Formatting winXP HD with CD, not 100% affective

  Goatee 00:53 06 Jan 2003
  Goatee 00:53 06 Jan 2003


As you may be aware, it is very easy to format your HD with the WinXP cd as you can simply boot from the cd and choose to reinstall the OS and it does everything for you. Right?

Well, I've read that there is evidence to suggest that it doesn't always completely clear your HD if you use the above method.

Its been a while since I properly formatted a HD. So could someone please explain how to properly and unconditionally format a HD so its ready to just pop the WinXP CD in.

Thanking U

  Harry 01:19 06 Jan 2003

Hey Goatee, you may be spot on. I installed win xp on my friends computer earlier today. I installed the cd while running win me and and chose to fresh install instead of upgrade. The whole install went well, untill i went in to the C:programmes folder and found that most of the programmes were there from winME and i didnt install them on win XP. I want to reformat the drive with XP on it and reinstall. How do i do it? Help would be appreciated.

  slightlymad 01:21 06 Jan 2003

This is exactly what I'd like to know, Goatee, so I'll be following your thread with interest. Take a look at click here - it seems that you need a Win98 boot disk, from which you can enter the "format c:" command, then go on to "setup".

The same site also says that you can make an XP boot disk: "In Windows XP, put a blank disk in the floppy drive then double click the "My Computer" icon on the Windows desktop. Next click the floppy disk drive to select it. On the File menu, click Format and then check off "Create an MS-DOS startup disk", and then click Start." I'm wondering if this will serve the same function...

So, not a complete answer to your question, but I'm hoping more experienced members will be able to shed more light on the procedure.

  Goatee 01:49 06 Jan 2003

Thanks for your replies :)

Right, the MS DOS disk should work. However I do have a query about the format command that is used - format c:
Although this will do the job, I've heard sometime ago that its better to type - format c:/u (the 'u' meaning unconditional I believe).
What I don't know is what difference the 'u' makes. Is it really necessary?

If someone could provide further clarification, it would be much appreciated.


  DieSse 02:10 06 Jan 2003

You can format directly from the CD - it's just the same as any other format. When you format, all previous information on the partition is lost (NOT erased - Hard Drives don't erase).

if you want to return your HDD to the state it was in when it left the factory - do a "Zero Fill" (also sometimes, wrongly, called a low level format). All HDD manufacturers have such a program for their own drives, on the web site.

Most HDD manufacturers utility ptograms will Zero Fill, Partition, and Format too.

  dez fowler 02:16 06 Jan 2003

The /u means unformat and it will save any unformat information on the drive

sounds like you may have updated by accident anyway as the format has never left any data on the drive in my experience so try that one again

unfortunately i dont think creating a boot disk in windows then booting to that will work as i dont think windows XP has a setup program which can be run in DOS

it does however allow you to boot the computer from the CD and i think this is your only option provided you have tried installing through windows

one problem with this is that you CD drive may not be allowed to be booted from in your systems bios in which case you need to change the line specifying the device to boot from
from: A, HDD (which it will most likely be)
to: A, CDROM, HDD (or something similar making sure CDROM comes before HDD).

If you have two or more CD drives and only one appears in the boot from list then try the CD in all, one will be working

If you dont think you're up to all this technical giggery pokery then get someone who is to do it for you

good luck

  DieSse 02:20 06 Jan 2003


Format command options

click here

Note when I siad HDDs don't erase data - that's strictly accurate - what is done to remove data is to overwrite with other data (0's for instance))

  DieSse 02:21 06 Jan 2003

That's actually the opposite of what /u does - if you use /u you cannot unformat a drive - see the link above.

  Goatee 02:41 06 Jan 2003

Good stuff, thank you.

Like I said before, there is apparantly some evidence to suggest that the XP installer program does not wipe the drive completely.

Therefore, formatting using the appropriate command in DOS would be the more reliable option. And it appears that the /u command would also be the cleaner option to rid the drive of every byte. Right?

So, apparantly a win98 boot disk will work to achieve the above on an XP system. Can anyone verify this?

I do have another problem to contend with if I want to carry out an unconditional format. I accessed MS DOS using a MS DOS boot disk created in XP. I then tried to access my cd drive - D: or E:, but both were invalid. What is stopping me from accessing these drives?

Thanks again :)

  Goatee 03:10 06 Jan 2003

OK, I think this is:

I downloaded the Windows XP Custom Install Disk from click here . Its near the bottom of the page. I then booted from this disk and it told me that my cdrw drive was drive R: and my DVD drive was drive S: (odd me thinks, but there you go). So just to make sure I type S:/dir and sure enough there was the contents of my XP CD. Great! I think I am now ready to format c:/u. But first I should remove all cards except the graphics card, Right?

Would anyone care to download the Windows XP Custom Install Disk (link above) and give it a whirl to assure me that its going to do the job? Would be greatly appreciated as I always like to be 100% sure.

Cheers :D

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