Does Formatting a Hard Drive Completely Erase All Data?

Before you draw any conclusion, let us tell you that this is not a straight “Yes”, or, “No” question. Consider a scenario –

You have decided to resell your computer and are all set to format your hard drive. Or, you are handing over an external hard drive to a friend of yours that has some personal data that you want to delete before giving the drive to your friend. You decide to format the hard drive.

Before you do that, think about this – Will formatting the hard drive completely erase your data? If you format your hard drive will it delete everything in a way that the next user will not be able to recover anything?

In this post, we’ll touch upon the basics as well as some advanced concepts. We’ll talk about what is hard drive formatting. What happens when you format a hard drive? Can you recover data deleted by formatting and if yes, how? And, many more such things.

When Do You Need To Format A Hard Drive?

You might want to format your hard drive for multiple reasons. Let’s quickly enlist some of those –

  • Change file system to NYFS/ exFAT/ FAT32, etc.
  • Delete all saved data.
  • Change the operating system.
  • Get rid of malware, spyware, virus, or any other malicious threat.

What Happens When You Format A Hard Drive?

Formatting is prepping your storage device to store information. It could be your hard drive, SSD, USB drive, etc

When you format a hard drive, what you are doing is removing the pointers to the data as the partition table is either rebuilt or cleared. It is these pointers help your operating system to understand the data so that it is easy for you to access files. When the partition table is cleared or rebuilt, it is ready to accept new data.

This is where the interesting part comes in. When old data is replaced with new data, it is called overwriting. Until the point, when “Overwriting” didn’t happen, a data recovery tool might be capable of retrieving data. However, once the overwriting is done, it is impossible for a data recovery tool to recover data.

Since we are talking about recovering data and in case you are stuck in a position where you wish to retrieve important files (provided they are recoverable), you can use a data recovery tool like Advanced Disk Recovery. It can help you recover data from all data loss scenarios such as hard drive formatting, virus attack, accidental deletion, etc.

Want to see it in action? Here is a detailed demo of how Advanced Disk Recovery can help you retrieve accidentally lost documents, videos, photos, audio files, and much more.


How To Format A Hard Drive – The Normal Way

There are multiple ways to format a hard drive. We have discussed all these ways in this post. For example, you can format the disk that you wish to by using the steps mentioned below –

1. Navigate to My PC.

2. Right-click on the drive that you wish to format and click on the Format.

3. Assign a File System, change the Allocation unit size, and assign a name.

new volume

4. Click on Start

How To Format A Hard Drive In A Way That Data Is Not Recoverable?

Formatting a hard drive means you are quickly deleting the data or resetting the file system but there is still a possibility of recovering the data. This is where the concept of wiping off the data comes into play. When you wipe off the data or shred the files using such techniques it is impossible to recover the data.

If you are willing to completely wipe off your data, we’ll first urge you to take a backup elsewhere since wiping off implies the files and folders will be gone forever. Next, refer to this post on how you can wipe off your hard drive to see how you can erase data in a way that is irrecoverable.

We have also covered a concept called “low-level formatting” where we have talked about tools that pack up storage spaces with zero values. If that interests you, do check out this post.

Writer’s Tip

Looking for an even easier way to wipe off the hard disk so that no matter how skilled a person is at hacking or no matter what tool is used, no one will be able to recover data. You can bring into force a tool like EaseUS Partition Master. Let’s see this tool in action and how it can help you in wiping off data. 

What Would You Choose – “Formatting” Or “Completely Erasing” Files?

Yes! Formatting has its share of advantages but if you are someone who is handing over a hard drive and is worried that the existing data can be exploited, go ahead with measures that can help you completely erase or rather wipe off data. If you second us, do let us know in the comments section below. For more such tech-related information, keep reading WeTheGeek. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and  Pinterest.

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