Can I format my PC without a CD or USB?

Formatting your PC without a bootable CD or USB drive is possible, but requires a few extra steps. The main options are using Windows recovery tools or the command prompt to fully erase and reinstall Windows. Here’s a quick overview of how to format a PC without physical media.

Using Windows Recovery Tools

Recent versions of Windows 10 and 11 include built-in recovery tools that can reset your PC and reinstall Windows without a separate boot disk. Here are the main options:

  • Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and choose “Reset this PC”. This will let you erase everything and reinstall Windows.
  • Boot into the Advanced Startup Options menu and choose “Reset this PC” to start the process.
  • Use the Windows installation media creation tool to make a recovery image on your hard drive, then reboot into it.

As long as you can boot into Windows, these recovery options will format the drive and reinstall a clean copy of Windows without needing installation media.

Using the Command Prompt

If Windows recovery tools are not working, you can format the drive from the command prompt instead. Here are the steps:

  1. Boot into the Windows recovery environment. This lets you access the command prompt before Windows loads.
  2. Use the diskpart tool to clean and format the drive by typing:
    list disk
    select disk X (where X is your disk number)
    create partition primary
    format quick fs=ntfs
  3. Close the command prompt and restart your PC to begin a fresh Windows installation.

This will completely erase your drive and allow Windows to install cleanly as if on new hardware.

Using Installation Media as a Last Resort

If the built-in recovery tools and command line method do not work, your last option is to create installation media on another working PC and use it to format your broken one. Here’s how:

  1. On another PC, use the Media Creation Tool to make a bootable Windows installation drive on a USB or DVD.
  2. Boot your broken PC from the installation media you created.
  3. Delete all partitions and formatting during setup to erase the drive.
  4. Install Windows on the blank drive.

While inconvenient, this gives you a completely clean slate to format the drive and reinstall Windows. Just be sure to back up any needed data first.

Answering Key Questions

To summarize the main methods, here are quick answers to some common questions about formatting without installation media:

Can I format my PC without a disc or USB drive?

Yes, you can format your PC without a physical disc or USB drive by using built-in Windows recovery tools, the command prompt, or by creating temporary installation media on another PC.

How do I wipe my PC without disk?

To wipe your PC without a disc, use the Reset option in Windows Recovery tools, the diskpart clean command, or deletion during Windows setup from temporary media.

Is there a way to factory reset a computer without the recovery disk?

Yes, the Reset option in Windows Recovery will factory reset your PC without needing a recovery disk.

Can you reinstall Windows 10 without installation media?

You can reinstall Windows 10 through the cloud using the Reset feature or recovery image creation tool in Windows 10 itself.

Step-by-Step Instructions

For those who need more detailed, step-by-step instructions, here are the full processes to format your PC without a disc or USB drive using the main options covered above.

Using Windows Recovery Environment

  1. Open the Start menu and click the Power button.
  2. Hold Shift while clicking Restart to boot into the Windows Recovery Environment.
  3. After your PC restarts, click Troubleshoot.\
  4. Click Reset this PC.
  5. Select Remove Everything to erase all data and reinstall Windows.
  6. Follow the prompts to complete the reset process.

Using Windows Installation Media Creation Tool

  1. Download the Media Creation Tool on a working PC.
  2. Run the tool, select Create installation media, and choose ISO file.
  3. Select Next, choose language and architecture, then click Next.
  4. Select where to save the ISO file and click Save.
  5. Copy the ISO file onto the PC you want to format using a flash drive.
  6. Boot into the Advanced Startup Options menu on that PC.
  7. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
  8. After restarting, press F10 for the boot menu and select your flash drive.
  9. Delete all partitions and formatting during Windows setup.
  10. Install Windows on the blank drive.

Using the Command Prompt

  1. Open the Start menu, hold Shift and click Restart.
  2. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Command Prompt.
  3. At the command prompt, run:
    list disk
    select disk X (where X is your disk number)
    create partition primary
    format quick fs=ntfs
  4. Close Command Prompt, your PC will reboot automatically.
  5. Windows will detect the blank drive and begin installing itself.

Tips for Formatting Without Discs

To ensure the formatting process goes smoothly, keep these tips in mind:

  • Back up any needed data first before formatting.
  • Have your Windows product key ready to reactivate Windows.
  • Delete all existing partitions during setup for a completely clean install.
  • Use the latest version of Windows for access to recovery tools.
  • Try Windows Recovery options first before using the command prompt.
  • Borrow a USB drive for temporary installation media if needed.
  • Connect your PC to the internet to allow cloud recovery.

Potential Errors and Solutions

Here are some common errors you may encounter while trying to format your PC without disks, and how to fix them:

Error Message Solution
Recovery tools are missing or won’t load Use installation media to access recovery, or reinstall Windows to restore them
“The diskpart clean command failed” Check the disk for errors or try clean all instead of just clean
“No device drivers were found” during setup Try loading drivers manually, use different SATA ports, or install in safe mode
Boot configuration data is missing Restore the BCD store using bootrec commands from the recovery tools
Boot selection failed because a required device is inaccessible Change boot order in BIOS, check connections, try different SATA ports

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a clean install better than resetting Windows?

Yes, doing a clean install by deleting all partitions before formatting is better than using the Reset feature, as it avoids transferring any potential problems from the old installation.

Can I recover my PC without installation CD?

You can recover your PC without an installation CD using the built-in Windows recovery tools. Just boot into the Windows Recovery Environment to access the reset features.

What partition should I delete when reformatting C drive?

When reformatting your C drive, you’ll want to delete all partitions on the drive, including System, Recovery, EFI, and any others, to ensure a completely clean install.

How do I boot from ISO without USB?

To boot from an ISO without a USB drive, you can use software like Rufus to write the ISO directly to a partition on your hard drive, then select that partition in your boot menu to start from the ISO.

Can you do a factory reset from BIOS?

No, you cannot do a true factory reset from the BIOS. The BIOS only provides very basic system recovery tools, not a full Windows reset like the Recovery Environment does.


Formatting your PC without a bootable disc or USB drive is possible using the built-in recovery tools in recent versions of Windows, the command prompt, or temporary installation media created on another working PC. While the process may take some extra steps compared to using dedicated install media, the various options covered here should allow you to completely wipe and reinstall Windows on your machine without needing discs or drives.

Just be sure to back up important data, have your Windows key, and delete all partitions when prompted during setup. With some patience and by following the steps outlined, you can successfully format your PC without depending on physical media.