How to Format an External Hard Drive

External hard drives are handy. One can store data in them and carry around. However, one may have to format them for various reasons viz., virus problems, crash, low space, etc. Learn how to format these devices using this article.
External hard drive is very efficient. You store everything in it, take it anywhere, and attach it to any computer system, and voila!, you have the data ready for access. However, some excited computer users have a habit of flooding their disk with so much data and information, that soon it loses its swiftness. Many computer users, especially the ones who are hardcore entertainment freaks, love swamping their computer system with unlimited movies, media files, games, etc., and when there's no space left in it, they switch to an external hard drive. A device crash, a glut of unnecessary information, or simply a virus attack, can cause you to format your drive, but the process for the same is very simple.

Formatting on Windows

One of the most important things to keep in mind while formatting a hard disk is to keep a check on the file system of your computer. Just so you know, Windows operating systems support two file systems for external hard drives ― NTFS and FAT32. NTFS is a better file system for it supports files which are much larger than 4GB and hence, allows you quite some space for your backup. For the purpose of this section, we'll be dealing with formatting external hard drives on Windows with the help of NTFS. Following are the step-by-step instructions.
  • Log in to your system as Administrator and click on the Start Menu.
  • Right-click on My Computer and select Manage.
  • Right-click on your hard drive (generally, it's either E or F drive) and select Format.
  • Now, when you click on Format, a dialog box appears, wherein, you need to type the name of your hard drive along with the file system. Type NTFS, and click on Ok.
  • Clicking on Ok would pop-up yet another dialog box that will warn you about erasing all the data existing in the hard drive. Click on Ok again, and let it format.
  • You just need to wait for a few minutes till the process is complete. In no time, it will be formatted, leaving you with an empty hard drive, ready to be filled with data again.
Formatting on Mac

If you're a proud owner of Mac, formatting a hard drive is tackled by a program called 'Disk Utility'. This operating system has its own set of instructions for hard drive formatting.
  • Attach your HDD with the USB cable, and wait till it gets listed on the left-hand side of your screen.
  • Select the hard drive (titled Macintosh HD usually), and click on the tab which says Erase.
  • Once you click on Erase, the system asks you to name your hard drive and choose the file formatting system you want to use. By default, Mac OS X Journal is the file system that is always recommended for formatting purposes as it is specifically designed for Mac systems. Select it, and click on Erase again.
  • Wait for a few minutes till the hard drive gets formatted. In a while, you'll have your empty hard drive back.
Formatting on either of the operating systems is an easy process. However, one step missed or gone wrong can lead to unexpected device crash. Hence, it is always recommended to read every message that pops-up during the formatting process. What's more, formatting results in an empty disk with all the data erased. Hence, if you have some important information, better create a backup for the same.
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