For those of you that may not know, in simple words, Format in computing means to erase all the data that resides in a storage device, this could be an internal or external hard drive, USB flash drive, etc and including the creation of a file system to start clean again.

To format a hard drive or USB drive do the following:

  1.  Connect the storage device to the computer, if the device is external, then go to Start and click Computer.

  2.  Select the storage device, right-click and select Format…

  3.  When the Format box appear you will notice that Windows recognizes:

The maximum storage capacity of the device. The file system that the device is currently using. Depending what the application may be for the hard drive or external storage device Windows can format in one of theses file systems: NTFS, FAT32 and exFAT. The allocation unit size, which is the cluster size. To put it in a simple words the larger the size of the clusters the faster the hard disk will be, the smaller the size of the cluster will make the hard drive slower. You will be fine using the recommended settings for normal users: 4096KB. Also there are some default settings that you can use by pressing the Restore device defaults button. In the Volume label you can type a name for the device.

Last we have the Format options with:

Quick format: Most the time you will use this option, but it is recommended to uncheck this option if you are formating a new storage device to enable Format to engage a deep scan and check for bad sectors — but it will take more time to finish the process –. Create an MS-DOS startup disk: This option will create a boot disk that will allow you to boot in MS-DOS.

When you are about to format your hard drive or USB flash drive, if you don’t need specific settings just leave the defaults — in the case you need a different file system you have the support for NTFS, FAT32 and exFAT and you can easily select one from the File system menu –. Next choose a new Volume label if you wish, and like I said before it is recommended that you uncheck the Quick Format options if the storage device is new and it has never been formatted before to allow a deep scan and to check every sector for errors and of course for the creation of the file system, if not just leave the option checked. Last is the Create an MS-DOS startup disk option — don’t worry about this last option unless you need it for a really specific task –. 4.  Next click the Start button to begging formating, and as you may know by now after the process is finished all the data that once were in the storage device will be erased, to confirm click OK in the Warning box.

  1.  Now just wait until the process complete and click OK to finish.

Once the hard drive or external storage has finished formatting you can start saving files right away. This process should also be similar if you are running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Remember to always pay attention when using the format tool and don’t erase then data on the wrong storage device. All content on this site is provided with no warranties, express or implied. Use any information at your own risk. Always backup of your device and files before making any changes. Privacy policy info.