Tutorials

How to format a hard drive

If you are planning on ditching your old computer, formatting a hard drive is almost always a necessary thing to do

Hard disk

When it comes to deleting personal and private data or purging a PC of sensitive information before selling it on or disposing of it, the process of formatting a hard drive can be indispensable in Windows 10 or macOS. 

Formatting a hard drive is one way to completely clean it of data, almost reverting it back to its factory settings, which is handy if you have got to a point where you no longer wish to use the PC or laptop and want to pass it on to another person. 

But aside from also cleaning data, it can help when setting up a fresh installation of Windows, as a formatted hard drive will be fresh, clean and ready for a new install of Windows.

Furthermore, if you have a faulty hard drive, a full reformat can go some way to removing problems with it if they are not physical issues. 

There are several ways to reformat a hard drive. One such way is to quick format a selected hard drive, which will go someway to wiping the data and partitions of the targeted drive. But it will not fully purge all the data on that drive, meaning the quick format process is better for people who wish to carry out a fresh install of an operating system rather than fully clean a hard drive of all its data before getting rid of it. 

As such, there are other methods you can use besides this, though all come with benefits and downsides.

Partitioning

Partitions may seem like separate drives - but in reality, they are just the divisions that appear on a single disk - with every hard drive being made up of at least one, or more, partitions.

There can be any number of partitions on a disk, and having them makes it easier to get to work on one particular section that you need to format without tampering with the data stored elsewhere on the disk. This gives you the flexibility, for instance, to isolate one partition for the operating system installation files. If, however, you are aiming to format the hard drive as one entity, these partitions must first be removed.

What file system?

The file system you use when formatting a hard drive will depend on which operating systems you use.

Windows uses NTFS and Mac OS uses HFS so they're incompatible with each other. A file system called exFAT works with both Mac and Windows. This exFAT is better than the FAT32 file system it supersedes as FAT32 has a maximum 4GB file size limit whereas exFAT can work with files as large as 16EB (exabytes). The exFAT file system also runs better than FAT32.

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