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Partitioning and Format a hard drive or a SSD.

Partitioning and format a hard drive; before you can use a new hard drive or SSD you need to do this...

A new drive is considered a raw drive, it is useless until it is prepped for use by partitioning and format the hard drive before installing the Operating System you will use it with.

In the (now gone) Q and A forum I am getting a lot of questions about SSD or Solid State Drives, well the short answer is treat a SSD the same as any hard drive. Easy...

So what operating system do you use? DOS (Disk Operating System), Linux, Windows, Unix or one of the other flavors of operating systems available today?

I will concentrate on DOS formatting and Windows versions of Operating Systems format.

You have a new drive or you have a drive that you can not access for one reason or another. You need to create a place for your data, this is called a partition.

In the old days you connected your drive to your computer then started it with a floppy that has DOS on it. Today you can still do that or you can connect the drive and start it with a Windows installation CD.

Either way you still have to go through the steps of partitioning then format a hard drive. I will assume you have the drive installed and connected to the computer interface, be it IDE or SATA device.

Note: If you need instructions on installing a hard drive or SSD see this page.

Partitioning and set-up a hard drive or SSD for DOS:

You will need to create a bootable floppy with these two files extra on the floppy as they are not part of the normal floppy. FORMAT.COM and FDISK.COM.

Boot the computer with the floppy, at the command prompt type in FDISK. You will see a screen about large drives, answer yes to proceed. When the interface opens you will see a menu.

If you have more than one drive in your computer you can select it with the "Current" fixed disk drive:
    On the menu you have four choices:
        1. Create a DOS partition or Logical DOS Drive
        2. Set active partition
        3. Delete partition or Logical DOS Drive
        4. Display partition information.

Use #4 to find out what type of partition you have:

If it is any type besides DOS you will have to use Non-DOS Partition to delete it.

You will want #1 if this is a new drive, if it is a used drive but you can not access it select #3, if the partition is good but will not boot select #2.

Selecting #1:
        1. Create Primacy DOS Partition
        2. Create Extended DOS Partition
        3. Create Logical DOS Drives) in the Extended DOS Partition
    Select #1

The program will verify the drive integrity (check disk)...... (may take a while depending on the drive size)

Next you will have to answer this question:
"Do you wish to use the maximum available size for a Primary DOS Partition and make the partition active?" [y/n]

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Here is where the rubber meets the road, do you want the whole drive as one partition or do you want to split it, say one for the new OS you are going to install, and the rest for data?

If yes is the answer then press enter. If no is the answer go to No.

The program will verify the drive integrity (check disk)...... (may take a while depending on the drive size)

Partition is created.

You will get a message that the system has to be restarted before the changes take effect

Restart, go to format your new partition

If No the program will check the drive integrity again, notice the line:
Total disk space is xxxxxx Mbytes (1 Mbyte = 1048576 bytes)

When it is done below this line is a new line:

Enter partition size in Mbytes or percent of disk space (%) to create a Primary DOS Partition.....................[xxxxxxx] Note: The size will be in MB.

Enter the amount of space, press enter.

The partition will be created, press escape to go back to the main menu.

Go to #2, you have to set the active partition if this is to be a bootable drive.

On this page you will be able to see the boot partition, or active partition, a list of all the partitions on the drive is at the top, type the number in the [ ] for the drive you want to make active, should only show one drive C: 1 in the list.

You will get a message: Partition 1 made active.

Restart, go to setup your new partition

Step #3
Delete partition or Logical DOS Drive
    A menu will appear:
        1. Delete Primary DOS partition
        2. Delete Extended DOS Partition**
        3. Delete Logical DOS Drive(s) in the Extended Partition***
        4. Delete Non-DOS Partition
If the partition is listed as anything besides DOS then select #4, follow the prompts to delete the partition.

Note: ***Extended partitions are a throw back to the old DOS days, Hard drives originally could only have one partition, as drives became more prevalent and larger DOS hit a 30 Meg barrier, that was the maximum size for a DOS partition. To use the rest of the drive the DOS FDISK program was rewritten to add the Extended Partition. This is a kludge, it allows you to create a partition in the remaining space and then create up to four logical drives in that space. I DO NOT recommend using extended partitions. They will corrupt over time and then you can not remove them, a low level format is required to remove the corrupt logical drives.

***If they are not corrupt you have to remove the logical drives before you can remove the Extended Partition. You have to remove them in the sequence they were created in reverse order, if you have four logical drives you have to remove the # 4 logical drive first, # 3 next, and so on. DO NOT remove a drive in the middle of the sequence, this will preclude you from removing any other logical drives and the Extended partition itself.

Set up a DOS Partition:

Restart the computer, at the prompt type FORMAT C:  /s  then press enter, this will format the partition and put the DOS system files on the hard drive making it bootable.

You will see this:

Proceed with
Format (Y/N)

Press y and enter, format will began.
When the drive is set up you will see: Volume label (11 characters, ENTER for none)?

Enter volume label if you want, finish and restart the computer.

Restart, C:\ prompt will show.

Partitioning and format a hard drive with Windows install CD:

Where to start? Put the cd in the drive......... Uh, no... I mean to format why would you use the Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, or Windows 7/8  install cd?

One reason is to remove any partitions on a drive that the OS can not [some Operating Systems can not remove partitions created by other Operating Systems, such as a Linux or mac partition from the Windows OS or a Windows OS in a mac OS.], or maybe you have a virus that a anti virus program can not see or remove because it is in the Main Boot Record (MBR). Or maybe you have a drive that has Linux or Mac partitions on it.

So how would you remove a partition?

Start your computer with the install CD, at the Welcome to Setup screen press enter (you aren't going to complete the setup just do a couple of tasks in the setup program).

Accept the licensing agreement, press F8

The next screen is the one you want to work from. "The following list shows the existing partitions..."

Inside the box you have either some partitions or the drive will show as unpartitioned space.

To remove just one partition, highlight that partition and press the " D=Delete Partition". You will have to follow the prompts to delete the partition, this gives you a second chance just in case you DO NOT want to delete the partition. If you want to delete the partition press "L". To remove all the partitions, repeat the procedure until you have a unpartitioned drive.

To create a partition press "C=Create Partition". The next screen will allow you to change the size of the partition, you can select the complete drive or section out the drive into smaller partitions. The reason for making a smaller partition at the beginning of the drive is for the Operating System. I recommend that you use 15-40 gig of the drive as the OS partition and the rest for data*. (Since this article was written Vista and Windows 7/8 have been introduced, the size of their System partitions are larger 30 to 50 GB).

Once you type in the size of your first partition press enter, the program will go back to the Setup screen. You can create more partitions from here but I do not advise creating  Extended partitions. You can now remove the cd from the drive and power off the computer or restart it. Your partition is ready for a format, if you continue it will install the OS.

* Consider this:

If you use all of the drive to install the OS you will not have a separate partition for your data, you should always keep your OS and data separate, most programs will allow you to pick where you install them and where the saved data files are located, always use a separate partition for your data files.

If you create an image of your OS partition you can store it on the data partition until you have it written to a CD/DVD or move it to external storage.

If you have an external hard drive and would like to make it bootable see this page: Partitioning and format a hard drive for a USB external hard drive.

Note 02/11/20 This document is still available on this web site for historical purposes, it shows how far we have came with our digital technology.

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