How to format hard drive on Windows 11

Here are all the ways to format a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD), whether it's an internal storage or external USB drive connected to Windows 11.

Windows 11 format drive

On Windows 11, you can format an internal or external hard drive in multiple ways, and in this guide, you will learn how. When connecting a new hard drive, it’s best to wipe out all the data and apply a file system to allow the operating system to read and write data. If you plan to retire the storage drive, you may want to format it to erase your files to prevent others from accessing your data. Also, the ability to format a drive on Windows 11 can help fix errors and other logical problems.

Although it might seem a tedious process, it’s not, and Windows 11 includes several ways to format a drive using the Settings app, File Explorer, Disk Management, and using commands from Command Prompt and PowerShell.

This guide will teach you the different ways to format an internal or USB external hard drive on Windows 11.

Format hard drive on Windows 11 from Settings

On Windows 11, depending on whether the HDD or SSD already has a partition or not, the format steps will be slightly different.

Format drive with existing partition

To format an internal or external drive with an existing partition on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on System.

  3. Click the Storage tab.

  4. Click on “Advanced storage settings.”

  5. Click the “Disks & volumes” setting.

    Disks & volumes

  6. Select the hard drive from the list.

  7. Click the Properties button.

    Driver properties

  8. Click the Format button.

    Windows 11 drive format option

  9. Confirm a label for the storage drive (as it will appear on File Explorer).

  10. Select the NTFS option for the “File System” setting.

    Format settings

    Quick note: You can also use the FAT32 file system, but if you use the drive exclusively on Windows, it’s recommended to use NTFS.
  11. (Optional) Check the “Enable file and folder compression” option to save space when storing files.

    Quick note: Unless you are storing files that will benefit from compression, you don’t need to enable this feature.
  12. Click the Format option.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 will format the drive and make it available through File Explorer.

Format drive without partition

To format a new drive without a partition, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on System.

  3. Click the Storage tab.

  4. Click on “Advanced storage settings.”

  5. Click the “Disks & volumes” setting.

    Disks & volumes

  6. Select the hard drive.

  7. Select the “Unallocated” space and click the Create volume button.

    Create new volume

  8. Confirm a label for the drive in the “Label” setting.

  9. Select the drive letter to make it available on File Explorer in the “Drive Letter” setting.

  10. Select the NTFS option in the “File System” setting.

    New volume settings

  11. (Optional) Specify how much storage to assign to the drive in the “Size” setting.

  12. (Optional) Click on Advanced.

  13. Check the “Perform a quick format” option. (If you don’t select this option, the operation could take a long time.)

  14. (Optional) Check the “Enable file and folder compression” option to save space when storing files.

  15. Click the Format option.

After you complete the steps, a new partition will be created and formatted using the specified settings.

Format hard drive on Windows 11 from File Explorer

To format an internal or USB drive through File Explorer, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Click on This PC from the left navigation pane.

  3. Under the “Devices and drives” section, right-click the drive, and select the Format option.

    Explorer drive format option

  4. Select the NTFS option in the “File System” setting.

    Explorer format settings

  5. Confirm the drive’s name in the “Volume label” setting.

  6. Check the Quick Format option.

  7. Click the Start button.

Once you complete the steps, the drive will be available in File Explorer.

If the hard drive doesn’t have a partition or drive letter, it won’t appear in File Explorer. In this case, you can use the new “Disks & volumes” settings or the legacy “Disk Management” tool to format the storage.

Format hard drive on Windows 11 from Disk Management

You can format a drive with or without a partition using the legacy Disk Management utility.

Format drive with partition

To format a hard drive with an existing partition with Disk Management, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Disk Management and click the top result to open the app.

  3. Right-click the drive and select the Format option.

    Disk Management format drive option

  4. Confirm the drive’s name in the “Volume label” setting.

  5. Select the NTFS option in the “File System” setting.

    Disk Management format settings

  6. Check the “Perform a quick format” option.

  7. (Optional) Check the “Enable file and folder compression” option to save space when storing files.

