Skip to main content

How to Format Hard Drive and Install Windows Operating System

formatting via windows graphical user interface

formatting via windows graphical user interface


Depending on whether you are formatting your master hard drive or slave hard drive the ways of formatting will differ.
To format a Slave Hard drive (Not the hard drive with your current Operating System) you can simply format the drive in two ways, these methods are

1. Simply go into My computers then right click the specific Hard drive you wish to format then simply click Format. From here you can select the format type Fat 32 or NTFS ( NTFS the most common these days as its much faster than Fat 32)

 Its also best to click the quick format option as this will dramatically reduce the time it will take to format the Drive. Remember when using this method you must close all applications and files that are being run the computer from that drive otherwise you will not be able to proceed with the format.

2. The next way is to format your hard drive via command prompt. To enter command prompt simply click start then run and enter “cmd” (without the “”) this will then bring up the command line. You can now format from here by simply typing format followed by the drive letter. E.g Format C:/

The next method is for formatting your primary or master drive and the best way to do this is to do it as a part of your windows installation. I will cover the formatting of the hard drive along with the installation of windows O/S below.

selecting the partition to install Windows onto

selecting the partition to install Windows onto

copying windows files, after this point windows will reboot and continue graphical installation

copying windows files, after this point windows will reboot and continue graphical installation


Format Hard disk and Install Windows Operating System



The first step is to enter your computers BIOS. To do this when your computer is booting up it may ask you if you wish to enter setup or bios. The most common key to enter your setup/bios is DEL or F1. It may differ depending on what sort of motherboard you have just make sure you look out for the alert to find the appropriate key. If you cant seem to catch the key or if the screen flashes on too quick try pressing the Pause Break key and this will pause the boot up screen for you.


The next step is to change the boot up options for your computer. Depending on your motherboard it will be in a different location but it should be quite easy to find with a little searching. When you find it simply change the boot up priority on your computer so that the number 1 priority is to boot from CD or DVD ROM Drive.


Once you have setup your boot up priority and saved and exited your BIOS, its time to put your Windows CD into your CD/DVD rom drive and wait for it to do its thing and boot up. You may be presented with an option “If you wish to boot from the CD press any key” where you should press a key for the windows cd booting process begins.


Once the windows CD has booted up select from the Menu install Windows. From this point you can choose where about you want to install your operating system files. When starting from scratch the easiest thing to do is to delete all the partitions and start from the beginning. Once you have created the partition sizes you would like (e.g. a 80GB hard drive into two 40GB partitions.) you can select on which partition to install windows. Its always recommended to install windows onto a partition incase one of the partitions fails the other one can be used to retrieve backup data.


Now select the type of format FAT 32 or NTFS (NTFS recommended) and once you’ve pressed enter Windows will pretty much take over the rest. You will have to answer a few prompts along the way (admin name, passwords, network settings etc) but that’s about it. The installation of windows usually takes no longer than an 120 minutes , the time taken will depend on how much memory you have, hard drive space and cpu speed.

Goodluck I hope I helped. Let me know if I left something out :)


Sushil Rana on August 30, 2013:

Anyone who can share Windows Server knowledge.

Sushil Rana.

Scroll to Continue

pctechgo from US on March 28, 2012:

The installation for Windows 7 and Vista have become even more simpler/smoother. Considering they are much larger in size, they do install very quickly. Microsoft had done a very good job with XP vs previous operating systems and it has improved the installation process even further with new operating systems.

Thanks for the Hub and for sharing.

sweettatt2 from Kelowna B.C. on January 09, 2012:

Hey... Question... I have Windows XP Ultimate on my desktop, but have misplaced my CD. I'm missing drivers and files when I try to recover it says to enter my CD. I lost my audio drivers as well... I'm not sure what to do. I've tried to find what I'm looking for on line but they want me to buy. Is there a way I can Get it back or is there a way use my laptop to fix this preblem?? laptop is windows 7

AVB on July 28, 2011:

I've been looking for help on this for almost 3 hours now. With no success obviously. Until now. Thank you, sir. I shall name my first born after you. Your name is Daniel right? ;)

Thanks again.

Martin on January 01, 2011:

This tutorial,imust say is wonderful,its d best!!

