How to Format External/Secondary Hard Drives with XP

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1. How do I format a USB or second Hard Drive in Windows XP?

A. Use Disk Management

  • To start Disk Management: 
    Log on as administrator or as a member of the Administrators group. 
  • Click Start, click Run, type compmgmt.msc, and then click OK
  • Alternatively select Control Panel/Performance & Maintenance/Administrative  Tools/Computer Management which will bring you to:

  • In the console tree on left hand side, click Disk Management. The Disk Management window appears. Your disks and volumes appear in a graphical view and list view.

B. Create a new partition or a new logical drive
     To create a new partition or logical drive on a basic disk: 

  • In the Disk Management window, complete one of the following procedures, and then continue to step 2:       
  • To create a new partition, right-click "unallocated" window on the basic disk where you want to create the partition, and then click New Partition.

  • NB: Advanced users for multiple partition creation:
  • To create a new logical drive in an extended partition, right-click free space on an extended partition where you want to create the logical drive, and then click New Logical Drive. All logical drives must reside within single extended partition.

C. In the New Partition Wizard, click Next.

D. Click the type of partition that you want to create. Select Primary partition and then click Next.

NB: If you wish your external USB drive to be bootable (Partition set Active) then you MUST select Primary partition and set to Active (See Formatting section 6 below). Up to 4 Primary Partitions may exist on a single drive's Master Boot Record (MBR) but only one of which may be Active (bootable). Host motherboard must support USB booting (see motherboard manual for more info)

E. Specify the size of the partition in the Partition size of the MB box and then click “Next”

Windows by default will select default maximal free space available here. If you plan to use FAT32 file system  then remember there is a 32Gb limitation for each Primary or Logical partition. eg. 160Gb drive for FAT32 would have 32Gb Primary with 116Gb Extended containing a further 3x 32Gb & 1x 20Gb Logical Partitions. (figures are approx)

F. Allow windows to automatically assign a drive letter.

G. Specify the formatting options you want to use by using one of the following procedures:

  • If you do not want to format the partition, click Do not format this partition, and then click Next.

  • If you want to format the partition, click Format this partition with the following settings, and then complete the following procedure in the Format dialog box:
  • Type a name for the volume in the Volume label box. This is an optional step.

  • Click the file system that you want to use in the File system box.
  • You can change the disk allocation unit size, and then specify whether to perform a quick format, or enable file and folder compression on NTFS volumes. We recommend Allocation unit size is left at default.
  • NB: For compatibility with Win98/ME/Mac then you must select FAT32 file system. In all other cases NTFS is best selected.  NTFS is generally accepted as being both more secure and faster than FAT32. Apple Mac OS 10.3 or above can only read NTFS.

Click Next.

H. Confirm that the options that selected are correct, and then click Finish.

  • The new partition or logical drive is created and appears in the appropriate basic disk in the Disk Management window. If you chose to format the volume above, the format process now starts.

2. How to format a basic volume?

To format a partition, logical drive or basic volume:

1. In the Disk Management window, right-click the partition or logical drive that you want to format (or reformat), and then click Format.

2. In the Format dialog box, type a name for the volume in the Volume label box. This is an optional step.

3. Click the file system that you want to use in the File system box. Leave the disk allocation unit size as default for NTFS option. We recommend selecting "Perform a quick format" unless you have several hours on your hands! All our drives are low level formatted/erased prior to dispatch so there is no need for a full format here.

4. Click OK.

5. Click OK when you are prompted to format the volume. The format process starts
NB: Once complete you can select "Mark Partition as Active" by right clicking on drive window. This is important if you plan to use as a bootable USB device.


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