  8. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, the existing partition (also referred to as a volume) will be re-formatted, deleting any previous data.

Format drive without partition

If the drive doesn’t have a partition, use the steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Disk Management and click the top result to open the app.

  3. Right-click the drive and select the “New Simple Volume” option.

    New simple volume option

  4. Click the Next button.

  5. (Optional) Specify how much storage to assign to the drive.

    Partition size option

  6. Click the Next button.

  7. Select the “Assign the following driver” option and choose the letter for the drive.

    Assign drive letter on Windows 11

  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Select the “Format this volume with the following settings” option.

  10. Select the NTFS option in the “File System” setting.

    Disk Management format drive settings

  11. Confirm the drive’s name in the “Volume label” setting.

  12. Check the “Perform a quick format” option.

  13. Click the Next button.

  14. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the tool will create a partition and format it using the specified file system.

Format hard drive on Windows 11 from Command Prompt

To format a drive with the Diskpart command-line tool, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to open Diskpart and press Enter:

    diskpart
  4. Type the following command to determine the drive to format and press Enter:

    list disk
  5. Type the following command to select the storage and press Enter:

    select disk 3

    In the command, replace “3” with the number of the flash drive you want to use.

  6. Type the following commands to delete everything from the USB thumb drive and press Enter:

    clean

    Format drive commands

  7. Type the following command to create a primary partition and press Enter:

    create partition primary
  8. Type the following command to select the new partition and press Enter:

    select partition 1
  9. Type the following command to make the selected partition active and press Enter:

    active
  10. Type the following command to make the hard drive bootable and press Enter:

    format FS=NTFS quick
  11. Type the following command to assign a volume and a drive letter for the USB flash drive and press Enter:

    assign letter=X

    In the command, change “X” for any available letter you want to use.

  12. Type the following command to quit the tool and press Enter:

    exit

After completing the steps, the drive will be erased, formatted, and mounted with the specified drive letter.

Format hard drive on Windows 11 from PowerShell

To format a hard drive with PowerShell commands on Windows 11, use the steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for PowerShell, right-click the result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to identify the drive to repair and press Enter:

    Get-Disk
  4. Type the following command to wipe out the drive on Windows 11 and press Enter:

    Get-Disk 3 | Clear-Disk -RemoveData

    In the above command, change “3” with the disk number of the drive you want to format (see step 3). If you specify the number incorrectly, you could wipe out the wrong drive causing data loss.

  5. Type A to confirm that you want to wipe the specified drive and press Enter.

  6. Type the following command to initialize the disk with the default GUID Partition Table (GPT) partition scheme and press Enter:

    Initialize-Disk -Number 3

    In the above command, change “3” with the disk number of the drive you want to format (see step 3).

    Important: Although it’s recommended to use a GPT partition scheme, if required, you can use the Master Boot Record (MBR) scheme using this command: Initialize-Disk -Number 1 -PartitionStyle MBR.
  7. Type the following command to format and create a new partition on the drive, and press Enter:

    New-Partition -DiskNumber 3 -UseMaximumSize | Format-Volume -FileSystem NTFS -NewFileSystemLabel myDrive

    In the above command, change “3” with the disk number of the drive you want to format on Windows 11 and “myDrive” with the name to use for the storage.

  8. Type the following command to assign a drive letter to the disk drive and press Enter:

    Get-Partition -DiskNumber 3 | Set-Partition -NewDriveLetter H

    In the above command, change “3” with the disk number of the drive you want to format and “H” with the letter to assign to the storage. If you get the “Set-Partition: The requested access path is already in use” error message, run the command one more time or specify a different drive letter.

    PowerShell format hard drive

Once you complete the steps, the PowerShell commands will delete the current partition and create a new one with the file system and drive letter you specified.