Disk formatting is the process of initializing and preparing your storage device like hard drive or flash drive to be recognized, read or written by computer. Before hard drive or any storage device is put to use, it must be formatted. This process also includes setting up of an empty file system, creating partitions or reorganizing the existing ones. All the hard disks should be formatted before use.
You can even format disks which are already in use. When you format these used disks / partitions, the system erases all the bookkeeping information of the disks, scans the entire disk to ensure the normal and reliable working of all the sectors. It also creates the internal address table to save data. In case, if the disk or drive contains the bad sectors, then all the bad sectors will be identified and marked. Formatting is suggested only when you are replacing your disk or when you install a new disk.
Situations in which you may have to format your disk
Sometimes you may encounter some errors in which you need to forcefully format your disk like:
- 'Media / Drive is not formatted would you like to format now?'
- Operating System not found
- Invalid or corrupt or damaged FAT and NTFS partitions table
- Cannot find file or program
- Primary / Secondary HDD failure
- Non system disk
Formatting involves three major processes, they are:
- Low-level formatting (Physical formatting): It involves the formatting the surfaces of the disk and assigns sector numbers that are visible to the hardware disk controller. Therefore, the purpose of this is to prepare the hard drive surface to receive data. And it is not dependent on the operating system installed, marks the defective surfaces (i.e. bad sectors). When you buy a hard drive, low-level formatting will already be performed; hence, you no need to perform it again.
- Partitioning: Process of dividing the hard drive space into one or more logical parts referred as logical partitions / logical drives is called Disk Partitioning. It is not the compulsory one, in case you need to create new partitions, and then you can go for it. It also involves checking of defective tracks or sectors.
- High-Level formatting (Logical Formatting): Involves setting up of an empty file system and installing a boot sector. It depends on the operating system installed in the partition. Each of the partition will have its own file system and operating system.
Types of formatting
In Windows, formatting can be performed in two ways, they are:
- Quick Format: It just removes the directories and the entries in the partition table and installs a boot sector, without checking for the bad sectors.
- Full Format: It removes your entire data from your disk and scrubs through the hard disk, rebuilds the entire file structures and scans the drive to check for the presence of bad sectors.
How to format a disk?
Following are the steps to be followed in order to format a disk:
- Choose “My computer” and right click on it, from the list choose Manage and launch Computer Management applet
- Then press “Disk Management ” in the storage section, this lists all the available drives and partitions
- Select the drive to be formatted and right click on it and select “Format” option
- If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation
- Select an appropriate option “Quick Format” or “Complete Format” and press “Next”
- Click on “Finish” to initiate the formatting process
- After completion, you will receive a confirmation message
Be careful while selecting the drive, as formatting erases the complete data from the drive. Make sure you have proper data backup before formatting it or will need data recovery tool to retrieve files from formatted disk.