Fagbemi Abiola on December 26, 2010:

Please,what is the meaning of drive concerning formating? How can someone know if a system is having drive

aldroxxx on December 07, 2010:

i cant reformat my laptop if turns off when it reads my xp installer

TheZ on November 24, 2010:

I don´t have option "format" when I install win7. On XP I had option with partition and formating, but on win7 it starts Install automaticaly but not formating the C: drive. When I install it I have folder "windows" and "old windows" on my C:. Where do I go wrong???

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on November 13, 2010:

sulakshana - you could try loading up the operating system onto a usb stick instead otherwise you may have open up the laptop and make sure the cd drive connections are plugged in correctly.

sam - you may need to check the hdd connections otherwise press DEL as your computer starts up to go into the Bios and check to see if the harddrive is detected or needs to be assigned a number

sam on October 31, 2010:

plzzz somebody help me my windows is not formatting at all neither its reinstallating windows xp when i agree lisence and agreement after pressing f8 ..then options come but it says u have no hard drive installed on ur computer :( im really in trouble .... plzz somebody help me what's going on with my computer and what to do.... ? kindly help me ..may God bless u for this help .thanx bye

sulakshana on October 20, 2010:


i have some problem when formatting my system that it is not detecting the cd even cd drive and os cd are working properly. another thing i couldn't able to un install any program in my system.It is saying that i don't have administrative privileges. my laptop is toshiba company's and os is vista.

can anyone help me for the same.



expectus (author) from Land Downunder on September 29, 2010:

What os are you trying to install your hdd may have some bad segments boot with windows and click repair use the command prompt to run chkdsk /f / r and then try installing again remember to specify your main drive usually c:/

Cyrus on September 27, 2010:

an error message says, "Cant format, the hard disk might be damage" while i try to intall my os,what am i going to do?

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on September 19, 2010:

You can try again using the installation cd but this time change the boot options in the bios to choose cd drive first, when pc

starting up press del or f2

kmk on September 18, 2010:

Hi Expectus, ok first of all I know very little about computers and problem solving, with that said I was told my hard drive was bad on my sony laptop, I ordered online and did the removal of the old and installed the new (exacttly the same) hard drive as origional. Now my problem is when trying to boot up the screen reads operating system not found? Even tried using a windows operating system disc during boot up, still reads system not found, can you help please?

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on August 22, 2010:

easiest way to do it , is pop the dvd in the drive, restart your computer and start up the installation process, there is an option during the setup that allows you to format drives/create partitions etc..

Nemanja781 on August 14, 2010:

i have a hard drive 80 gb on 1 theres 50 gb and on the other drive theres 24.4 gb but when i go to my computer and try to format local disk D it says windows was unable to complete format and 1 more thing how do i format from bios i cant find it please help i hav e tons of viruses and i want to install my win7 ultimate again

Bob on July 29, 2010:

Thank you very much for the article. It was really helpful.

save my system from United Kingdom - London on July 17, 2010:

Thanks for providing such nice comments. I used to format my hard drives as they get corrupt due to virus attack and trojan one. I also prefer it to speed my pc speed to great extent.

Merin on July 07, 2010:

excellent, very helpful....thanks

shreyans on May 25, 2010:

bakwas information

emma on May 21, 2010:

Its a real good thing getting an answer to your question(s) just when you need it most. thanks so much.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on January 26, 2010:

adding ram totally depends on your Motherboard nothing to do with your operating system , even at 2gb I would think its not quite enough for 64 bit windows it will probably end up being slower than 32bit as you wont be running it at full speed.

MRimps959 on January 22, 2010:

Ok, finally i found out my cpu does support 64bit will i be able to do what i want?

"Im running windows 7 32bit but im told that 64bit runs faster. i only have 768mb, and im thinking of buying more ram. my computer's maximum ram is 2Gb and i was wondering if installing 64bit windows i could add more than 2Gb of ram. my question really is, does adding ram depend on the motherboard or does it depend on the operating system?"

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on January 19, 2010:

you could try creating a recovery cd with windows 7, and whether or not you decide to change to 64 bit should be only if your CPU can actually support the 64 bit version otherwise there is no point really. :)

MRimps959 on January 18, 2010:

Im running windows 7 32bit but im told that 64bit runs faster. i only have 768mb, and im thinking of buying more ram. my computer's maximum ram is 2Gb and i was wondering if installing 64bit windows i could add more than 2Gb of ram. my question really is, does adding ram depend on the motherboard or does it depend on the operating system?

