This easy guide shows you how to format a partition on your hard drive.

Hard Drive Partitions

Unless you’re using a really ancient computer chances are that your hard disk drive (HDD) has been divided into two or more sections known as partitions. You’ll have your operating system (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 etc.) plus some storage space on one partition (probably designated as your :C drive) and you’ll have more storage space on your other partition/s.

Partition Benefits

Partitioning a hard drive has a number of benefits:

  • As all partitions are separate from each other, if one partition becomes corrupted chances are that your other partitions will be unaffected and remain healthy.
  • Storing similar files or applications on the same partition makes it easier for both you and your computer to find what you’re looking for.
  • Similarly, your computer’s internal Search function will return results faster if it is limited to a single partition.
  • By planning a partitioning strategy you can create a logical data storage scheme where similar files or applications are stored alongside each other.
  • Creating partitions also allows you to run more than one operating system on the same computer.

Clean-up Time

Over time, however, partitions can become cluttered with unused, corrupt, or incompletely deleted files and applications. One of the quickest ways to return a hard drive partition to its former as-new glory is to re-format it.

Note: as formatting completely erases all data on a partition, the following instructions are not intended to address partitions on which computer operating systems are stored. You can reformat these partitions, but you’ll also need to reinstall your operating system. If you need to do this check your computer’s manual.

Formatting a Hard Drive Partition

Before formatting a hard drive partition, back up all the files and data you want to keep either to another partition, an optical disk (CD/DVD) or to an external storage device (remember, formatting will destroy all data).

The following formatting instructions should work for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

  • Click Start.
  • Right click My Computer
  • Click Manage
  • Click Storage on the left-hand side of the panel that displays.
  • Double click Disk Management on the right-hand side of the panel. You’ll now see a list of the partitions on your computer.
  • Select the partition you want to re-format and right click it.
  • Click Format
  • You’ll be presented with a panel where you can set several options:
    • “Volume label” allows you to name the partition (C, D etc.).
    • “File system” allows you to select between FAT32 and NTFS file systems (unless you have a particular preference select NTFS).
    • Leave “Allocation unit size” as default.
    • Check “Perform quick format”.
    • Don’t check “Enable file and folder compression”.
  • Click Ok.
  • You may see a warning at this point – if you’re happy to proceed just click Ok.

The formatting process will take some time, so allow your computer to finish this task before using it for anything else.

Clean Disk Space

Once you’ve successfully learned how to format a hard drive partition you’ll be left with a slice of hard drive storage space that is free of all those unused programs and corrupt data files that used to clutter up your memory and slow your computer down.

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