THE COCOON ™: How to Format Your PC
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20 January 2010

How to Format Your PC

Configure your computer to start from the CD or DVD drive

To start your computer from the Windows XP CD, your computer must be configured to start from the CD or DVD drive. In some cases, you may have to modify your computer's BIOS settings to set this configuration. For information about how to configure your computer to start from the CD or DVD drive, see the documentation that is included with your computer, or contact the computer manufacturer.

If you have a computer that cannot start from the CD or DVD drive and you need to start your computer from the startup disk, make sure that you have the floppy setup disks so that you can run the Setup program from the floppy disk drive.

Note You can obtain Windows XP Setup boot disks from Microsoft, but only by download. We provide the Setup boot disks so that you can run the Setup program on computers that cannot use a bootable CD-ROM. If you can start your computer from a CD-ROM or from a network-based installation, we strongly recommend that you use those installation methods instead. Future products will no longer support installation by using the Setup boot disks.

How to partition and format the hard disk using the Windows XP Setup program

You can use the Windows XP Setup program to partition and format the hard disk. To do this, use the following steps:

Step 1: Partition the hard disk

  1. Insert the Windows XP CD into your CD or DVD drive, or insert the first Windows XP Setup disk into the floppy disk drive, and then restart the computer to start the Windows XP Setup program.

    Note If you are using the Windows XP Setup disks, insert each additional disk when you are prompted, and then press ENTER to continue after you insert each disk.
  2. If you are prompted, select any options that are required to start the computer from the CD or DVD drive.
  3. If your hard disk controller requires a third-party original equipment manufacturer (OEM) driver, press F6 to specify the driver. For more information about how to use F6 to supply a third-party OEM device driver while the Windows Setup program is running, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    314859 Limited OEM driver support is available with F6 during Windows XP Setup
  4. At the Welcome to Setup page, press ENTER.

    Note If you are using the Setup disks (six bootable disks), the setup prompts you to insert the Windows XP CD.
  5. Press F8 to accept the Windows XP Licensing Agreement.
  6. If an existing Windows XP installation is detected, you are prompted to repair it. To bypass the repair, press ESC.
  7. All existing partitions and non-partitioned spaces are listed for each physical hard disk. Use the ARROW keys to select an existing partition, or create a new partition by selecting the non-partitioned space where you want to create a new partition. You can also press C to create a new partition using non-partitioned space.

    Note If you want to create a partition where one or more partitions already exist, you must first delete the existing partition or partitions, and then create the new partition. You can press D to delete an existing partition, and then press L (or press ENTER, and then press L if it is the System partition) to confirm that you want to delete the partition. Repeat this step for each existing partition that you want to include in the new partition. When all the partitions are deleted, select the remaining non-partitioned space, and then press C to create the new partition.
  8. To create the partition with the maximum size, press ENTER. To specify the partition size, type the size in megabytes (MB) for the new partition, and then press ENTER.
  9. If you want to create additional partitions, repeat steps g. and h.
  10. To format the partition and install Windows XP, go to step 2.

    If you do not want to install Windows XP, press F3 two times to exit the Windows Setup program, and then do not follow the remaining steps in this article.

    To format the partition without installing Windows XP, use a different utility.

Step 2: Format the hard disk and install Windows XP

  1. Use the ARROW keys to select the partition where you want to install Windows XP, and then press ENTER.
  2. Select the format option that you want to use to format the partition. You can select from the following options:
    • Format the partition by using the NTFS file system (Quick)
    • Format the partition by using the FAT file system (Quick)
    • Format the partition by using the NTFS file system
    • Format the partition by using the FAT file system
    • Leave the current file system intact (no changes)
    Notes
    • If the selected partition is a new partition, the option to leave the current file system intact is not available.
    • If the selected partition is larger than 32 gigabytes (GB), the FAT file system option is not available.
    • If the selected partition is larger than 2 GB, the Windows Setup program uses the FAT32 file system (you must press ENTER to confirm).
    • If the partition is smaller than 2 GB, the Windows Setup program uses the FAT16 file system.
    • If you deleted and created a new System partition, but you are installing Windows XP on a different partition, you are prompted to select a file system for both the System and Startup partitions.
  3. Press ENTER.
  4. After the Windows Setup program formats the partition, follow the instructions that appear on the screen to install Windows XP. After the Windows Setup program is finished and you have restarted the computer, you can use the Disk Management tools in Windows XP to create or format more partitions. For additional information about how to use the Windows XP Disk Management tools to partition and format your hard disk, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    309000 How to use Disk Management to configure basic disks in Windows XP

Additional notes

Before you can install an operating system such as Windows XP, you must first create a primary partition on the first physical hard disk (Disk 0) on your computer. Then, you can format a file system on that partition to create what is called the System partition.

Or, you can create a separate partition for the operating system on any physical hard disk. This is known as the Startup partition. The System partition on Disk 0 can also be used as a Startup partition.

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