y key on the keyboard and press <enter>

the message.....

Formatting xxxxM
.....xx percent completed.

...will be shown, and the formatting will take place. You should now see the 'percent complete' value increase as the drive is formatted.

when the format is finished, you will see the message...

Formatting xxxM
Format complete.
System transferred

Volume label (11 characters, Enter for none )?

The cursor will be flashing on the bottom of the screen, waiting for you to name the newly formatted drive. Type in a name (11 characters or less, don't use spaces) and press <enter>. You can use a simple name if you like such as "driveC" or "drive1", it really does not matter what its called.

After you press the <enter> key you will receive the final screen showing the drive statistics as shown below for an imaginary 100 megabyte hard drive.

106614784 bytes total disk space
.....186368 bytes used by system
106428416 bytes available on disk

....2048 bytes in each allocation unit.
..51967 allocation units available on disk.

Volume Serial Number is 1234-5C68

Finally you will see the A:\> prompt. At this point the drive is ready to be used as the primary boot drive. Remove the diskette from the floppy drive and reboot the computer by either pressing the reboot key or by turning the computer OFF and back On.


Finally you will need to install your programs using the provided floppy disks or CD-ROM disks.




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