Various methods can be used to format a hard disk. It is important to note that formatting directly through the BIOS is not possible. However a Windows bootable USB stick activated via the BIOS software can be an aid.
This type of formatting does not require professional knowledge, it is only necessary to follow the steps to configure options, working from the command line and being careful when formatting a system or repartitioning the HDD.
How to format HDD through BIOS
When HDD (hard disk drive) is to be formatted, the standard system restore applications are not always helpful. Often the user does not even have access to the graphical interface of the operating system. Consequently the formatting commands are not available although you have, in fact, access to the hard disk.
Step 1: Write a bootable Windows flash
We need a bootable Windows disc or flash disk to perform the formatting.
There are several options:
1) without boot disk: download Windows 10 ISO image from a torrent tracker; then use Rufus to convert Windows 10 ISO image into a bootable USB flash disk. Instead of usb flash disk it is convenient to use sd-card inserted to the PC through the card reader;
2) use the licensed (legally purchased) copy of Windows bootable DVD distribution;
(In fact there is no major difference in choosing a bootable distribution to format the disk afterwards.);
3) Alternatively you can create bootable flash disk in UltraISO, read our guide how to write custom ("customized") boot image.
Step 2. Enter BIOS and boot setup
At the moment you obtain the bootable system image you must enter BIOS subsystem and setup the booting from USB stick. To do so:
- reboot your computer (Alt + F4 > Reboot)
- Hold the Del, F2 or F12 keys on your keyboard at the startup. These are used to enter the BIOS on most motherboards. However, the BIOS initialization key may be mapped to a different key - you should refer to your motherboard user's manual (do not be lazy to find it and read it).
- In the BIOS we are interested in the Boot section (Boot). This can be found under the Boot > Device Priority (or BIOS Features) tab. In any case you should find the section dealing with hard disks, CD/DVD and flash drives booting.
- In the Boot (Boot Option) list select the device you would like to use to boot your image or disk with Windows to format HDD.
- After the above described manipulations you should exit the BIOS and save the settings you have made. Usually for this you have just to press the F10 key, accept the changes and reboot the machine.
Step 3. Booting the PC from the boot disk
- Boot the PC using the boot disk itself with Windows and after starting the shell press Shift+F10 combination. This is needed to access the Windows command line, in other words the console. However for modern OS versions (Windows 8 and higher) you should follow the paths "select language" -> "diagnostics" -> "advanced options" -> "command line".
Be careful! Formatting a disk is an irreversible process. If you format it you cannot get the data back. That is why it is very important to perform all operations carefully, understanding what you are doing.
- Check all information carefully before formatting the hard disk using the bios: make sure you have not made a mistake with the drive letter. The fact is that the drive names might not correspond to the system designations you might have memorized. Just to be on the safe side, I suggest double-check the data with the following command:
wmic logicaldisk get deviceid, volumename, size, description
- In fact you can use the following command line directives to format the disk:
- format /FS:NTFS X: /q - quick format for NTFS
- format /FS:FAT32 X: /q - repartition the disk in the FAT32 file system
Tip . Also look at the command line DiskPart utility. See the manual on how to format a disk.
Alternative ways to format HDD
With the Windows graphical installer shell
- Startup from the Windows boot disk,
- Select the language to be fully installed,
- Select the hard disk > Configure > Format.
Use the ERD Commander
This program allows you to compile a complete boot disk with the system recovery tools.
- Boot in the usual way from the resulting CD.
- Select Disk Cleanup in the Shell menu.
- After that you can format the hard disk through BIOS.
Download ERD Commander
Formatting via LiveCD with Linux
Another available option is to use a LiveCD, for example Ubuntu distribution. The free operating system runs directly from the DVD or USB key and allows to work on your computer even if Windows is not working.
I recommend any Linux version with the KDE desktop (most similar to the Windows desktop).
Without going into technical details you can test your hardware, check if the hard disk is working - in general back up and reformat your hard disk before reinstalling a normal OS.
BIOS cannot see the Hard Disk or USB Stick: What to do
It may happen that you cannot see the device in the BIOS setup, namely in the Boot section: Removable HDD, USB flash or another storage device. Try the following options:
- Make sure your HDD is connected to the computer safely. It might make sense to check if the HDD is working properly on another PC. If it is detected correctly in the BIOS there you need to replace your PC's cable.
- Here you have to read your motherboard manual, especially the section related to diagnostics. It is possible that the section for hard disk detection is in a different section. Also, sometimes manufacturers provide causes and solutions for such problems in their documentation.
