How To Format External Hard Drives And Flash Drives in Windows 7

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Formatting is the process of wiping data on a drive and configuring it to read and write to a known file system. The most common file system for Windows 7 machines is NTFS. NTFS has been around since Windows NT and allows users to format very large drives to communicate with the operating system.

There is no difference in formatting an external hard drive from an external flash drive. Both drives are identified by Windows as an external drive and therefore, the process of formatting them is handled the same as well.

We will be using the integrated Disk Management system to format our external hard drives and flash drives in this tutorial. Formatting a drive allows Windows to detect and manage a drive properly, so in many cases this formatting technique will take a drive that wasn’t properly detected by Windows and allow it to be used.


This article illustrates how to format external hard drives and flash drives using the build in Disk Management utility in Windows 7

How To Format External Hard Drives and Flash Drives:


1. Right click on your Computer icon on your desktop and select Manage.

Step 1

2. Choose Disk Management from the left hand navigation.

Step 2

3. Right click on the Hard Drive or Flash Drive you wish to format and choose Format…

Step 3

4. Enter the Volume label that reflects the purpose of the drive. Most users will keep the file system NTFS as it is the default file system for Windows operating systems. I recommend you uncheck the box to Perform a quick format and select Ok.

Step 4

5. Warning! All of the data on this disk will be wiped, to confirm the formatting select Ok.

Step 5

6. Wait until the formatting has complete, be sure not to restart the computer at this time. You can monitor the progress right within the Drive Management utility.

Step 6

7. Once formatting is complete you will notice the drive is indicated as Healthy.

Step 7


Formatting external drives is a breeze in Windows 7 and it is a process that only takes a few moments to initiate. Unfortunately, if one opts to do the standard formatting (which I recommend), this process of formatting can take hours to complete.


Craig Chamberlin

Craig received his degree in Informatics with a cognate in Business from Indiana University: South Bend in 2008. Craig lives with his wife and daughter in South Bend, Indiana near Notre Dame. Craig is currently employed by Precision Electric, Inc. and acts as the chief Information Technology Manager. With a passion for teaching and technology, he founded The PCMichiana Tech Help Show in Fall 2009. His focus is teaching users of all backgrounds how to learn technology while having fun.

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