Can you format a hard drive from USB?

Yes, you can format a hard drive from a USB drive. This can be done by creating a bootable USB drive with disk formatting software and then booting from the USB drive to format the hard drive. There are a few different methods for creating a bootable USB drive, but the overall process is relatively straightforward.

Quick Overview

Here is a quick overview of the steps involved in formatting a hard drive from a USB drive:

  1. Download disk formatting software like GParted Live and create a bootable USB drive
  2. Boot the target computer from the USB drive
  3. Use the disk formatting software to format the hard drive
  4. Reboot without the USB drive to ensure the formatting was successful

Creating a Bootable USB Drive

The first step is to create a bootable USB drive with disk formatting software. There are a couple options for doing this:

Using Rufus

One easy way is to use the free Rufus utility:

  1. Download Rufus from
  2. Insert a blank USB flash drive into your computer
  3. Launch Rufus and select the USB drive under “Device”
  4. Under “Boot Selection” click “SELECT” and choose the GParted Live ISO file you downloaded
  5. Click “START” to make the drive bootable

Using Command Line

You can also create a bootable USB drive from the command line using the dd tool:

  1. Open a terminal on Linux/Mac or Command Prompt on Windows
  2. Identify the USB drive name – this will likely be something like /dev/sdb
  3. Use the dd command to write the ISO to the drive, replacing /dev/sdb with your drive name:

    sudo dd if=gparted.iso of=/dev/sdb status=progress

Using Etcher

Another good option is to use the free Etcher tool:

  1. Download Etcher from
  2. Insert your blank USB drive and launch Etcher
  3. Click “Select Image” and choose the GParted Live ISO file you downloaded
  4. Select the target USB drive
  5. Click “Flash!” to make the drive bootable

Booting from the USB Drive

Once you have a bootable USB drive, you need to boot the target computer from it:

  1. Insert the USB drive into the computer you want to format
  2. Power on the computer and press the boot menu key to access the boot options (F12, F10, F2, Delete, or Esc on most systems)
  3. Select the USB drive from the boot menu
  4. This will launch the disk formatting software from the USB instead of booting from the normal hard drive

Using GParted to Format the Hard Drive

With the disk formatting software booted, you can now format the hard drive:

  1. Launch GParted from the USB drive
  2. Select the hard drive you want to format from the upper right corner
  3. Choose Device > Create Partition Table
  4. This will erase any existing partitions and formatting
  5. Create a new partition on the drive using the space available
  6. Format the partition using the desired file system (eg, FAT32 or NTFS)

GParted makes it easy to format any connected storage drive from the Live USB environment. Repeat these steps for any other drives you need to format.

Verifying the Format

Once the formatting is complete, reboot the computer without the USB drive to ensure it boots from the newly formatted hard drive. Verify the drive formatting was successful and your desired partitions and file systems are now set up. If not, simply reboot from the USB again to redo any formatting steps.


Booting from a USB drive into a disk formatting utility like GParted Live provides an easy way to completely format a hard drive. By creating a bootable USB with the formatting software ISO, you can format drives from any computer without needing to burn disks. Just be sure to backup any important data first, as formatting will erase all existing data and partitions.

Step Description
1 Download disk formatting software and create a bootable USB drive
2 Boot the target computer from the USB drive
3 Use the formatting software to format the hard drive
4 Reboot without the USB and verify successful formatting

Following these steps allows formatting a hard drive from USB on any computer. The ability to boot from portable USB drives makes hard drive formatting simple and convenient.

Frequently Asked Questions

What software do I need to format a hard drive from USB?

You will need disk formatting software like GParted Live. Download the ISO file for one of these tools and create a bootable USB drive with it. Popular open source options include GParted Live, Clonezilla, and SystemRescueCD.

Can I format the hard drive if Windows is already installed?

Yes, booting from the USB drive allows you to format over any existing Windows installation or other data on the hard drive. The formatting process will erase all data and partitions.

Will I lose all my files and programs if I format the hard drive?

Yes, formatting will wipe the hard drive clean, causing you to lose all files, installed programs, and the existing operating system. Be sure to backup anything important before formatting.

How long does it take to format a hard drive?

The time to format a drive depends on its capacity and the specific format operation. Quick formats may take 5-10 minutes for smaller drives while full formats can take several hours for large multi-terabyte drives.

Can I format just a partition instead of the whole drive?

Yes, most disk formatting tools allow formatting at the partition level. You can delete, create, or reformat specific partitions without impacting other partitions on the same physical drive.

Will formatting improve hard drive performance?

Formatting can help improve performance on heavily fragmented drives by completely wiping the drive and creating a new blank file system. But don’t expect dramatic speed gains from formatting alone.

Can I format external USB hard drives?

Yes, the USB boot disk method allows formatting both internal and external hard drives. Simply connect the external drive, boot from USB, and format the external drive in the same way.

Is disk formatting risky for drive errors?

Formatting is generally safe but can be risky on drives with physical defects or existing errors. Backups are recommended in case any bad sectors cause corruption during the low-level formatting process.

How can I recover data after accidentally formatting a drive?

If you accidentally formatted an important drive, recovery software like Recuva can help extract data from the drive as long as nothing new has been written to it. But preventing the mistake with backups is more reliable.

Formatting a hard drive erases all its data, so be sure you have backups of anything important before you start. With the right bootable USB and disk utility, though, it provides a simple process to completely reset your hard drive from any computer.