How to Format External Hard Drive for Windows 10, 8, 7?

There are many reasons for you to format external hard drive in Windows 10. This article will introduce you to different methods to format external hard drive to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT in Windows 10/8/7.


By Emily / Updated on May 12, 2023

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Need to format external hard drive in Windows 10
▶ How to format an external hard drive in Windows 10? [2 ways]
Cannot format external hard drive in Windows 10 - What to do?

Need to format external hard drive in Windows 10

There are many reasons that you need to format your external hard drive in Windows 10/8/7. For example, you may need to format partitions to perform a clean installation of Windows system, get rid of a virus or malware, delete files from the external hard drive to re-use it, etc. Besides, when the current file system of your external hard drive is not compatible with some device, you will also need to reformat it to another different file system. No matter what is your reason, the most important thing is learning how to do it.

How to format an external hard drive in Windows 10? [2 ways]

Actually, to format external hard drive for Windows 10, you can format it to NTFS or FAT32. The Windows built-in tool Disk Management and Diskpart can help you. Next are stepwise guides on the 2 methods.

***The operation formatting will delete all data on the hard drive. If there is any important data on the hard drive, please make sure it has been backed up beforehand.

Method 1. Format external hard drive to NTFS or FAT32 on Windows 10 with Disk Management

Windows 10 Disk Management tool is a native partition manager that can help you solve your basic disk partition problem like extend partition, shrink partition, create partition, format partition, etc. To format external hard drive, do as below:

1. Connect your external hard drive to your Windows 10 PC. Right-click This PC on the desktop. Choose Management-> Disk Management.

2. All your hard drives will be displayed here. Right-click the external hard drive or partition, choose "Format...".

Format Partition

3. When it pops up the format window, you can select the file system and set the cluster size according to your requirements.

Select File System

4. Finally, Click "OK" to format the drive.

Method 2. Format external hard drive  to NTFS or FAT32 with command prompt

Some users, especially those who have grasped enough computer knowledge, would like to format external hard drive in Windows 10 with command prompt. Do as follow:

1. Press “Win + X”, select “Command Prompt (Admin)”.

2. In the command prompt, type “diskpart” and press Enter to get into Diskpart command prompt.

3. Type “list volume”, press Enter, it will display all volumes on the computer.

4. Type “select volume n” (the partition on the external hard drive), press Enter.

5. The, type “format fs=ntfs quick”, press Enter, the volume will be format as NTFS.

*You can replace "ntfs" with "fat32" or other file system.

Cannot format external hard drive in Windows 10 - What to do?

Generally speaking, you can successfully format your external hard drive via the above 2 methods. However, they may let you down in some special situations:

1. The external hard drive is over 32GB, and you are trying to format it to the FAT32 file system. That’s because Windows native tools can only format a hard drive smaller than 32GB to FAT32. In this situation, you will find there is no FAT32 option to select in Disk Management, and meet the error message “the volume is too big for FAT32” in DiskPart.
2. When the external hard drive file system is damaged or corrupted for some reasons, you cannot format it, either. Meanwhile, you might receive the error message:Windows was unable to complete the format.
3. If the external hard drive is write-protected due to write protection switch, read-only attribute, wrong registry value, etc, you have to remove write protection from the drive before successfully formatting it.

In those cases, you can turn to a third-party free partition manager named AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. It can easily format a large hard drive (2TB at most) to FAT32 file system, and reformat external hard drive with damaged file systems. Most importantly, it can help you format external hard drive into NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, Ext3, Ext4, exFAT, etc.

Step 1. Connect your external hard drive into your computer. Free Download AOMEI Partition Assistant. Install it to your Windows based computer.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 2. Launch this software. It will display you the basic situation of your hard drives. Select the external hard drive and right-click it. Choose "Format Partition" in the drop-down menu.

Format 2tb Partition

Step 3. It will pop-up a small window that you can choose to format the external hard drive to any file system you would like and change cluster size.


Format 2tb Partition To Fat32

Step 4. After that, click "Apply" to execute the progress.



So, to format external hard drive in Windows 10/8/7, you can make use of Disk Management, DiskPart, and AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. The recommended free partition software also provides many other useful features such as move partition, wipe partition, clone partition, merge partitions, clone hard disk, transfer OS to SSD, etc. If you need more advanced features like wipe system hard drive, secure erase SSD, allocate free space and so on, you can upgrade to AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional.

Emily · Staff Editor
Emily is an English editor of AOMEI Technology; she has a great passion for providing easy solutions for people to tackle with all disk or partition management problems. In addition to writing articles about disk/partition management, she also edits great tutorials on how to back up and restore disk for data security. In her spare time, she loves to learn computer skill to improve herself or stay with her family to enjoy a good day.