Formatting a computer’s hard drive involves completely erasing all of the data, so that new data can be added or corrupted data can be restored. You can format either parts of a hard drive, called partitions, or the entire drive. This process can usually be done from an operating system, as long as the hard drive being formatted does not contain the operating system itself. There are also several boot utilities that can format hard drives- these are programs that load before the computer runs the primary drive that can format the primary hard drive. Regardless of how you choose to format your hard drive, there are several reasons to do so, and several benefits of a clean sweep.
One of the indications that it might be time to wipe your hard drive is if your computer is starting to slow down- while upgrading hardware can speed up your computer, one possible problem is that your computer’s primary hard drive might be close to full. The reason a full hard drive can slow your computer is simple; the operating system of the computer creates temporary files and data on the hard drive in order to function. If there is no room on the hard drive, it slows the operating system significantly. So formatting the hard drive after backing up crucial files to make more room could speed up a slow computer.
Another possible reason to format a hard drive or hard drive partition is because you want to install a new operating system. Each partition of a hard drive, or each single-volume hard drive can only contain one boot sector and therefore only boot one operating system. So if you are trying to switch operating systems, you should back up all of your files before installing the new one, because most operating system installations require a formatted hard drive or hard drive partition.
Another reason to format a hard drive is if you are planning on selling your computer or throwing out an old hard drive. This is because there could be sensitive information on your hard drive, such as passwords or downloaded personal information, that you wouldn’t want anyone else getting their hands on. There are programs that not only perform a standard formatting of a hard drive, but also make sure that there is no way the data can be restored. These programs are your best option when considering selling your computer or throwing out an old hard drive.
Overall, there are several reasons and benefits to formatting your computer’s hard drive. It is not something to be done often- it is a lengthy process to format a hard drive, and it takes effort to restore backed-up files- but if your computer is slow or you are getting rid of old storage, it is a handy procedure to make sure that your computer lasts or that your information stays safe.