How to Format an External Hard Drive with NTFS
External drives connect to a computer in several ways but the two most common connection types are USB and eSATA. The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a fast and generally reliable technology allowing a variety of peripherals to be hot-swapped (plugging in and unplugging without restarting the computer). Although a newer standard, external Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (eSATA) uses the same technology that your internal hard drives use to connect to the computer. eSATA is faster and more reliable than USB but as a newer technology, not all computers support this connection.
To format your external hard drive simply connect it to your computer and check to make sure that the drive is recognized in My Computer. Click on My Computer and check that a new drive is present among your other drives. If the drive is unformatted, Windows may not know how to classify the drive and may show it as a “unknown device." Normally, however, Windows will know that the new connection is a hard drive and place it among the other computer’s hard drives.
To format the drive in Windows XP, right click on My Computer and click on Manage. Under the Storage heading click on Disk Management. Locate your newly connected external hard drive here. Windows will have already assigned the new drive a letter designation. This designation is normally the next letter available in the alphabet not already assigned to another drive. Right click on the new external drive and select Format. Here you can choose a volume label to identify the drives contents, choose an NTFS format, and select the allocation unit size.
Normally, you should choose the default size. Larger sizes are faster but more wasteful with disk space. Smaller sizes are less wasteful but slower in reading and writing to the disk. Unless you have some expert knowledge on which unit size is right for you, choose the default setting. You can also choose whether to do a complete format or a quick format. A quick format does not remove the files on the drive but overwrites the part of the drive that specifies where the files are located. Technically, the files will remain on the drive until overwritten even though the drive will appear to be empty after formatting. Unless you are in a hurry, a full format is recommended. Be warned, however, that a 500 gigabyte hard drive can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to format. Larger drives, of course, will take even longer.
To format the drive in Windows Vista and Windows 7, click Start>Control Panel>System and Maintenance>Administrative Tools>Computer Management. In the navigation pan, click on Storage and the Disk Management. Here the Disk Management area looks very similar to Windows XP and the directions above for Windows XP can be followed to format the drive with the NTFS file system.