MRimps959 on January 18, 2010:

Just an awesome tutorial mate!! just wondering if u could give some advice on how to format the master drive without installation cd. cheers!:)

Akshay on January 15, 2010:

very good explanation with the good language.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on January 02, 2010:

hmmm that's strange is your windows 7 version a cd version or an image iso file. are u selecting the wrong cd-rom by any chance.

I know of few ppl having this problem , and some say it wont read the DVD but will read of a USB plug and play device. So you could always try loading it onto your USB. its possibly the bios doesn't recognize windows 7, are you running the beta or official?

confused user on January 01, 2010:

expectus- very useful tips. I tried to follow your second step so I can also install windows 7 but it kept booting back on the hard drive even when i already has set the boot devices to cdrom on the advanced bios features. I even tried choosing cdrom in boot menu but it just kept booting back to the hard drive. can you help? thanks

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on December 28, 2009:

Just on one drive will be fine, good to have the other partition for backup files and what not

platinumOwl4 on December 28, 2009:

Slightly confused on number four. You said install on one partition in case one fails the other can be utilized to retrieve data. Did you mean install windows on both or just one. I am just checking.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on December 18, 2009:

hi cobain check out these two links for the solution , its a pretty common problem

cobain on December 18, 2009:

after i formated and go to boot from my cdrom it says the ntdlr is missing press ctl alt del to restart? i don't have the xp home disk that's on my (was)on my pc i have a xp pro i was gonna install but im stuck like chuck any ideas? thank you for your time!

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on November 19, 2009:

my pleasure, glad it helped :)

rouf wani on November 19, 2009:

thank u very much for giving all the information about installing and formating our hard drive ,thanks once again------rouf

Ashh on November 17, 2009:

slave, master, it just wont work at all..

Thanks anyway :]

Charlie on November 09, 2009:

I agree with backing up to a second drive. I did a reformat and install a few months ago. Using the backup feature of XP was such a useful app. Don't forget to export your bookmarks from your browser to the second drive. That is something a lot of people forget to do. Spend at least 1 hour going through your files to make sure there is nothing you forgot to back up!

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on November 07, 2009:

can you access it at all? if you set is as slave drive? otherwise if you cannot format i'm sorry to tell you it may be on its way out.

Ashh on November 04, 2009:

Hey i have a 80gb hard disk which got corrupted(blue screen probs)

And i cant even format it with my windows 7 cd.



expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 26, 2009:

well that's true but not everyone has there O/S installed on C:/ and in the old days your could run a recovery console or windows console and simply type C:/format to get it started and then run setup from your installation disk or bootup cd's.

and as far error free, do you mean no damaged segments? things like that because a quick format is still a format and problems with the harddisk will be obvious before deciding to do a format

KMST from Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 26, 2009:

In upper section you wrote that we can use "Format C:/" to format which I think cannot be true because C: cannot be formatted under Windows (you cant destroy your WIN installed drive).

Another little note is that you should select Quick Format only if you are 100% sure that the drive is error free.

Any way, thanks for writing.

sutrapu from kuwait on October 25, 2009:

thank you, its a useful information

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 13, 2009:

thanks for the comment peterander, very true and it does wonders for a sluggish PC

peterander on October 13, 2009:

Useful post. I've tried formatting in the past. Every one should know to do this.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 11, 2009:

Hi fred, its normal to have folders inside C:/program Files , as you would have installed things from windows xp cd as well as motherboard drivers.

if it formatted correctly it should be obvious because your harddrive will have lots of freespace, and some folders in program files is normal. otherwise the format may not have been successful

fred j on October 11, 2009:

i've just reformat my pc & install new os (xp) thing i feel weird is after installation done in My Computer> drive c:>Program files there's still program (Software) from my last os..i did reformat my hdd.pls help

i want fresh hdd with fresh os from my old pc

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 03, 2009:

thanks CHoke Frantic:)

Choke Frantic from Newcastle, Australia on October 02, 2009:

Thanks for the great info. I have done this many times and found it rather difficult on my old computer because it often froze during windows installation. Needless to say, this was very frustrating, but luckily I have a new computer now, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Awesome hub! =]

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on October 01, 2009:

you can follow the instructions above using your windows cd , or you can use a 3rd party software like partition magic

sir e on September 30, 2009:

how do i partition my hard disk

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on September 14, 2009:

thanks for the very nice comment Sexy jonty :)

Sexy jonty from India on September 14, 2009:

Very well written hub .....

very much informative ......

