You have recently purchased a new hard drive and you can’t wait to use it: you have many documents, images, videos and data of various kinds to archive. Unfortunately, when you connected it, apparently nothing happened: the new device does not appear in the list of available resources on your PC.
Don’t despair, the record isn’t necessarily broken. Indeed, most likely it is only necessary to perform a particularly common procedure when dealing with a new hard disk: that relating to the initialization of the drive. Don’t worry, it’s nothing complex or that requires who knows what technical skills.
If you want to dedicate a few minutes of your precious time to me, in the next paragraphs I will show you in detail how to initialize a hard disk on Windows and macOS operating systems. Furthermore, in order not to leave anything to chance, I will also show you how to format the device, in order to complete all the operations necessary for its correct functioning. Are you ready then? Perfect, in this case let’s start right away! I just have to wish you good reading and, above all, good work!
- Preliminary information
- How to initialize a hard drive on Windows
- How to format a hard drive on Windows
- How to initialize a hard drive on Mac
If you are wondering how to initialize a new hard disk , you must know that there is no difference in the procedure, whether it is internal or external disk, HDD (Hard Disk Drive) , that is mechanical disks equipped with magnetic head and supports in silicon, or SSD (Solid State Drive) , also known as a solid state drive.
The spread of the latter, in particular, is increasing exponentially in recent times. They are used more and more often in modern PCs because, being free of mechanical components , they are less prone to failures. They are also enormously faster in both reading and writing, making the devices on which they are used much faster. On the other hand, however, you should know that any data recovery in case of problems could lead to greater difficulties.
If you have recently purchased this type of drive, or if you intend to do so and are not sure how to initialize an SSD hard disk , I therefore want to reassure you that the steps that I will explain to you in the next paragraphs are basically the same.
Before going on with the operating procedures, however, it is good to clarify the concepts of initialization and formatting , in order not to run into trivial misunderstandings that could generate counterproductive confusion.
Initialization is a procedure which, in essence, allows the hard disk to be activated and ensures that the latter is correctly registered by the operating system. At this stage, MBR (Master Boot Record) or GPT (GUID Partition Table) records are created , which are the first boot sectors that define how information will be logically sorted into partitions , as well as device labeling .
Let’s clarify, therefore, the concept of partition: it is a logical subdivision of the disk into units, which are recorded by the operating system based on their function. There are, in fact, two types of partitions: primary (the one in which the operating system is installed), and extended (where the data is stored). The latter can in turn be divided into multiple logical partitions , in order to organize data and activities in a more specific way.
Returning to the boot records mentioned above, the MBR is used on computers that use the boot program called BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) : it is therefore generally older PCs, produced before 2012. It is made up of the first 512 bytes of the disk and contains the partition table necessary, when starting the operating system, to specify, as mentioned above, the way in which the disk structure is organized .
The same task is also performed by the latest GPT standard , which is used in combination with the new startup program called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) , but with different methods and specifications. In particular, its implementation has allowed to overcome some limitations in the management of hard disks with high capacity: from the 4 primary partitions of maximum 2 Terabytes allowed by the MBR, it has gone to a theoretically infinite number (but limited to 128 by most of the operating systems) of extremely large dimensions (also quantifiable in Esabytes ).
The formatting represents the next initialization step and consists in the deletion of data that may be present on the storage device and the division of the disk into sectors , which are essential elements for the organization of information from the operating system.
This operation can be performed with a superficial zeroing of the data present through the reorganization of the hard disk structure: this procedure does not involve the total cancellation, but they will no longer be viewable and will be overwritten as new ones are generated. However, they could still be recoverable through the help of special software.
The more advanced formatting (zero fill) , on the other hand, acts by overwriting the disk sectors with a sequence of zeros several times: in this way, the data is permanently deleted (through a longer and more elaborate procedure) and will no longer be recoverable in any way.
During formatting, the file system must necessarily be defined , that is the operational component that serves to structure the data so that they can be identified by the operating system. The most common for Windows are the following.
