Windows Wants To Format My Hard Drive

Just about the worst thing a Windows user can be told is that Windows wants to format one of your hard drives. This is becoming more prevalent with external hard drives, that can not only be told it needs to be formatted, but can disappear altogether. This article is going to cover what to do when your external hard drive either disappears from Windows, or Windows wants to format your external hard drive.

Why Does Windows Want To Format My Hard Drive

There are a lot of reasons why Windows will ask you to format your external hard drive. The one that surprises me the most is when users tell me that THEY re-formatted their hard drive, changing the file system from FAT 32 to NTFS, or some other file system for Mac or Linux. There is no valid reason for re-formatting your external hard drive that outweighs the risks involved. External hard drive manufacturers chose FAT 32 for a lot of reasons, but mainly because of its ability to be recognized by just about every operating system that exists or has ever existed. It is also capable of managing huge partitions and external hard drives are getting larger and larger. Hard drive capacity has gone from being recorded in MB (megabytes) to GB (gigabytes) and now is being measured in TB (terabytes). FAT 32 can handle partitions up to 2 TB and that is huge! If you have that much storage on an external hard drive, it will probably need to have more than 1 partition anyway. In fact most TB devices have multiple hard drives set up in a RAID anyway. The best bet is to look at devices that have at least a RAID 1 and is a mirror.

When Windows want to format our hard drive, you have a couple of options. The first thing you can do is repair the partition using data recovery software like Recover It All. You can grab the demo and learn more about Recover It All here. The other option is hard drive recovery. Feel free to give DTI a call if you have questions about hard drive recovery or need to ask us a question.


  1. Joseph Whitehead says:

    It’s too bad that Microsoft deliberately made it impossible to use XP to format a drive in FAT32 beyond 32GB. Of course If I want to, I can use a little tool that just does the same thing that “Format n: /Q /F:FAT32″ does. The one major problem I had with FAT32 was the 4GB limit. Otherwise it works a lot faster most of the time than more complicated file systems. For the typical use of external drives, it makes sense that most people would want FAT32 anyways – we’re talking about mostly larger files with multimedia content. Home movies, MP3s/iTunes libraries, etc.

    If you can recommend tools to format a drive in XP as FAT32 beyond 32GB, I’m sure the readers will be able to use it when building their own external drives. I can’t remember the name of the one I use right now and since I just had to rebuild my laptop’s OS and applications the name is not really handy. :/

  2. Joseph Whitehead says:

    Here it is:

    Remember folks, there’s no guarantee that this program will work, or even that it won’t do something horrible to you or your stuff. When formatting over 128GB (137GB in marketing numbers), you can’t install many older OSes even if they can read and write to the drive correctly. Heck, some won’t even work past 8GB. If you’re willing to use a utility like this to get around the deliberate bug in Microsoft Windows XP’s format command, then you probably already know what you’re doing. If not, be aware that it takes updates from Microsoft _before_ installing Windows 98 or 2000. If you know what you’re doing, you can put the update into your cabinet files/boot CD for 98. Not exactly simple for a novice. Most will just install Windows 98 to a 7.9GB partition then install the update and resize the partition. Slipstreaming a service pack into Win2K is required in order to get it to install. This is a little easier but requires that you read the instructions on the bottom of the page that you downloaded it from or just get nLite. Unfortunately also, Win9x versions don’t support booting off of a NTFS partition and require some special drivers just to access them.

  3. I have a maxtor x drive they want me to format it but I have files on it that i need

  4. I have a seagate external hard drive with 500gb space and when i connect it to my desktop it shows the drive but asks me if i want to format my drive. I don’t want to because it will erase everything i got. How can i recover all my files back. I also tested my drive and it said its working perfectly but I can’t open it with a pop up saying do you want to format your drive. Please help me with my problem. Thank you.

    • Moe,

      This error is usually that the boot sector of the drive is corrupt, which is a common problem with external drives. You can use data recovery software, like Recover It All Professional (because the drive is more then likely formatted FAT32) scan the drive move all the data off and then format it and move it back. The other option would be for me to remote in to your machine and put the drive back the way it was before this problem started occurring. You can reach me at 727-345-9665 ext 236.

  5. melissa says:

    I have the same problem as Mo… but how do i remove all my files from my external hard drive in order to the re-format it?? i REALLY dont want to lose whats on my drive..

  6. I have the same problem as Moe..Can I fix the problem by using the Recover It All Professional DEMO ? Thanks :)

  7. Hi Jacqui….please I need a bit of help…I too have had a problem with an external HD…WD, help from Westerndigital is not forthcoming at all – in fact they dont even answer.
    I have a 1 T and after I have put it into my PC (Win 7 – 64) it shows the HD to have 4 partitions of strange sizes and the disk is Dynamic, but everything is indicated as healthy.
    I did however try to do a recovery on another machine with EasyRecovery Pro…and no luck at all, I am too nervous to format and try the recover after, is there any means you could help me.



  8. i cant open my laptop.. it tells me that its impossible to open it because the system has been damaged.. what shoud i do? pls help me :(

    • Johan,
      It would be a good idea to pull the hard drive out of the laptop and try hooking it up to another machine to see if you can read the drive at all. If not I would then see about running a recovery piece of software on it like Recover It All Professional.