How to Perform Low Level Format on Western Digital IDE Hard Drive


Western Digital provides a variety of applications for performing low-level formats on its IDE hard drives. Unlike a high-level format, which creates an empty file system on the hard drive, a low-level format erases all data on the drive, optionally writing zeroes to each sector to make the data unrecoverable. Western Digital provides programs that work under Windows, but you can't format a hard drive that's in use. You can format a system hard drive by booting Western Digital's Data Lifeguard Diagnostics for DOS program from a disc.

Things You'll Need

  • Writable CD or DVD
  • Download the Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for DOS (CD) ISO file from Western Digital's website at

  • Insert a writable CD or DVD into the computer's disc drive.

  • Right-click the downloaded .iso file and select "Burn Disc Image" to burn the disc image to a disc. If you're using an older version of Windows, you'll need a third-party disc-image-burning program to burn the .iso file to a disc.

  • Restart the computer from the Start menu.

  • Select the "Write Zeros to Drive" option that appears on the Data Lifeguard Diagnostic screen after the computer restarts and press "Enter."

  • Select the hard drive you want to perform a low-level format on and press "Enter."

  • Select "Quick Erase" or "Full Erase" and press "Enter." A full erase writes zeroes to each sector on the hard drive, preventing people from recovering the data on the hard drive.

  • Restart the computer and remove the disc from the disc drive after the low-level format completes.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the computer boots to Windows instead of Data Lifeguard Diagnostic when you restart, you'll need to change the boot order in the BIOS to boot from the disc drive before the hard drive. Press the key that appears on the screen while the computer boots, often the "Del" or "F2" key, to access the computer's BIOS.
  • Download and run the Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for DOS zip file from Western Digital's website if you want to boot from a floppy disk instead. Open the downloaded zip file and double-click the .exe file inside it to create a floppy disk to boot from.
  • Download and use Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for Windows from Western Digital's website if you want to low-level format a non-system drive from within Windows.
  • The low-level format process erases all data on the hard drive. Be careful when selecting the hard drive you want to format.


  • Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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