How to Format a Hard Drive With Windows XP

By Jay White

May 2, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Even though tech giant Microsoft has tried to convince users of Windows XP to upgrade to modern operating systems, there seems to be a certain reticence to do so. In March 2015, Windows XP was the most common operating system installed in desktop computers around the world, and that statistic was mostly limited to Internet-connected computers.

Thousands of business enterprises around the world that still use Windows XP; many of these companies are in the financial and retail sectors, but these systems are not normally to the Internet, which means that the Windows XP footprint around the world could be greater than estimated. In fact, it can be expected that many XP users will probably upgrade and repurpose their systems by taking them offline.

Old Windows XP desktops and laptops can be turned into offline media centers for a family room, play computers for a child’s bedroom, recipe holders for the kitchen, etc. The first step in repurposing a Windows XP computer is to reformat the hard drive, and this is how it should be done:

1 – Formatting a hard drive involves defining partitions, deleting information, setting up a file system, and installing an operating system. Users who wish to keep data and information that is locally stored should first use a backup utility that will save their digital content in the cloud or in offline storage media.

2 – Assuming that Windows XP is already installed on hardware that features a CD drive, an easy option is to insert the Windows XP boot and setup CD if it is available. The CD offers point-and-click prompts that guide users through the formatting and installation process.

3 – The alternative to the setup CD is to the Windows XP Disk Management utility, which can be accessed by clicking on the Start Menu, followed by Control Panel, Administrative Tools, and then Computer Management. Once Disk Management is open, users must select the drive that is to be formatted; oftentimes the drive that is labeled C: cannot be formatted in this fashion because that is where Windows XP is installed.

4 – To format hard drives other than C:, simply right-click the drive icon and select “Format.” There will be an option to assign a name to the drive, otherwise Windows XP will automatically label it New Volume. The choice of file system will almost invariably be NTFS unless there is a specific need to select FAT32.

5 – The Allocation Unit Size option should be left as Default, and the Quick Format option should be ignored. Users have to acknowledge that all data will be lost after clicking OK twice. How long the process will take will depend on the size of the disk.

In the end, the best option is to allow a Windows XP installation CD to format a hard drive. The same goes for users who wish to install a different operating system on their old machines; they should use installation CDs or USB flash drives.

Jay White

I started Dumb Little Man many years ago so great authors, writers and bloggers could share their life "hacks" and tips for success with everyone. I hope you find something you like!

Getting Started with Forex

Other Dating Guide

Individual Reviews