- If BIOS does not see the USB flash drive, it is likely that it does not support newer USB sticks, or does not support booting from a USB stick at all.
- Sometimes it is possible that the hard drive is not detected in the BIOS due to a failure. For information on how to repair HDD and how to diagnose the failure please refer to our HDD repair guide: How to repair HDD?
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Here we have covered some basic ways to repair your system via BIOS by formatting it via the Windows bootable disc shell. Let us now proceed to answering the readers' questions.
Frequently asked questions
How to recover BIOS?
Failure of BIOS is a very serious error and may be almost impossible to recover by simple methods. The reason is that BIOS is essentially a chip inside the motherboard. If it is damaged, its functionality can be restored only by replacing that very chip on the motherboard. This is quite an expensive operation. The best way to restore the BIOS is to replace the motherboard completely. This method has two evident advantages:
- You upgrade (upgrade) your computer acquiring a more modern motherboard
- You quickly get your PC back in working order
The disadvantage of replacing the BIOS along with the motherboard is the replacement cost of the component. However if you have not caused BIOS failure through no fault of your own you may return the board to the service center under warranty for free repair.
The BIOS does not see the Samsung hard disk, it only makes one short beep when you power on the PC. If you connect a second working HDD at the same time as this Samsung HDD, the computer hangs.
The bios may not detect the HDD because it has failed (this may be a mechanical or electronic issue). If there is a speaker attached to your PC's motherboard, it may make a noise to diagnose your HDD's problem.
If possible, check if your hard drive is visible on another computer, but the symptoms may indicate that it is still broken.
The hard drive will attempt to start up when you start the computer, then it beeps and tries to start up again. It does not show up in the BIOS at times. It will not go into the system. My Seagate 500Gb hard drive.
Study the article (Chapter "The hard drive seems to be clicking: What to do".) This issue may not be resolved through software troubleshooting.
Seagate Barracuda. The computer has been through a fire. The processor is alive but the HDD is not detected in the bios. I opened sealed part. When I connect it looks like it's working but the PC can't see it.
Unsealing the HDD is a serious and irreversible error. The disk is sensitive to the smallest particles of dust making it impossible to read the information. Such operations are performed only in a sterile laboratory environment. The only way to recover the data is to contact a data recovery service.
Water was spilled on the laptop keyboard. Immediately unplugged it. Wiped with a cloth and switched back on. The notebook is no longer detected the hard disk. BIOS prompted and no further action.
Go to the BIOS, check if the HDD is listed as a bootable device, if it is available for selection. If yes - try to format it via bootable USB stick. If not, please disassemble the notebook and check if the HDD is connected to the motherboard (providing you have the correct skills, of course).
Other questions from the readers
In one "lovely moment", the 1TB hard disk was not detected, when the bios was loaded. I had to install another one, and installed Windows 7. When I did so, plugged the old drive as a front end drive. Windows recognized it but when I accessed it I could not copy anything from it or it would copy very slowly or writes that there is no such file on the drive. Yet it shows the number of occupied gigabytes. Can it be recovered (photos and Word documents) I need it badly! Try to recover data on the disk using PhotoRec by selecting one of the scanning modes in turn. It also makes sense to check the HDD for bad blocks and other read errors.
I played a game, there were some annoying moments, which resulted in some bumps on the laptop chassis. After about 5-10 minutes the game froze, was not able to call task manager via alt+ctrl+del so I decided to reboot the laptop.
Rebooting the laptop immediately threw me to the bios, what not try to do, the result is the same again throw to the bios ... In the end came to the conclusion that HDD is broken, went to a technician he confirmed it.
I do not know what was the cause of failure, whether it was a shock or overheating. I can say one thing, it is not noisy. Is there any way to recover the disk and the data, or just the data?
An answer . If you have the appropriate interface on your PC, you can connect the HDD to it and try to recover /files through Recuva or a similar program. The mechanical damages cannot be repaired unless you use the Data Extractor UDMA software available only in professional recovery labs.
New hard drive, put it on quick format, over an hour passed, pulled the hard drive out and it became raw format. Can't format, at startup it asks format, I click on yes but format window doesn't open, in my computer I right click and format, also no window opens. I use drive management, nothing happens, remove drive, drive c and drive d come out, cmd chkdsk not working, diskpart also freezes. Bio detects it. What to do?
Answer . Use a professional partition program to partition your hard disk, e.g. Partition Table Doctor. The hard disk structure tools you have listed are also reliable but their functionality is not beyond basic.