My Hard Drive Will Not Format

4/12/2004 By:

Question: My computer will not let me format a new 40-gigabyte Western Digital hard drive. What should I do?

The IT Guy says:
First, a Word of Caution: Be very careful when initializing / formatting hard drives since any existing data on the hard drive will be erased during this process. Because your hard drive is new it will not have any data on it, so this should not be an issue, but it may be for other users wanting to format hard drives that have previously stored data.

Now, the answer to your question partly depends on the operating system you are using. First, you should make sure that the jumper settings on your hard drive are correctly set for it to be either your primary or secondary (slave) drive. By default the jumper settings are likely set for the drive to be used as the primary drive. To learn more visit Western Digital's Service and Support: Jumper Settings Information. If you are using a Windows-based operating system, you likely will want to initialize the hard drive and create a partition on it using the fdisk utility. See the Microsoft Knowledge Base article "How to Use the Fdisk Tool and the Format Tool to Partition or Repartition a Hard Disk".

The process involves starting up from a floppy disk or CD that includes the fdisk utility, and running the program to format your drive. Because your hard drive is greater than 2 gigabytes, you will want to format it with the FAT32 file system instead of FAT16, which is limited to 2 gigabytes as a maximum partition size.

If you are using a Macintosh system, in OS 9 or OS 8 you will use the "Drive Setup" program to initialize and partition the drive. In OS X you can use the "Disk Utility" program included on the operating system installer CD or system restore CD. After booting to the CD (by holding down the C key during startup) you can choose the Disk Utility program from the Installer menu.

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