Thank you very much for your great hub, for good advice, good wishes and support. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on September 07, 2009:

Hi kahoot , Fat32 is just the older file format in regards to NTFS its a lot slower and has little security , no compression or encryption.

and yes you can use these steps if you have just a single drive, just make sure to install all the drivers that came with your motherboard , if you have an inbuilt soundcard the cd with your mobo will have the drivers on it. Otherwise you can just install windows and use windows update to find drivers for your hardware.

No need to create a partition to transfer files, But its usually best to have atleast two partitions that way you keep a backup on one incase one gets corupt you simply format 1 partition instead of the entire drive

kahoot on September 04, 2009:

Sir I wanted to know that what do you mean by FAT 32 or NTFS format.Basically what is this format and what is its affect in installation of windows and my other question was that if i only have a single drive that do i have to follow the same procedure and last question that will all these networking settings and other basic components such as different drivers that include sound drivers and extra so are they also installed when i install the operating system If not,then should i make partitions and transfer these files into another partition and then only format the drive containing the windows or what else?

Youniverse World from USA, New York on September 04, 2009:

Easiest method I seen :)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on August 29, 2009:

thanks for the comment compu-smart :)it definitely speeds up your comp after formatting you just got to make sure you install all the motherboard and chipset drivers afterwards :)

Tony Sky from London UK on August 29, 2009:

I format my harddrive every 6 months to completely cleanup and speed up my pc...

I then enjoy installing again, all the latest programs, drivers, ect...

Formatting a harddrive is easy when you know how, which you have detailed how very well!!

love on August 28, 2009:

i so so much believe in it

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on July 16, 2009:

I know what you mean my entire desktop is filled with random files:) goodluck

BeatsMe on July 16, 2009:

Hi Expectus, thanks. :) Will try to do your advice, probably in the future. Right now, I have lots of files that shouldn't be deleted. :)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on July 15, 2009:

hi beatsme , sorry the above method actually wont work I realized , only work if your main drive has unalloacted space but I am assuming the entire drive is being used otherwise its kinda silly.

If you have vista there is an easy option to shrink down the size of drive , therefore leaving freespace left over unallocated which you can use for your 2nd partition unfortunately its not available in anything before vista. if you have vista do the following,

goto your control panel -> Administrative tools -> computer management - under storage Disk management then you can right click on a drive and click shrink. then create partition from space you just created.

Otherwise it looks like third party software is the best bet without sacrificing you data. The trial version of partition magic should be able to do everything you need :)

just search for partition magic on , good site for downloads:)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on July 15, 2009:

ofcourse you can bookmark it :), the easiest way to do this is to run the windows xp setup disk, and follow the installation procedure until you get the part of selecting the partition and create a partition from your unallocated space (free space on current harddrive) , beware don't delete a partition unless you know what it is I don't want you deleting you precious files.

Another option is to use a partitioning software package while in windows, to make it easy and prevent making mistakes. I hear partition magic is popular but I don't think its freeware.

BeatsMe on July 15, 2009:

I've never really formatted my own hard drive to prevent creating problems for myself. Now that I've read this, I just want to know how to partition hard drive into two. Will bookmark this for future reference. Hope you don't mind. :)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on June 15, 2009:

thanks for the comment chandanakumarct :)

chandanakumarct from Bangalore on June 15, 2009:

Nice Explanation with good comments. Thanks expectus.

TOM on April 15, 2009:


Wadey101m on March 03, 2009:

Very handy advice. I kept installing two or more versions of windows on my computer after a format. :-)

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on March 02, 2009:

Yea very true some virus's just don't go away until you do a fresh format and install

Joe from Valdosta, GA on March 02, 2009:

I'm sure a few folks are gonna find this useful with all the nasty viruses floating around on the net these days...

Trsmd from India on March 01, 2009:

good explanation with nice language..

hassam from Pakistan on February 19, 2009:

A very nice tutorial.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on February 18, 2009:

Thanks for comment, not quite sure what you mean by second time but i am assuming you format it once then make paritions then decide to clear it and format again, u you can use all the proccesses above to do the format again, or simply format from command prompt format driveletter:/

Watch TV Episodes Online on February 18, 2009:

Interesting hub on installing Windows, but how to go about formatting your hard-drive a second time if needed.

expectus (author) from Land Downunder on February 15, 2009:

No Problem :)

guidebaba from India on February 15, 2009:

Excellent. Thanks for answering my request.

Related Articles