ARCHIVED: In Windows 95, 98, or Me, how do I partition and format a new hard drive?

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Note: UITS recommends that you use a current version of Windows on computers connected to the Indiana University network; see Recommended Windows operating systems at IU.

Warning: Do not attempt this procedure unless you have a fairly high level of computer literacy. Following these instructions incorrectly could result in the loss of data or cause your computer not to work properly.

Prepare a Windows startup disk before you begin. This will be a necessary part of the process. It will also be useful in an emergency. For information on how to create this disk, see the Knowledge Base document ARCHIVED: In Windows 95, 98, or Me, how do I make a startup (system recovery) disk?

The procedure below assumes that you have installed the new hard drive correctly, and that it is set up as the slave drive (i.e., the second hard drive). See the documentation that came with your new hard drive for instructions on how to install and configure the drive physically.

Note: New hard drives will often come with disk management software. It's usually better not to use this software, but to use FDISK, which comes with DOS and Windows. The use of FDISK is described later in this document.

The first hard drive should be set up as master. Consult your hard drive documentation about the jumper settings. Drives can be configured as master, slave, or only drive. If a drive occupies an IDE channel by itself (some computers can have more than one IDE channel), it should be set up as an only drive. If there are two drives on an IDE channel, one must be set as master, the other as slave. Only the master can be the boot disk.

Setting up the drive parameters in the CMOS setup

You must tell the computer that a new hard drive has been added. In addition, the new drive's geometry must be registered with the computer's CMOS setup (sometimes called the BIOS). In most cases, as the computer boots, it will prompt you to press a certain key or key combination to get into the CMOS. Upon starting the computer, press the appropriate key when prompted to enter the CMOS setup program.

CMOS setup programs differ depending on the brand of BIOS. All of them have a screen where you can set drive parameters. Most current CMOS setup programs can auto-detect the hard drive's geometry, so you usually will not have to input the drive parameters (cylinders, heads, and sectors). If you are installing a drive larger than 500MB, make sure that LBA or Large mode is turned on before you do the auto-detect. You may not have to set this option on newer computers. However, if you have an older motherboard that does not support LBA mode, you may not be able to use all of the space on the drive.

After entering the necessary information or allowing auto-detect, exit the CMOS setup and allow the computer to boot from the old hard drive (which is set as master).

Partitioning the new hard drive

Before partitioning the hard drive, decide how you are going to divide the drive (in either FAT16 or FAT32). For more information on which file system to use, see the Knowledge Base documents ARCHIVED: What is FAT32? and ARCHIVED: What does cluster size mean when referring to hard drives? Remember, since modern applications and operating systems consist of a large number of small files, a large minimum cluster size can waste a significant amount of hard drive space. Another thing to note is the maximum limit of the partition sizes with either file system. With FAT16, there is a 2GB size limit for drives or virtual drives. FAT32 extends this limit to 4 terabytes.

FDISK will allow you to create, on each physical drive, one Primary DOS partition and one Extended DOS partition. In addition, the Extended DOS partition may be further subdivided into several virtual drives. Decide how many virtual drives you wish to make on the new hard drive. If you have a 2.5GB drive, for instance, and you will be using FAT16, in the interests of efficiency, you can make the Primary DOS partition 1023MB, using the remainder of the drive as the Extended DOS partition. Then, make two virtual drives on the Extended partition, the first being 1023MB and the second the remainder of the space (about 500MB).

Note: If you are using Windows 95 OSR2 or Windows 98, FDISK will ask if you want to enable Large Disk Support. This is for the purpose of installing FAT32. FAT32 is not compatible with DOS or Windows NT, so if you plan to dual-boot with another operating system, do not enable Large Disk Support.

Note: It is possible to use FAT32 to run Windows 98 or Windows 95 OSR2 in a dual-boot situation with Windows 2000 Professional. Be aware, though, that almost all of the security features of NTFS are not available with FAT32, just as they are not with FAT16.

To run FDISK, click Start and select Programs, then MS-DOS Prompt. At the C: prompt, enter:


Then follow these instructions:

  1. Switch the Current Fixed Disk to 2. This is very important.
  2. Display the current partition information. If the drive has never been partitioned and/or formatted, you can proceed with creating partitions. If, however, the drive has already been partitioned, you may have to delete the partitions in order to create new ones.

    Warning: Deleting a partition on a hard drive will destroy whatever information has been stored on that partition.

  3. Create a Primary DOS partition. This will become the D: drive. If necessary, create an Extended DOS partition, and make one or more virtual drives. The first virtual drive will become the E: drive, unless the first disk has more than one partition, in which case, the virtual drives on the first disk take precedence.

    For instance, if there is one virtual drive on the Extended DOS partition on the first disk, that virtual drive will be the E: drive, and the first virtual drive on the second disk will become the F: drive. In any case, before formatting any drive, make sure that it is not one of the virtual drives on the first disk.

  4. Exit FDISK by pressing the Esc key.
  5. Reboot the computer to activate the new partition.
  6. Format each of the new drives. If you are eventually going to replace your primary hard disk with the new disk, then make sure you use the /s parameter when you format the Primary DOS partition, e.g., the D: drive. For example, from the command line, enter:
      format d: /s
      format f:

If you are interested in simply using the drive as extra storage, then you are finished. If you intend to replace the old drive with the new drive or to make the new drive your primary disk, continue following the instructions below.

Backing up important files

If the new hard disk is intended to replace the old one, you may want to copy some of your more important files to the new hard drive before removing the old one. If you are able to boot into Windows, it is easiest to copy the files using Windows Explorer. If not, you can boot from your Windows startup disk and use the xcopy or copy command. The xcopy command will copy a folder and all of its contents, while the copy command will generally copy only individual files.

Note: If you plan to install Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 with the NTFS file system onto the new hard disk, you will have to back up your files to an external source (e.g., a floppy disk or a file server), because the installation of NTFS requires that the hard drive be reformatted.

Installing Windows

Note: For security reasons, you should install Windows or rebuild your Windows computer offline (i.e., unplug your network cable), and then take certain measures to assure its security before putting it back on the network. For instructions, see Safely rebuild your Windows computer

Once you have backed up your important files, you can remove the old hard drive and proceed with installing Windows on the new one. After removing the old drive, you will first have to make the first partition on the new hard disk the active partition, as follows:

  1. Boot the computer with the Windows startup disk. At the A: prompt, enter:
  2. Make the Primary DOS partition on the first disk the active partition. Close FDISK by pressing the Esc key. Then reboot by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del.

You will also need to make the new drive a master drive or stand-alone drive. See your new hard drive's documentation for more information.

Now you are ready to install Windows to the new hard drive.

This is document aema in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2018-01-18 12:16:55.