How to Format New SATA External Hard Drives in Windows 7

Updated April 17, 2017

If you have a new SATA external drive you wish to use with Windows 7, the operating system comes with formatting tools for switching the drive to a specific format and wiping the device of any existing data for a clean start. Formatting permanently changes the device and erases all files stored on the drive. Make backups of any important data before proceeding.

Connect the external hard drive to the system and connect any necessary power cords and then turn the device on. Do not interrupt the connection or power supply during the formatting process as this may damage the drive.

Click the "Start" button and type "Computer Management" into the search bar. Press "Enter" to open the utility. You may also open Computer Management from the Administrative Tools Control Panel icon.

Click on "Disk Management" and wait for Windows to recognise all connected drives. Click on the SATA hard drive either in the top list or the bottom visual disk representation area.

Click the "Action" menu and highlight "All Tasks." Click on "Format."

Enter a name for the drive in the "Volume Label" box. This name will appear with the drive when used in other computer systems as well. Select the desired drive format from the "File System" drop-down menu. Leave the other settings at their default values unless you wish to specifically tailor the advanced drive characteristics. Click "OK."

Wait for Windows to finish the process. This may take some time depending on the size of the drive and the amount of stored data. The drive will be ready to use when finished.


Windows 7 offers both NTFS and FAT32 as file system options during formatting. While both formats are compatible with most modern computers, NTFS uses slightly more reliable and secure technology. Unless you specifically require a FAT32 drive, leave the "File System" option set to "NTFS."

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About the Author

Andrew Mikael began writing in 2010. His articles appear on various websites, where he specializes in media and related technology. Mikael has a Bachelor of Arts in film from Montana State University.