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How to format a drive on Windows 10

Formatting a drive erases everything on it. It is one of the simplest ways to reset a drive and delete its contents. After a format, you get a drive that is ready to store files or run an operating system free of any and all previous files or settings that were applied to it.

With formatting, there are some exceptions e.g. formatting will not remove encryption from a drive but if you think your drive is infected with a virus and is beyond repair, formatting it is the nuclear option. You will still walk away with a drive that can save/store files.

Format a drive on Windows 10

On Windows 10, you can format a drive from File Explorer, the Disk Management tool which offers a GUI for formatting drives, and the Diskpart tool which is a command-line tool.

All tools come with the same formatting options and limitations. One major limitation of these tools is that you cannot format the Windows drive while you’re on your desktop.

That’s not to say you cannot format the Windows drive. You can but the process will be different and you can only use the Diskpart tool to do it.

Access Diskpart tool – Windows 10

If you’re formatting a non-Windows drive i.e., a drive that Windows is not installed on, you can access the Diskpart tool by following these steps.

  1. Open Command Prompt with admin rights.
  2. Run the following command.
diskpart
  1. The Diskpart tool will be loaded.

Access Diskpart – Outside Windows 10

Accessing the Diskpart tool from outside Windows 10 is slightly complicated. You need to create a Windows 10 installation disk. You do not need to buy a license but you will have to download the OS.

  1. Visit Microsoft and download the Media Creation tool.
  2. Use the tool to download Windows 10 and burn it to a USB drive.
  3. Turn your computer off.
  4. Connect the USB drive.
  5. Turn the computer On and boot from the USB drive.
  6. Enter Windows 10 installation and select the repair option.
  7. You will see a bunch of tools for repairing the system.
  8. Select Command Prompt.
  9. In Command Prompt, enter Diskpart to activate the tool.

Format a drive – File Explorer

For a non-Windows 10 drive, you can use File Explorer to format it. It’s easier than going through the Diskpart tool.

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Right-click the drive.
  3. Select Format.
  4. Uncheck Quick Format.
  5. Change the file system if you need to.
  6. Click Start.

Format a drive – Diskpart

The process for formatting a Windows or non-Windows drive with Diskpart is the same. The only thing that matters is how you access the Diskpart tool.

  1. Open Command Prompt with admin rights and run the Diskpart command.
  2. List all connected drives with this command: list disk.
  3. Select the disk with the drive you want to format: select disk no.
  4. Remove all data on the disk with this command: clean.
  5. Run this command to create a primary partition: create partition primary.
  6. Format the drive with this command: format fs=ntfs.
  7. To format a partition on a drive, follow steps 1-3.
  8. Run this command to list the partitions: list volume.
  9. Select the volume you want to format: select volume no.
  10. Format the volume with this command: format fs=ntfs.

Conclusion

You should only use Diskpart if you’re trying to format a Windows drive. File Explorer works just as well as the Diskpart tool but you, as a user, have to make fewer selections. There is far less chance of selecting the wrong disk or partition for formatting. 

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