5 ways to format a hard drive (command line)

5 ways to format a hard drive (command line)
5 ways to format a hard drive (command line)
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Formatting a hard drive allows you to use it on your computer to store files and install programs. The format you choose for the disc determines the compatibility of the player. Formatting a drive will erase all data currently on the drive, so make sure you've backed up everything you need. You can format a second (or third or fourth…) drive from your operating system or you can format your bootable hard drive using your operating system installation disc. If you need to securely erase data, there are free tools available that will allow you to completely erase your drive so that nothing can be recovered.

Steps

Method 1 of 5: Format a secondary hard drive (Windows)

Format a Hard Disk Step 1

Step 1. Back up the hard drive data you want to keep

Formatting a drive will erase all data on the drive, so make sure anything you want to keep has been backed up in a safe place. You can then restore this data to your new drive.

  • You cannot back up installed programs. These will need to be reinstalled on the new drive. However, you can traditionally back up settings and configuration files.
  • See this guide for more details on backing up your data.
Format a Hard Disk Step 2

Step 2. Install the hard drive

If you format a new drive, it will need to be installed in your system. Refer to this guide for instructions on installing an internal hard drive. If the drive is external, connect it to the computer via USB.

Format a Hard Disk Step 3

Step 3. Open the Computer / My Computer window

It is accessed from the Start menu or by pressing the "Win + E" key. This window displays all hard drives connected to your computer.

Format a Hard Disk Step 4

Step 4. Right click on the drive you want to format

Select Format… This will open the Windows Format Tool.

Make sure you have selected the correct drive. Everything will be deleted when the drive is formatted

Format a Hard Disk Step 5

Step 5. Select the file system

The file system is the hard drive's way of storing and organizing files. The file system will determine who the drive is compatible with. If the drive is internal and you are only using it with your Windows computer, select NTFS. If the drive is external, select FAT32 or exFAT.

  • FAT32 and exFAT can be written and read by all recent operating systems. FAT32 is an older system and it does not support files larger than 4 GB, but it can be read by any operating system. exFAT has no restrictions, but will not work with older operating systems like Windows 95.
  • In general, exFAT will be the best option for an external drive. It is compatible with most systems and can store the largest files.
Format a Hard Disk Step 6

Step 6. Name your reader

If you are using the player for primary use, giving it a name will help you determine what is on it. For example, if you are using a second hard drive to store your music, movies, and photos, calling it “Media” you will quickly remember its contents.

Format a Hard Disk Step 7

Step 7. Choose whether you want to do a quick format or not

Quick Format will be done much faster than standard formatting, and it is fine for most users. Perform regular formatting only if you suspect the drive may have errors. Regular formatting may be able to correct some of these errors.

The Quick Format option has no influence on the security with which the data is erased. If you need to securely erase the drive, see the last section of this article

Format a Hard Disk Step 8

Step 8. Start formatting

Click the "Start" button to begin formatting. Click the "OK" button to confirm that you understand that everything will be erased. If you selected Quick Format, the process should only take a few seconds.

Method 2 of 5: Format a secondary hard drive (OS X)

Format a Hard Disk Step 9

Step 1. Back up the hard drive data you want to keep

Formatting a drive will erase all data on the drive, so make sure anything you want to keep has been backed up in a safe place. You can then restore this data to your new drive.

  • You cannot back up installed programs. These will need to be reinstalled on the new drive. However, you can back up settings and configuration files.
  • Check out this wikiHow for how to back up your data.
Format a Hard Disk Step 10

Step 2. Install the hard drive

If you format a new drive, it will need to be installed in your system. See this guide for instructions on how to install an internal hard drive. If the drive is external, connect it to the computer via USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt.

Format a Hard Disk Step 11

Step 3. Open Disk Utility

Click on Go and select Utilities. If you do not have a Utilities option, select Applications and then double click on the Utilities folder. Open the Disk Utility program.

Format a Hard Disk Step 12

Step 4. Select your drive from the list on the left

All connected drives will be listed in the left pane of the Disk Utility window. Make sure you select the correct drive.

Format a Hard Disk Step 13

Step 5. Click on the “Erase” tab

This will open the formatting options for your drive.

Format a Hard Disk Step 14

Step 6. Select your file system

The file system is the way the hard drive stores and organizes files. The file system will determine who the drive is compatible with. Use the Format Volume drop-down menu to select your file system. If the drive is internal and you are using it only with OS X, choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”. If the drive is external, select “exFAT”.

  • FAT32 and exFAT can be written and read by all recent operating systems. FAT32 is an older system and it does not support files larger than 4 GB, but it can be read by any operating system. exFAT has no restrictions, but will not work with older operating systems like Windows 95.
  • In general, exFAT will be the best option for an external drive. It is compatible with most systems and can store the largest files.
Format a Hard Disk Step 15

Step 7. Name your reader

If you are using the player for primary use, giving it a name will help you determine what is on it. For example, if you are using a second hard drive to store your music, movies, and photos, calling it “Media” you will quickly remember its contents.

Format a Hard Disk Step 16

Step 8. Start the formatting process

Click the "Erase" button to begin formatting the drive. The formatting process should only take a few seconds.

Formatting your hard drive this way will not securely erase your data. To make sure that your data is actually erased, see the last section of this article

Method 3 of 5: Format your startup disk (Windows)

Format a Hard Disk Step 17

Step 1. Back up the data on the drive that you want to keep

Formatting your startup hard drive will erase your operating system and all files stored on it, so be ready to reinstall the operating system on the drive. By having a backup copy of your important files, the transition will be easier.

