How to Wipe out a Hard Drive & Start Over

by Ruri Ranbe

Formatting a hard drive wipes out, or erases, all of the data on the drive and establishes a file system -- a method for organizing files on the storage device. Wiping a hard drive can remove stubborn viruses and mark off bad sectors contained on the device, which are areas of the drive that have been permanently damaged. If the hard drive you want to format is the primary storage device in the computer, you must erase the drive from the Windows DVD; otherwise, you can format the device from within the Windows operating system.

In Windows

Click "Start." Click "Computer." Right-click the drive letter assigned to the target hard drive.

Select "Format" from the context menu. Enter a name for the volume.

Select "NTFS" as the file system for the best performance; select "FAT32" from the drop-down menu to use the drive with older operating systems.

Deselect "Perform a Quick Format." Click "OK." Click "OK" again to format the hard drive.

From DVD

Insert the Windows DVD into the optical drive and then restart the computer to boot from the disc.

Select your keyboard input and language options and then click "Next." Click "Repair Your Computer." Select your Windows 7 operating system and then click "Next."

Click "Command Prompt." Type "format C: /fs:NTFS" or "format C: /fs:FAT32" -- without quotes -- depending on which file system you want to use on the drive. Press "Enter." Press "Y," when prompted to wipe the hard drive.


  • If your computer did not come with a Windows 7 DVD, restart the PC and press "F8" on the boot screen. Select "Repair Your Computer" from the options. Press "Enter." Type your administrative credentials and then follow along from Step 3.
  • If your computer does not have a "Repair Your Computer" option and did not come with a Windows 7 DVD, contact your PC's manufacturer to find out how to access the recovery partition.

About the Author

Ruri Ranbe has been working as a writer since 2008. She received an A.A. in English literature from Valencia College and is completing a B.S. in computer science at the University of Central Florida. Ranbe also has more than six years of professional information-technology experience, specializing in computer architecture, operating systems, networking, server administration, virtualization and Web design.

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