[How To] Format Hard Drive From Bios

Normally, people want to know if they can format a hard drive from BIOS when they are unable to access their operating system. Or, alternatively, they may want to format the drive on which their operating system is located.

Normally, formatting a hard drive is not that difficult. From Windows Disk Management you can select the drive you’d like to format and then follow a relatively simple process to format it. If you can’t access the operating system or you are trying to format the drive on which the operating system is located, then this is not possible.

This is usually when people ask whether they can format a hard drive from BIOS.

What is BIOS?

BIOS is firmware that is installed on the motherboard of your computer. It exists to initialize hardware during the booting process and provides runtime services to operating systems and programs.

How do I format a hard drive from BIOS?

Unfortunately, you can’t really use BIOS itself to format the hard drive. There are some things you can do instead, though. This article will tell you what to do.

What you should do is boot to BIOS and from there, you should format your hard drive using another method.

Data loss

If you don’t know already, formatting a hard drive will sometimes completely erase all of its contents. You should always try to create a copy of any data that you would like to keep before formatting it.

If it’s not possible to do that, sometimes data can be recovered. We have provided some basic instructions on how to recover lost data after formatting a hard drive at the end of this article. Data recovery normally requires the use of third-party software and isn’t always successful.

If you’re just trying to format a new hard drive

If you’re just trying to format a new hard drive and don’t need to know how to format a drive from BIOS, then go to our last section on formatting a new hard drive.

How to boot to BIOS

All of the following processes will require you to boot to BIOS during the boot-up process in order to format the hard drive from BIOS. The boot-up process is when you’re computer starts either after it’s turned on or after a restart.

While your computer is starting up you will have to press a key during the boot-up process. A message will display on the screen telling you which key to press. The message will read something like:

‘Press F2 to access BIOS’

‘Press <DEL> to enter setup’

The necessary key may be another key, such as F10, F12, F1 or escape.

After you press it you will be taken to BIOS.

Option #1: Format from a disk or USB (Windows 7 or 8)

Before you do this you will need to create a hard disk or create a bootable USB stick with either Windows or another installation media saved to it. You will have to do this using another computer. This CD DVD or USB flash stick is what you will use to format your hard drive. You can buy a CD DVD disk or bootable USB stick if you aren’t able to create a bootable form of media yourself.

Remember to check whether the computer you are trying to format the hard drive on will need a USB stick or a disk.

You can download Windows from the Microsoft website.

With Windows

If you want to format your hard drive and make a fresh Windows installation using a USB flash drive or hard disk, here are the instructions.

  1. Insert your USB stick or hard disk into your computer. If it is a hard disk this may require you to turn your computer on. You can insert the disk into the CD DVD drive and then turn off your computer
  2. Start your computer and press the appropriate key (s) to take you to BIOS settings
  3. Look for Boot Priority Options
  4. Set your hard disk or USB flash drive as the highest boot priority
  5. Restart your computer
  6. Select your language, time and currency format, and keyboard, and then click next
  7. You will encounter a Windows screen
  8. Follow the prompts until you get to a page asking if you want an Upgrade Install or a Custom Install
  9. Choose Custom Install
  10. On the next page, we recommend that you choose System Partition. You are able to choose Custom Partitions if you want
  11. Click Format Now and follow the prompts
  12. Allow the format hard drive process to finish

Your hard drive should now be formatted with a fresh Windows installation.

Without Windows

If you want to format your hard drive from another media in order to completely wipe it, the process is very similar.

  1. Follow the steps above for formatting with Windows until you have rebooted your computer with your media connected
  2. After you restart, a set of commands will appear on the screen
  3. Use the commands to choose a hard drive to format
  4. Remove any partitions that you wish to remove
  5. Create a new system partition for this hard drive. If you are unfamiliar with partitions you should learn about them before attempting this
  6. You will also be asked to choose how to format it. You will have a choice of either NTFS or FAT. If you are unfamiliar with this you should also learn about this before making a choice. Generally, NTFS is better for exchanging information with other Windows computers and FAT is better for exchanging information with computers that do not use Windows
  7. Choose Format Hard Drive
  8. Click OK and allow the format hard drive process to finish

Your hard drive should now be formatted and completely wiped.

Option #2: Format using Command Prompt and a hard disk or USB (Windows 10)

If you are on Windows 10 the best way to format the hard drive from BIOS is by using Command Prompt. Once again, you will need to either create or buy a CD DVD disk or bootable USB stick with Windows or another installation media saved to it.

Using Command Prompt

  1. Insert your USB stick or hard disk into your computer. If it is a hard disk this may require you to turn your computer on. You can insert the disk into the CD DVD drive and then turn off your computer
  2. Start your computer and press the appropriate key (s) to take you to BIOS
  3. Look for Boot Priority Options
  4. Set your hard disk or USB flash drive as the highest boot priority
  5. Restart your computer
  6. Select your language, time and currency format, and keyboard, and then click next
  7. A Windows screen will open
  8. Choose Repair. Do not choose Install Now
  9. Go to Troubleshoot and then to Advanced Options
  10. Open the Command Prompt
  11. Type the following commands into Command Prompt, pressing enter after each one: ‘Diskpart’ ‘List volume’ ‘Exit’ and ‘Dir F:’
  12. This should display Windows as being in directory F. If it is not displayed, try replacing the ‘F’ in the above commands with ‘C’ or ‘D’. Do this until you locate Windows. This is important for the next step
  13. When you know where Windows is, type the following command and press enter: ‘format X: /fs:ntfs’. Replace the X with the location of your hard drive, So either ‘F’, ‘C’ or ‘D’. ‘i.e F: /fs:ntfs’
  14. You will receive a warning message that you may lose data if you proceed. Type ‘Y’ and hit enter

This should do a format hard drive with a system partition for Windows and a fresh Windows installation.

Recover data

If you need to recover important data from a hard drive that you have formatted, make sure that you don’t store any data on it after the format hard drive process. This will minimize the chances of it being overwritten. This is the most important thing to remember after you finish the format hard drive process.

You should then find some third party software that will enable you to recover the data.

Recommended software:

  • RePicvid
  • Recuva
  • PhotoRec

The format hard drive process doesn’t always mean that you will lose data, but it’s much better to find a way to store important data somewhere else before you format a hard drive. This can sometimes be done on a USB drive or a CD DVD disk.

How to format a new hard drive

If you are just trying to find out how to format a new hard drive, rather than how to do it from BIOS, here are the instructions. Whenever you install a new hard drive on Windows you have to go through the format hard drive process before you can use it.

How to format a hard drive with an existing partition

If the hard drive you want to format already has a system partition, you can use this partition to format it.

  1. Search for Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions in the Search Bar
  2. Click on Disk Management 
  3. Right-click on the hard drive and go to Format
  4. In the Value field, type a name for the hard drive
  5. Go to the File system drop-down menu and select NTFS or FAT
  6. Go to the Allocation unit size drop-down menu and select Default
  7. Click on Perform a Quick Format
  8. Untick the Enable File and Folder Compression tick box
  9. Click next and then click OK

If your hard drive does not have a partition you will have to find out how to create a partition first before you can format it.