How to Set Up External Hard Drives


Many external hard drives come pre-formatted and ready to use right out of the box. However, you may have an external hard drive that needs to be formatted to be compatible with your computer. Formatting a hard drive refers to a process in which a new file system is imposed on the drive. You may need to format your external drive in order to properly set it up and prepare it for use. In Windows 7, you can do this using built-in operating system tools.

  • Turn your computer on and plug the external hard drive into the computer.

  • Open "Computer Management" by clicking "Start," "Control Panel," "System and Security," "Administrative Tools" and "Computer Management."

  • Click "Disk Management" in the left pane under "Storage."

  • Locate your external drive from the list of hard drives connected or installed on your computer. Right-click the drive and select "Format."

  • Select a file format from the drop-down menu. Choose "NTFS" if you will be using the external hard drive with a computer that uses Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP. If you will be using the hard drive with an older version of Windows, select "FAT32." This is a much less common format.

  • Click "OK" twice and your external drive is formatted. Once the drive is formatted, it is properly set up to be used with your computer.

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  • Photo Credit external drive image by Albert Lozano from
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