How to Format a Hard Drive With Windows 8

Formatting a drive in Windows 8.1 is handled by the Disk Management utility. The same process applies to both hard disk drives, or HDDs, and solid state drives, or SSDs. After deleting the volumes, or partitions, on the drive, you can format the drive and create new volumes. Remember to back up any files you want to keep before starting this process. Deleting and formatting destroys all data on the drive.

Format drives in ExFAT or NTFS in Windows 8.1.
Format drives in ExFAT or NTFS in Windows 8.1. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 1:

Back up all data on the drive you want to format. Tap the "Search" icon on the Windows Start screen and type "format disk" in the Search field. Select "Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions." The Disk Management utility opens.

Select "Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions."
Select "Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions." (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 2:

Click the drive that you want to format. Note that in most cases "Disk 0" is the drive with the Windows operating system on it. If this is the disk you want to format, you should reinstall Windows instead.

Select the drive you want formatted.
Select the drive you want formatted. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 3:

Click the "Action Menu," select "All Tasks," and then click "Delete Volume..." Double-check that you have the right drive selected. The selected drive is shaded with diagonal stripes.

Select "Delete Volume."
Select "Delete Volume." (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 4:

Click "Yes" at the warning that all data on the partition will be deleted. After a few seconds, the volume is deleted. The drive is now listed as unallocated in the Disk Management window.

Disk Management warns that all data on the partition will be lost.
Disk Management warns that all data on the partition will be lost. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 1:

Select the drive you are formatting if it isn't already selected. Click the "Action" menu, then "All Tasks" and "New Simple Volume." The New Simple Volume Wizard opens. Note that if the disk is part of an array, advanced users will have additional options like creating a new spanned volume, striped volume, mirrored volume or RAID-5 volume.

Create a New Simple Volume
Create a New Simple Volume (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 2:

Click the "Next" button in the New Simple Volume Wizard so you can specify your preferences.

The New Simple Volume Wizard opens.
The New Simple Volume Wizard opens. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 3:

Specify how much space should be used in the new volume by entering a value in the text field. If you are creating only one volume or partition in the drive, this number should be the same as the maximum disk space displayed above. Click "Next."

Specify the volume size.
Specify the volume size. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 4:

Select a drive letter that you would prefer the computer to use for this drive. If you don't want a letter assigned, click the "Do Not Assign a Drive Letter or Drive Path" option. Advanced users may also prefer to mount the drive in an empty NTFS folder. Click "Next."

Specify a drive letter.
Specify a drive letter. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 5:

Select a file system for the volume. Your options are ExFAT or NTFS. Use ExFAT if you're going to share files with a Mac computer; otherwise, NTFS is the better choice. Unlike its predecessors, ExFAT can support the same volume sizes as NTFS -- up to 256TB. However, it's not as robust as NTFS and doesn't support file system-level encryption and built-in compression. Mac computer's can't write files to an NTFS drive.

Select a file system.
Select a file system. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 6:

Select the "Perform a Quick Format" option if the drive doesn't contain any private information, or if you're using the drive for your personal use. A Quick Format takes only a few seconds, but the data it leaves behind can be easily recovered by anyone with the right software. A full format takes much longer but it does erase every byte of data. Select the "Enable File and Folder Compression" option if desired. Type a name for the volume and click "Next."

Change the volume label if desired.
Change the volume label if desired. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 7:

Click "Finish" after reviewing the settings that were applied to the new volume. If you want to change anything, click the "Back" button and format the drive again.

Close the New Simple Volume Wizard by clicking "Finish."
Close the New Simple Volume Wizard by clicking "Finish." (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Step 8:

Select another drive or volume to format, or exit the Disk Management utility.

The drive is formatted and all data is erased.
The drive is formatted and all data is erased. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
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Tips & Warnings

  • If you're formatting a drive to give to someone else, or if you're disposing of a drive that has sensitive information on it, you should always deselect the Quick Format option so Windows can perform a full format. However, even a full format may not make the data completely unrecoverable. The only way to be 100 percent certain that data can't be recovered is to destroy the drive.

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