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Thread: Completely format hard drive with no OS...

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Completely format hard drive with no OS...

    Hi guys.

    I have a hard disk that I wish to completely format (ie back to as if bought new) It I think has two partitions on it, as there was at one stage Windows and linux installed on it. However...

    I do not have windows or linux on a cd, so cannot format via running any OS. If preferable, I also want to re-partition the hard drive to how it would come new (I assume just 1 big partition). Windows is installed, but it is a corrupt version, and I cannot access anything not in safe mode.

    So is there a way of doing this? Even if there is a program that is expensive, let me know anyway in case a freind has a copy. If you need any more details, i can fill you in.

    \"Get busy livin\', or get busy dyin\'...\" Come visit www.computer-tutorials.org

  2. #2
    AOs Resident Troll
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Windows 98 boot floopy should do it using fdisk...Or there are utilities from the hardrive manufactrers that will low level format....

    I am not sure of low level format and IDEs though....never did it....not sure if it fubars the disk or not.

    How people treat you is their karma- how you react is yours-Wayne Dyer

  3. #3
    Maybe give this App a Go..

    Click Here.!

    Just download the free version. and give it a go, i used it a few times before and haven't had any problems with it as of yet..


  4. #4
    Senior Member nihil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    United Kingdom: Bridlington

    My preferred method would be to connect it as a slave to a working machine an format it from there. That way I can run diagnostics, which is generally a good idea with second hand kit?

    Boot disks can be found here:


    If you go that way I would still run diagnostics.................you don't want to start life with a problem?

  5. #5
    Jaded Network Admin nebulus200's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    I was wanting to say you could do this with Knoppix but couldn't remember what the binary was called. A quick google search turned up:


    Using Knoppix (free download/install: http://www.knoppix.org/
    And the info from the above referenced page:
    Shred is part of the GNU Core Utilities
    I run shred under Knoppix 3.9
    # shred -n 2 -z -v /dev/hdxy

    -n 2 Overwrite the partition 2 times with random data
    -z Finish with one pass writing of zeroes
    -v Show it's progress

    Change x to reflect the IDE drive number (ie /dev/hda)
    Change y if needed for a particular partition (ie /dev/hda1)
    Be careful !!
    # shred -n 2 -z -v /dev/hda will shred all of the first IDE hard disk
    # shred -n 2 -z -v /dev/hda1 will shred only the first primary partition of the first IDE hard disk
    Not sure of the quality of the program, but it would do essentially what you want and that is to overwrite the disk with random data a few times to remove any easy chance of recovering data through forensic utilities and doesn't require that you have any other OS boot disk.

    Also note, I did see a few articles about doing this with dd using different devices as input/output to essentially do the same thing (for example: Here

    To me either of these is better than installing an OS which WILL NOT NECESSARILY destroy the data on the hdd and will also avoid any issues with filesystem types (like for example, if you tried to use fdisk from win98 on a Win2k/WinXP system with NTFS).
    There is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action. Reaction. Cause and effect...There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the 'why'. 'Why' is what separates us from them, you from me. 'Why' is the only real social power, without it you are powerless.

    (Merovingian - Matrix Reloaded)

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    cheers guys for the feedback.

    the good thing for meis that as there is nothing on it, I guess I cant really mess anything up too much! The laptop i have only has 10gig hard drive, so what would you guys sugest using OS wise? I did have Win XP, but to be honest there was very little space and it ran REALLY slow.

    On second thoughts, I got my free copy of 'Ubuntu' through the post today, so might put that on!

    \"Get busy livin\', or get busy dyin\'...\" Come visit www.computer-tutorials.org

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Here's what I do. I normally go to the manufacturers website and use whatever utility they provide. That way, you can do diagnostics on it with the manufacturers tools and if you feel like sitting around for a while you can low level format it and write zeros over everything.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Raion's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    New York, New York
    I don't see why you would want to do this if you don't have an OS to install back on the Harddrive. The only probable reason would be that you have another HD that has an OS on it and you want to use this HD for storage.

    If that is the case, then you can just set that hard drive as slave, go into the command prompt (cmd in Windows XP, not sure about Linux but if my memory serves me right, you just have to click the command prompt icon on the start menu but idk if the command I'm going to tell you works in linux) and type format <drive letter>, replace <drive letter> with the letter of the SLAVE drive (the one you want to format) so for example, if it was E: the drive letter, you would type "format e:" in command prompt (without the quotes).

    However, if that is not the case, as I mentioned, I don't see the point in doing this because all you'll have is a formatted hard drive, with no operating system to work with since you have no CDs. My opinion would be to buy the Windows XP CD or download a free flavor of linux (not sure if they're some you have to pay for), or get that flavor of linux that they send you it free by mail.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Pacific Northwest

    Good recommendation about the mfg's sites and tools, however the low level format part.....

    Originally posted here by killerbeesateme
    ...you can low level format it...
    High-Level Formatting: This is the "format" or meaning that flows off the tongues of most. It creates the logical structures on the HDD and makes the disk ready to place the OS near the first sector. Completed after creating volumes (partitioning) on the HDD.

    Low-Level Formatting: Creates the actual physical structures on the HDD. Done only once at the manufacturer because of the complex nature of the structures on the modern drives. The older drives had the same number of sectors on the outer tracks as they did on the inner tracks. With the advance in technology we now have more sectors on the outer tracks than the inner ones. Google "Zoned Bit Recording" for an explanation. I would question any utility that claims it can complete a low-level format of a HDD while it's on your computer. The drive controllers will laugh at the futile effort because they are designed not to allow it. Additionally, if it could be done, it would erase the "servos" on the tracks and the poor HDD Head would take a vacation because it wouldn't know where to go to find the tracks. It may well be just a remapper.

    There are some utilities that claim they can repair/regenerate the bad sector without damaging the logical structures. One I know of has a Free Trial (will assist with the first bad sector). Additionally it claims to be able to detect the different type of sector faults as well.

    HDD Regenerator 1.42
    Connection refused, try again later.

  10. #10
    Senior Member nihil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    United Kingdom: Bridlington
    Relyt is correct, you cannot "low level format" a modern HDD without screwing it.

    Why don't you just stick the Ubuntu disk into it and let it reformat the drive?

    Otherwise, with a box with a 10Gb drive I would be inclined to look at Windows 2000 or even Win98SE. It cannot have much in the way of RAM and CPU?

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