How to format your external hard drive?

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If you install an external hard drive on your PC, whether it is new or recycled, the first thing to do is to format it. An operation that only takes a few minutes and will then allow you to take full advantage of its storage capacity.

Formatting an external hard drive consists of “preparing” it by deleting all the files it may contain and configuring it with a file system that will allow Windows to communicate well with it to record and read data on it. It is a mandatory step between the time you add it to your computer and the time you start using it.

Windows offers a choice of three file systems for formatting an external hard disk: FAT (or FAT16), FAT32 and NTFS. It is the latter that is suitable for modern versions of Windows, i.e. from Windows Vista. The old FAT16 is now unused and FAT32 can only be suitable for you if you plan to use your external hard drive on a PC, Mac and Linux computer. However, you will not be able to save files larger than 4 GB. A little embarrassing limit today…. It is therefore the NTFS, which is more secure than the FAT32, that should be preferred.

Another important point is that fast formatting, a choice offered to you by Windows in the formatting options, is not suitable for an external hard disk drive… new or old… that you are putting into service. A complete formatting should be performed, which, it should be remembered, will erase all the data on the disk.

Note that this procedure for formatting an external hard disk drive is also suitable for a USB key, regardless of its storage capacity.


To format an external hard disk drive

● Connect your external hard drive to the mains if it has a power supply and then to your PC (usually via a USB port).

● Right-click on the Computer (Windows 7) or This PC (Windows 10) icon on the desktop and select Manage. If the icon is not present, right-click the Start button, choose Run, type %windir%system32compmgmt.msc /s and press Enter.

● In the window that appears, click on Disk Management in the left menu and then, on the right, locate your new external hard drive. Right-click on it and select Format.

● Name your disk, select NTFS, clear the Perform quick formatting check box and double-click OK.

● Once the formatting is done (count several minutes), you can directly use your external hard drive, which appears under its new name in Windows Explorer.


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