See this guide for more details on how to back up your data

Format a Hard Disk Step 18

Step 2. Insert your Windows installation disc

You can also use a bootable disc or a LiveCD. This will allow you to boot with that drive instead of using the hard drive, which will allow you to format it.

Format a Hard Disk Step 19

Step 3. Configure your computer to boot from disk

You will need to configure the boot order in BIOS in order to boot from disk. Check out this wikiHow for more details on setting up your boot order.

To open your BIOS, restart your computer and press the setup key. This is usually "F2", "F10" or "Del"

Format a Hard Disk Step 20

Step 4. Step through the installer screens

You will need to start the installer and go through the first few pages until you reach the screen with a list of your installed drives. You will begin a custom installation of Windows.

Format a Hard Disk Step 21

Step 5. Select the drive you want to format

You will see a list of all your hard drives and the partitions they contain. Select the drive you want to format, then click the "Format" button at the bottom of the list. The hard drive will be formatted as NTFS.

You can format your startup disk only as NTFS

Format a Hard Disk Step 22

Step 6. Reinstall Windows

Now that the drive has been formatted, you can reinstall Windows or install Linux on it. You will need an operating system on your computer to be able to use it.

  • Reinstall Windows 7
  • Reinstall Windows 8
  • Install linux

Method 4 of 5: Format your startup disk (OS X)

Format a Hard Disk Step 23

Step 1. Back up the data on the drive that you want to keep

Formatting your startup hard drive will erase your operating system and all files stored on it, so be ready to reinstall the operating system on the drive. By having a backup copy of your important files, the transition will be easier.

  • You cannot back up installed programs. These will need to be reinstalled on the new drive. However, you can back up settings and configuration files.
  • See this guide for more details on how to back up your data.
Format a Hard Disk Step 24

Step 2. Make sure you are connected to the internet

You will need an internet connection to reinstall your operating system at the end of the process. Check out this guide for more details on how to connect your Mac to the internet.

Format a Hard Disk Step 25

Step 3. Restart your computer

Click on the Apple menu and select Restart. Keep the "Apple + R" keys pressed while the computer restarts. This will open the start menu.

Format a Hard Disk Step 26

Step 4. Select “Disk Utility” from the start menu

This will open the raw version of the "Disk Utility" program.

Format a Hard Disk Step 27

Step 5. Select your hard drive from the list on the left

All of your disks will be displayed in the left frame of the Disk Utility window. Make sure you select the correct drive, as formatting will remove everything on it.

Format a Hard Disk Step 28

Step 6. Select your file system

The file system is the way the hard drive stores and organizes files. The file system will determine who the drive is compatible with. Since this is your startup disk, select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”.

Format a Hard Disk Step 29

Step 7. Name your reader

For example, if you are re-installing your operating system to disk, call it "OS X" or something similar.

Format a Hard Disk Step 30

Step 8. Format the drive

Click the "Erase" button to format the drive. Formatting should take just a few seconds.

Format a Hard Disk Step 31

Step 9. Close Disk Utility

You will return to the Start menu.

Format a Hard Disk Step 32

Step 10. Reinstall OS X

Select "Reinstall OS X" to start reinstalling your operating system.

Method 5 of 5: Securely Erase Your Hard Drive

Format a Hard Disk Step 33

Step 1. Back up the data on the drive that you want to keep

When you securely erase your hard drive, there is absolutely no way to get it back. It would take days for a government supercomputer to potentially recover a fragment of a file from a properly erased hard drive. For this reason, make sure that you have backed up everything you need.

See this guide for more details on how to back up your data

Format a Hard Disk Step 34

Step 2. Download DBAN

DBAN is a hard drive formatting program designed to securely erase data from the drive by overwriting over it multiple times. This is to prevent data from being restored using a data recovery program.

DBAN does not work with SSD hard drives. You will need to use another program, such as Blancco

Format a Hard Disk Step 35

Step 3. Burn DBAN to disc

DBAN is downloaded as an ISO file, which is a disk image. Burning the ISO image to disc will allow you to boot directly into the DBAN interface.

Check out this guide for more details on how to burn ISO files to DVD

Format a Hard Disk Step 36

Step 4. Boot from the DBAN disk

Insert the DBAN disk into your computer and restart. Select the DVD drive as your primary boot device.

  • Windows - You will need to configure your optical drive as a boot drive in the BIOS menu. See this guide for more details on setting up your boot order.
  • OS X - Press and hold "C" while your computer is restarting. Shortly after DBAN will start.
Format a Hard Disk Step 37

Step 5. Select your hard drive

Press "Enter" on the main DBAN screen, then select your drive using the arrow keys. Make sure you choose the correct drive if you have more than one available.

Format a Hard Disk Step 38

Step 6. Choose your removal method

“DoD” will erase your data in a secure manner and it is a deletion method that is suitable for the majority of users. If you have extremely sensitive information, select the "8-Pass PRNG Stream". This will erase your hard drive eight times with random numbers, completely wiping out your data.

Format a Hard Disk Step 39

Step 7. Start formatting

Once you have selected a removal method, the formatting process will begin. Formatting with DBAN can take from several hours to several days, depending on the formatting method and the size of the hard drive.

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