As we've suggested in past blog posts, external hard drives can be an ideal way for computer users to backup important data. They can provide a safeguard for individuals whose PCs seem unreliable and appear to require constant computer repair.

However, hard drives cannot be used until they have been formatted to be compatible with a computer. Formatting clears the hard drive of all data and alters its settings, which allows a computer to read and write data to the device seamlessly.

Why format an external hard drive anyway?

It might seem like a bad idea to delete all the data from a storage device, but there are a few benefits to formatting an external hard drive. For instance, this action removes corrupted or infected files from the device, which can help protect the computer against a virus and limit the need for Washington, D.C. computer repair. Additionally, users might want to start fresh with an old hard drive. Formatting can easily accomplish that goal.

How to format an external hard drive in older versions of Windows

1. Plug the device into the computer
2. Open "My Computer"
3. Right click the external hard drive that's meant to be formatted
4. Select "Format" from the dropdown menu
5. Choose a file system
6. Click "Start."

On Windows XP

1. In "My computer," select "Manage"
2. Select "Disk Management" under the "Storage" heading
3. Follow steps three through six above

On Windows Vista and 7

1. Enter "Control Panel" and find "System Maintenance"
2. Select "Computer Management" under "Administrative tools"
3. Select "Disk Management under "Storage"
4. Follow steps three through six above.

File systems

NTFS or New Technology File System – This option will make it so only Windows computers will be able to read and write data to the hard drive. It's the preferred file system because it allows for larger file sizes.

FAT or File Allocation Table – Previously the recommended file system, FAT is now most useful for consumers who own both Windows and Mac computers and want to be able to backup data for both machines on the same external hard drive.