Disk Preparation
Disk Formatting
After creating partitions, they are formatted..
Disk Preparation

I recommend you read The Right Order section before continuing

In order to understand this section on formatting, read the Boot Disks and Partition Theory menu items first. A disk must be partitioned before it can be formatted. Careful understanding and planning is important before any of these processes can be undertaken.

The way that information is stored on a disk is recorded in the disk's File Allocation Table (FAT). This table is not normally user viewable, but it contains records of files, file sizes and other file details. It is what tells Windows Explorer how to display the contents of any given disk. It is the process of formatting which decides the FAT which will be used.

There are a few different types of FAT or File System, each with slightly different features. You need to know which type of FAT is appropriate to your needs and to the operating system you're planning to use. The last version of pure DOS was 6.22 and this came with a FAT called FAT16 (originally just known as FAT).


Fat16 is not very efficient when it comes to larger partitions and tends to waste a lot of space in the way it stores files. The larger the partition, the more space wastage. In fact, FAT16 cannot recognise partition sizes above 2.1GB and so is only suitable for smaller disks and/or smaller partitions. Fat16's main advantage is that it's pretty universal amongst all the versions of File Allocation Tables and all the other Microsoft operating system FATs can 'see' it. More on this later.


Windows 95b introduced FAT32 which is much more efficient and does not waste file space as much as FAT16 does. In addition, FAT32 is less prone to fragmentation. FAT32 can recognise very large partition sizes and is the FAT of choice with Windows 95b onwards.

A FAT32 hard disk partition cannot be read by a floppy which has been sys-ed from DOS 6.22 however, so it's important to use the Windows 95b or later version of DOS (sometimes referred to as DOS 7) to sys the boot floppy diskette. This will allow it to read both FAT and FAT32 hard disk partitions. Supports disk/partitions up to 2 terabytes (2000 gigabytes).


Windows NT 4.0 uses a file system called NTFS (New Technology File System). NTFS has many benefits including security, fault tolerance, compression and better large partition performance. An NTFS partition cannot be read from a FAT16 or FAT32 partition. For instance if a PC was set up with two primary partitions, one FAT32 and one NTFS, to boot to either Win98 or WinNT respectively, neither OS would be able to see the other's partition. However they would both be able to see a separate logical drive if it was FAT16 formatted.

The maximum partition size for NTFS is 16 exabytes (1 exabyte=1 billion gigabytes). You must run WinNT if you wish to use the NTFS file system. You could install WinNT on a FAT16 partition if you didn't need the security or large partition support features.


The relatively obscure Microsoft/IBM OS2 operating system of a few years ago used a file system called HPFS (High Performance File System). This is no longer supported by WinNT and cannot be read from any of the other file systems, but can read FAT16 partitions.


Windows 2000 (all flavours) is based on Windows NT with some borrowed Win98 features. Win2K uses a new file system called NTFS5. This new file system offers even higher security than NTFS, with additional features such as inbuilt encryption. An added bonus of Win2k is that it can read FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS partitions and can even be installed on a FAT32 partition if security is not an issue.

These are the file systems used by Microsoft operating systems. Operating systems such as Linux, Unix and Apple OSX use their own types of file systems.

So how do I format the hard disk?
Compared to partitioning a disk, the process of formatting a partition is relatively straightforward. Refer to the section on Boot Disks for instructions on how to format a floppy using DOS or Windows. Once you've booted the system to a DOS boot disk, type


- this will format the C: partition, making it ready to receive an operating system and other files.
- A.

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