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Formatting a hard disk drive. Best free HDD format tools

Submitted on 04/04/2019

A selection of the best programs for different types of formatting a hard disk drive (HDD, SSD, RAID) and removable media storage devices (USB flash drives, SD card).

Tools for formatting an HDD:

  1. Windows system utilities
  2. Command prompt
  3. Disk Management utility
  4. HDD Low Level Format Tool
  5. AOMEI Partition Assistant
  6. DiskWipe
  7. Paragon Partition Manager

Standard Windows formatting tools

Windows XP-10 operating system has a built-in program to format a hard drive. Which is done in the following way:

  1. Open “File Explorer” (or any other file manager),
  2. Go to “This PC”,
  3. Click on the needed drive in "Devices and drives" section,
  4. Select “Format...” from the context menu,
  5. Press “Start...” to start formatting.

This is the easiest way of formatting a media storage device on a PC without any additional tools.

Despite the simplicity of this method, all the steps should be performed only if you understand why you're doing it. Before you agree on formatting, carefully check whether you've chosen the right disk.  

An alternative way to format in Windows OS 7 / 8 / 10

  1. Various systems have different paths to Disk Management therefore the easiest way is to type "management" in Windows search bar.
  2. In the search results find "Computer management" and click on the icon.
  3. Via the left menu go to "Disk Management".
  4. Right-click on the desired section and select "Format...". Since the process runs during the OS operation, "Format" command will be inactive on the system partition.
  5. Next select the new partition label, future file system type and cluster required size (if you don't know what size you need, mark "by default").
  6. Leave the box next to "Perform a quick format" checked, if you need to perform quick formatting. If you want to deeply clean a partition, uncheck this box.
  7. After you press "OK", the system will ask for confirmation and you have to press "OK" again.

Formatting a hard disk drive via Windows command prompt

1. In order to start the process of formatting, open the command prompt (console) on your computer. In order to do this, press Win + R on the keyboard and in the opened window "Run" type “CMD”.

Note. Formatting requires administrator rights (“Run as administrator in context menu” option). If you try to format a disk without it, the access will be denied.

2. In order to perform formatting via the console, you should use the following commands:

format [a drive letter]

Press Enter.

3. Carefully read what is written in the console and perform further actions according to your case.

Full hard drive formatting via HDD Low Level Format Tool

Low-level formatting optimizes the structure of an HDD. This is useful when preparing for the reinstallation of your operating system. At the same time via it you can also solve the problems with the bad sectors of a hard disk.

HDD Low Level Format Tool is suitable for low level formatting. In addition to its main functions, this hard disk format software can be used for reading SMART-indicators and checking read errors, as well as the operation time of a disk and etc.

How to format a hard drive completely:

  1. Download HDD Low Level Format Tool

  2. After HDD Low Level Format is installed, run it.

  3. In "Drive selection" select the hard drive you need (if more than one HDD is connected to your PC). You can distinguish one hard drive from another by their size. Click on Continue.

  4. Go to "LOW-LEVEL Format" tab.

  5. For quick formatting (deletion of partitions or MBR record) select "Perform quick wipe" option.

  6. If want to perform full formatting of a hard drive, you have to disable the above mentioned option.

  7. Before you start full formatting of a hard drive, double-check whether you've selected the right drive. Only then press "Format this device".

AOMEI Partition Assistant

AOMEI Partition Assistant offers a number of useful features, including low-level formatting of built-in and external hard drives. The latest version is 8.1.0, which you can download at the link:

Download AOMEI Partition Assistant

The program interface is quite similar to standard Windows utilities, so it's pretty easy to understand:

  1. AOMEI Partition Assistant main window automatically displays the disk with the installed OS. If you need to format another device, select it in the program right panel (Disk 1, Disk 2 and etc).
  2. In the left menu lower block (Partition operations) select "Format partition".
  3. Specify Partition label, File System and Cluster size (we've already explained these options above). Confirm it by pressing OK.
  4. You will have to restart the system in order to launch formatting. Once the operation is confirmed, there will be no way back, so make sure to select the right drive and settings.
  5. After you reboot the computer, AOMEI Partition Assistant will perform all of these steps and as a result you'll have a blank hard drive or a blank partition you've selected for formatting.

DiskWipe

DiskWipe is a free tool for erasing data from a HDD with no possibility of its future recovery. This program uses several proven algorithms (Dod 5220-22.M, US Army and Peter Guttman) and its advanced settings allow to choose the depth of formatting.

It's very simple to format a device via DiskWipe:

  1. Download DiskWipe.
  2. Run the program. In the left panel you can find all the devices available for formatting.
  3. Select the device you need and click on "Wipe Disk" in the top menu.
  4. Pre-configured advanced settings will open. For full and irrevocable formatting, you can mark all the available fields and specify "Highest" in the right block.
  5. After you're finished with the settings, click on "OK" in order to start the process of formatting.

Paragon Hard Disk Manager

Paragon Hard Disk Manager has several options for working with HDD partitions (splitting, recovering and other). This program is a so-called shareware, i.e. during the test period which lasts for 30 days you can format the needed device in different modes.

Download Partition Manager Free

The formatting process is intuitive:

  1. Start Hard Disk Manager.
  2. Via the sidebar go to "Disks and volumes" section.
  3. From the list of suggested devices select the right one and press "Format volume".
  4. Specify the type of your future file system and the name of a volume and then click "Format".
  5. The task will be queued. In order to apply changes, you have to press the check mark in the top menu.
  6. After confirming the operation (via "Yes" button), there will be no way back.

Paragon Hard Disk Manager not only formats a device, but also creates a new partition with a specified file system, so after you reboot the system you'll be able to use the disk without any additional actions.

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