Formatting a hard drive is the quickest way to delete all its contents. Usually, you need to log in to your account first to format a drive. However, there are certain situations where you can’t log in to your account, so the only way you have is to format from the BIOS.
This issue is especially significant if your operating system (OS) has some issues and you want to format the system drive to make a clean install of Windows. But you may also need to format the drive without touching your OS.
So, we have created this article to help you properly format the drive from the BIOS for all these situations.
How to Format Hard Drive from BIOS?
You can either access advanced startup and format the hard drive through the command prompt or format it during the Windows installation process. They are better suited for different scenarios, so read carefully and pick any one you need.
Using Advanced Startup Command Prompt
The default method of formatting a hard drive from BIOS is to use the Command Prompt from the Advanced Startup or Recovery Environment. This method is useful if you don’t want to reinstall your operating system.
Here’s how you can use this method to format the drive:
- If it is an external hard drive, insert it into a USB port.
- Now, you need to go to the Advanced Startup options. You can do so by using any of the methods below:
- Force shut down your computer three times in a row and power it up after each shutdown. You need to press and hold the power button for a few seconds to force the PC to shut down. On the fourth reboot, select Advanced Options.
- If you can log in to an account or get to the lock screen, click on the Power button on the screen or the start menu. Then, press and hold the Shift key and click on Restart.
- Boot to an installation media (see next method), set your language preferences, and on the Install screen, select Repair your computer.
- Then, go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Command Prompt.
- Enter the following commands to check the drive letter of the hard drive’s partition:
- You can also look up the contents of a partition contains if you aren’t sure which one you need. For example,
dir D:lists out the D: volume’s contents.
- Then, format the partition using the command:
format D: /fs:ntfs /qwhile replacing,
D:with your drive letter.
ntfswith the file system you need, for instance, fat32 or exfat
/qperforms a quick format. You can remove it if you want to fully format your device.
- Press Enter. Then, type the new volume label and press Enter to begin the format.
- If you have multiple partitions of the hard drive and need to format all of them, it’s better to remove all the partition information from the disk drive and then format it. To do so, enter the commands below on the Command Prompt:
list disk(check the disk number of the hard drive)
select disk #(replace # with your disk number)
clean(you can also use
clean allto properly wipe the disk;
cleanonly marks the data as deleted but doesn’t actually remove them)
create partition primary
format fs=ntfs(replace ntfs with your desired file system)
exitagain to get out of Command Prompt and then restart your PC.
Through Windows Installation Media
You can also format a hard drive while installing or reinstalling Windows on your computer. You don’t actually have to go through the installation and can opt out after formatting the hard drive. This method is especially useful if you want to format your drive and install a new Operating System (OS) on your computer.
Here’s what you need to do to format a hard drive through the installation media:
- First, you need to create a Windows installation drive. To do so,
- Insert a USB flash drive (at least 8 GB) into your PC. You can use another PC if yours is not working.
- Visit the Windows software download platform and click on the Operating System you want.
- Under Create Windows … Installation Media, select Download Now.
- After downloading the media creation tool, run it.
- Accept the terms, and if prompted, check Create installation media and click Next.
- Check Use recommended options for this PC and click Next.
- Check USB flash drive and hit Next
- Follow the on-screen instructions.
- After that, restart the PC or insert the USB drive into your own PC and power it up.
- If you wish to format an external hard drive, make sure to connect it as well.
- Now you need to change the boot order to boot using the flash drive. We have listed the general steps you need to perform below. If you encounter any trouble, it’s better to visit the official sources for the exact steps.
- Immediately press the BIOS key on the startup to boot into BIOS. You may need to do so multiple times for the correct timing. If you don’t know which key you need, we recommend visiting the manufacturer’s website.
- On the BIOS, look for Boot Priority or Load Order options. You can usually find them under the Boot tab.
- Move the USB drive to the top of the list. The instructions to do so should be available on the BIOS interface itself.
- Save the changes and exit the BIOS.
- Then, boot using the USB drive.
- Choose your language and keyboard options and click Next.
- On the Install screen, select Install now.
- Select I don’t have a product key.
- Accept the license agreements if prompted and click Next.
- Select an OS version and then Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).
- Look for the hard drive you wish to format and select it.
- Choose the Delete option.
- If you have multiple partitions on the drive, delete all of them.
- Now select the Unallocated Space of the disk and click New.
- Enter the maximum size and click Apply. It formats the drive to an NTFS file system.
- Then, you can go through the Windows installation by selecting the drive and clicking Next or exit the OS installation by clicking on the Close (x) icon.
- Click OK if you get a warning.