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Formatting Your Hard Drive

The Format command is called from an MS-DOS prompt and has several options or switches that can be used with it during the format process. Some of these options or switches are for formatting any type of disk regardless of whether it is a floppy disk or a hard drive. A few of them are for removable media (floppy disks) only. Here, we will only be focusing on those switches or options you will use to Format a hard drive. Many times it is difficult, when viewing a web page, to determine where spaces are between characters (letters) and words. We will demonstrate what is referred to as MS-DOS syntax by showing you the correct way to call for the Format command and any switches and then show you the spaces between letters and words by inserting an underscore "_".

As an example, when you see: FORMAT C:

there is a space between the word FORMAT and the C: as in FORMAT_C:


In most situations, there is only one switch that you will use, the /S switch, to transfer the system files to your freshly formatted hard drive.

As an example, at the MS-DOS prompt a:\>, your format command would typically look like this:


As this would cause the drive to be formatted and the system files transferred from the floppy disk to the hard drive to make it bootable (able to start).

Note the space between the word format and the drive letter and switch c: as this is necessary!

In this instance, after you have partitioned the drive and made the "C" drive active, you would then, with the Startup floppy in floppy drive, type the following:

a:\>format c:                             and then touch <enter>


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Once the format command has started, you will see a number of messages on screen, such as:

Checking existing disk format

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(This is a verification that the drive (media) is ready to be formatted)

Verifying xxxxx

(This is a verification of either the entire drive size or partition size depending upon how you have configured your hard drive)

xx Percent complete

(This counter will show you the percentage of completion as the format process takes place)

Format complete.

(This notification should be somewhat obvious, in that it informs you that the format process has completed.

If, however, the format halts for any reason at this stage, it is normally an indicator that there is something wrong with the drive.
If this occurs, and the drive is new, you should contact your supplier, and if the drive is beyond the warranty period, it may need to be replaced.

System transferred.

(This is a notification that the system files, those files necessary to make the drive bootable or able to start on its own, have been transferred from the floppy to the hard drive)

Volume label (11 characters, ENTER for none)

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(This enables you to name the specific partition or drive in order for you to identify it should you need to from within Windows.

xxxxxx bytes total disk space

(This is a notification of the total disk (or partition) space in bytes)

xxxxxx bytes available on disk

(After accounting for space allocated to bad clusters on the drive as well as space allocated for system boot files, this informs you of the net available space in bytes that you can use)

xxx bytes in each allocation unit

(Depending upon how you have partitioned your hard drive and whether you have used FAT 16 or FAT 32, this will indicate the final number of bytes in the respective allocation unit. An allocation unit is a cluster)

xxxxxxx allocation units available on disk.

(This indicates the total number of allocation units or clusters across the entire disk or partition)

Volume serial number is XXXX-XXXX

(This is a random serial number designated by the MS-DOS format process)

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