Formatting is the process of creating a file system on a volume/partition so that the operating system can store and retrieve data on that volume. And a file system offers a way of organizing and retrieving information written to a hard disk or any other storage medium. It is created when the volume is formatted. And a professional disk formatting tool will be necessary to format a partition in the following cases:
❈ When you install a new hard drive to your computer, you will be required to initialize the disk and partition and format it before using it for data storage. ❈ If your disk becomes read-only because of the corrupted file system and you cannot add any data to it, formatting the disk is one of the effective ways to remove the write-protection. ❈ When the disk is infected by malware or viruses, you have to format it for normal reuse. ❈ If the current file system of the disk is not compatible with your current device or OS, you can reformat it to another different file system. ❈ When you want to clean the disk or free up space on the drive, formatting the disk is always the method you can adopt.
4 Free disk formatting utilities for Windows 11/10/8/7
No matter why you need to format a hard drive in Windows 11/10/8/7, you can try the following 4 hard drive format tools. Since any data stored on the disk would be erased with disk formatting, please back up necessary files to ensure data security before going any further.
The first three hard drive formatting tools (Disk Management, File Explorer, and Command Line) are Windows built-in tools. The last one is a free hard drive formatting tool. Below we will introduce them one by one. Then you can choose one based on the actual situation and requirements.
Disk Management is a Microsoft Windows utility first introduced in Windows XP as a replacement for the fdisk command. It allows users to view and manage the disk drives installed in their computer. And the steps are very easy.
Reviews of using Disk Management to format hard drive:
✔ It’s free and easy to use.
✔ It’s friendly for computer novices.
✔ It is available to all Windows operating systems.
✔ It supports NTFS, exFAT, and FAT32
✘ It can’t format a hard drive that is larger than 32GB to FAT32.
1.1. Right-click “My computer”/ “This PC”>”Manage”, and select “Disk Management” under “Storage”.
1.2. Right-click the target volume and select “Format”.
1.3. In the next window, choose the desirable file system and click “OK”.
▌Option 2. Windows File Explorer
To make use of Windows File Explorer to format hard drive in Windows, you can right-click “My computer/This PC” --> “Open” to enter into the File Explorer, then right-click the disk you wish to format, select “Format...”, then select a proper file system and click “Start”.
Reviews of using File Explorer to format hard drive:
✔ It’s free and easy to follow.
✔ It’s suitable for Windows beginners.
✔ It can work on all Windows computers.
✔ It supports NTFS, exFAT, and FAT32
✘ It doesn't work if the hard drive is not showing up
✘ It is unable to format a hard drive that is larger than 32GB to FAT32.
▌Option 3. Command Prompt
Command Prompt is a command line interpreter application, which is available in most Windows operating systems. It can execute entered commands to perform advanced administration functions, and troubleshoot some Windows issues. It is relatively proper for computer experts and professionals due to its complexity.
Reviews of using Command Prompt to format hard drive:
✔ It is free and works on all Windows systems.
✔ It supports NTFS, FAT16, FAT32, EXT2, EXT3, and EXT4.
✘ It is more suitable for experienced users.
✘ It can only format a hard drive that is smaller than 32GB to FAT32.
✘ Any wrong command lines will cause disk problems or system crashes.
3.1. Open the command Prompt by clicking Start and typing “cmd”, right-clicking it, and selecting “Run as Administrator”.
3.2. In the elevated Command Prompt window, first type “diskpart” and press “Enter” to launch diskpart.exe tool.
3.3. Then execute the following command:
● list disk: get a detailed list of all disks on your computer. ● select disk # ● list partition: all the partitions will be displayed. ● select partition #: the partition you want to format will be selected. ● format fs=fat32 quick or other desired file system.
Then, the disk will be formatted.
Common limitations of Windows native disk formatting utility: ● They cannot format a large hard drive (which is bigger than 32GB) to FAT32 file system.
● They cannot format an internal hard drive to exFAT file system while exFAT is generally ideal for flash drives.
● They cannot format a drive successfully when its file system is corrupted and becomes RAW file system or write protected.
▌Option 4. Free disk formatter(Recommended)
As mentioned above, the Window's built-in formatting tools sometimes y simply do not work quite well. If you get “Windows was not able to complete the format” error message or “The volume is too big for FAT32”, or if the “Format” option becomes greyed out and not clickable, you need to turn to a third-party disk formatting tool. Here we share a professional disk formatting utility named AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. It is free yet more powerful and versatile than Windows native formatting tools. For example:
✔ It is able to format hard drive to FAT32 even though it is larger than 32GB.
✔ It can format both internal and external hard drive to exFAT file system without any hassle.
1. Free download this hard drive format tool, install and run the hard disk formatting software. Right-click a partition on the disk you want to format and select “Format Partition”.
2. Set the partition label, cluster size and file system as you like, and click “OK”.
3. Begin to format the hard disk by clicking “Apply” in the main interface.
Only with three steps, you can successfully format the disk partition, even if the partition is write-protected.
✪✪✪Bonus feature: Convert FAT32 to NTFS and vice versa without data loss
As mentioned above, the formatting process will erase all data existing on the disk which needs to be formatted. But the AOMEI Partition Assistant offers an amazing function: NTFS to FAT32 Converter. It can help you convert file system between FAT32 and NTFS without losing data. Below is the tutorial.
(1) Open AOMEI Partition Assistant. Select “NTFS to FAT32 Converter” on the left volume under “Wizards”.
(2) In the pop-up window, tick “FAT32 to NTFS” or “NTFS to FAT32”, click on “Next” and follow the hints to finish the conversion.
FAQ: Does formatting a disk erase everything?
For users who plan to get rid of the current hard disk and purchase a new one, it is necessary to ensure everything on the disk has been gone before throwing away the old one. For this task, most users will be more likely to choose to format the disk. But is formatting a disk deleting everything completely?
The answer is “NO”. The formatting process does not erase the data on the disk, only the address tables. The deleted files still reside on the hard drive and a data recovery program will allow anyone to recover that data. Luckily, there is a more secure way to remove all data from the hard disk permanently: wiping the hard drive.
To perform this task, you can use AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard as well, which allows you wipe HDD and write zeros to each sector.
With these 4 disk formatting utilities introduced, now you can choose one according to your actual situation and requirements. To deal with tough partition/disk management tasks, AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard is a better choice. It is far more than a hard drive formatting software, it is also capable of copying partition, moving partition, merging partition, cloning hard disk, etc.
Moreover, you can upgrade to Pro edition for other more amazing features like recovering lost partitions, aligning partitions, migrating OS to SSD. If you are running Windows Server 2003, 2008 (R2), 2012 (R2), 2016 and SBS 2003, 2008, 2011, the Server edition is highly recommended.