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Windows XP/Format a hard drive in Win XP


Hi Troy,
I am a tech with allexperts on British Car repair and I need help on formating a hard drive with Win XP. Can you help me?

Hello Howard,

I would be happy to try help out – and greetings, Fellow Expert!

There are two main scenarios for formatting a Hard Drive in XP that pop into mind right away: one is on a ‘fresh’ system, assembling a computer and putting in a drive for the Operating System, to be able to use it; the other scenario is a system that is already running XP and you are adding a ‘new drive’ to the computer. I’m going to assume both cases and give steps for each scenario, to cover all the bases, if that’s alright...

For a ‘fresh’ system (one without a hard drive or Windows XP at all, and you are putting in a drive and installing XP for the first time on it), Microsoft has a good Walkthrough of the steps involved in installing Windows for the first time on a computer (using the Windows disc, etc). They are the general steps for putting in a ‘first’ hard drive on a system, and are similar steps, whether you are setting up Windows XP or Windows 7. They basically cover the steps after the hard drive has been installed into the computer manually (Data cables, Power cables, etc) and show how to use the CD/DVD to get the semi-automated Windows Installer program running, to begin the Windows Setup process. Those steps can be found here:

For the scenario where you have WindowsXP up and running already, and are putting in/adding a ‘new’ hard drive to the system: once you have installed the hard drive manually inside (hooking up the Data and Power cables, etc) Windows will automatically detect it, but it will not be fully ready for use until you Format it (the point where you may be now). To format a newly-installed drive in XP, after installing the drive, start up the computer and go to the Start Menu and go up to the MyComputer icon/shortcut and Right-Click it. Then, in the submenu that pops up, choose Manage. This is one way to open up the Microsoft Computer Management Console, that allows access to many behind-the-scenes tools and data for the system.

Next, under  the Storage category on the Left side (click on the “+” symbol to expand it, if it isn’t showing sub-categories already underneath it), choose Disk Management (by Left-Clicking on the word/title). On the Right side, a list of drives that Windows has detected in the system should show up (summarized on the top half of the right side and the drives show separately on the bottom half of the right side). In the bottom half of the right side window, scroll down to the drive that is listed as the same size as the one you know you have just installed (500GB, etc), as it is a newly-added drive, it should also show a large mostly-empty area with the label “Unallocated” beside it (if the drive has not been Formatted/used before). Click on the panel/area that has the name/size of the disk you have installed, and then Right-Click to bring up the submenu of options for the drive, and choose Initialize. This will make Windows ‘recognize’ the disk and allow it to be formatted next.

After initialization, Right-click the white area next to the disk name/size area, and choose “New Partition”. When beginning to use a new hard drive, if it is ‘brand new’ (from the factory/store), it will require the creation of Partitions, before it can be used. I like to tell people Partitions and Formatting are like the Grid-Lines of a Football/Soccer playing field, where the lines must be drawn and the limits laid out, before the game can be played, so that everyone knows where things are going to occur and where to go. This is the same for the hard drive, where the Partition and Formatting steps lay out the Grid-Lines of where the data is going to go on the drive... You can use the Default choices for the New Partition Wizard that will come up (by just clicking Next at every screen), and if you do, it will easily create a Partition that is the largest it can possibly be for the drive (use all of the drive space that is possible for storage). You can also adjust the size of the Partition if you wish, making it smaller, so that you can create more Partitions later on the same drive (repeating these steps). While this can assist in organization of data and have some other uses (individual partitions can be backed up separately, etc), it is not required at all, and by just clicking ‘Next, Next, Next’, you can quickly get through the steps and have a properly Partitioned drive, if you wish, in the end - one that is now ready for Formatting.

After clicking Finish, the Partition Wizard should start automatically Formatting the drive for you. Depending on the size of the drive, the speed of the drive, and the speed of the system (CPU/RAM/etc), it may take a while to Format the drive; but once the indicator reaches 100%, your drive will be completely installed, partitioned, formatted and ready to use fully (you can click on the “x” to close the Computer Management window). That’s it!

Hopefully there are no problems and your drive will be up and running with these steps to start you off, Howard. Good luck with it!


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Troy M. MCSE, CNA, MCP, CST, IC3, Aplus


Hi there! Even though I am relatively new around here, I have been having great fun with PCs for over two decades now, becoming familiar with Windows through versions 3.x/9x/Me/2000/XP/2003/7/8/10. I enjoy helping others with what I feel is an exciting industry - computers are always changing, improving and offering new opportunities for learning. I look forward to assisting you with questions concerning Windows, how it interacts with your PC Hardware, configuration/settings or just general tips and ideas. Besides troubleshooting questions, feel free to ask the basics, as well. I will always start there, and I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a dumb question - we are all ‘Beginners’ at one time or another!


I am an A+ Certified, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with Computer Service Technician and LAN Administration diplomas and over 15 years direct experience with PCs including assembly, troubleshooting/support and upgrading. I have worked for retail outlets, schools and businesses, and have been an Instructor in the past as well – helping others, just like you, understand and enjoy computers!

MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), CNA (Certified Novell Administrator), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), CST (Computer Service Technician (Formerly Computer Engineering Technician)(Hardware/OS servicing Diploma), IC3 (Internet and Core Computing Certification)(Hardware/OperatingSystem/Internet Fundamentals Certification), A+ (Computing Technology Industry Association Hardware/Operating System Certification)

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