- FAT32. It is a file system useful for exchanging small data units but now considered obsolete, as it allows you to store files with a maximum size of 4 GB and to create partitions no more than 8 TB, not in line with the current needs of archiving. It also suffers from excessive data fragmentation, so over time, if you don’t perform adequate defragmentation , it leads to a slowdown in data access. To its advantage it has full read and write compatibility with virtually any device and operating system.
- exFAT. Evolution of the aforementioned FAT32, which does not place stringent limits on the size of the files to be hosted on the drive and does not suffer from excessive fragmentation. It does not enjoy the same “universal” compatibility, but is still supported by a wide range of devices and operating systems both in reading and writing.
- NTFSThis is the default file system for Windows PCs and allows high data compression and greater security through specific encryption systems and the definition of access and sharing rights for files and folders. It suffers in a limited way from fragmentation but is not very compatible with devices other than Windows PCs. For example, on Macs, unless you use appropriate software, it is supported in read-only mode.
As for Macs , however, we can distinguish between two file systems, both compatible only with Apple-branded computers (unless you use software suitable for the purpose ).
- APFS. Implemented starting from the macOS 10.12 Sierra version to improve compatibility with SSD type disks. It offers excellent performance and advanced functions in terms of data organization, with division into volumes and containers.
- HFS +. It is used on older macOS operating systems, up to 10.4 Tiger.
Finally, there are the EXT file systems used in Linux . I advise you to use it only if you intend to use your discs exclusively on the operating system of the “penguin”.
How to initialize a hard drive on Windows
Having made the necessary premises, let’s see in detail how to initialize a hard disk on Windows . The device in question, therefore, after the connection unfortunately does not appear in the list of available resources: the operating system, while recognizing it, does not identify a boot partition and cannot allow its use as space management has not been defined. available.
To understand how to initialize an external or internal hard disk (the procedure remains the same for both types), follow these steps: press the right mouse button on the Start button (the flag icon located in the lower corner left of the screen), search for Disk Management in the menu that opens and select the relevant result . You agree to the request for administrator permissions .
When starting the interface of the utility in question, you will probably immediately receive a notification that the new hard disk needs to be initialized , which will make the task even easier.
If this is not the case, you will find at the top the list of recognized volumes and partitions, while in the screen below there will also be information relating to devices not yet initialized (you will find the disk in question in the Unknown state with the following indication Not initialized ).
First of all, press the right mouse button on the relevant left pane and select the Initialize disk item from the menu that opens. In the window that is proposed to you later, leave the default settings, which foresee the use of the GPT partition style (unless you have special needs – see the previous chapter for more details). The operation is performed immediately and in a few seconds the disk volume will be valued in the area on the right in the Unallocated state : you must now proceed to the next formatting step .
How to format a hard drive on Windows
So let’s see how to format a hard drive on Windows . Remaining in the disk management utility, in the right section press on the area relating to the disk in question with the right mouse button and choose the item New simple volume from the context menu. In the window that appears, then press the Next button and in the next one press the Next button again .
A new screen will appear in which it is possible to label the disk with a drive letter: if you want to change it, click on the drop-down menu where the default one assigned by the system is indicated, then press on the desired one, making sure that it is not already committed to a other volume.
At the end click on the Next button and, in the following window, choose the settings related to the file system : normally you will find NTFS valued , but if you intend to format hard disk for Windows or macOS (therefore compatible with both operating systems) you will have to choose exFAT o FAT32 . As for the size of the allocation units , leave the default values and keep the check mark for quick formatting : for new hard disks it is not necessary to act deeper.
Then click on the Next button , then click on the Finish button and in a few moments your new hard disk will be available on system resources. To confirm the success of the operation you should see on the Disk Management utility the volume with the wording Healthy , the correct size of the volume and the Online status . If it is still Offline, press the right button on the left pane and click on the Online item from the context menu .
Formatting can possibly also be performed in another way, acting directly from the computer resources. First, after connecting the drive in question, press on the yellow folder in the taskbar to bring up File Explorer . In the left panel, click on the item This PC and in the right pane you will see the various units currently connected: right-click on the one of your interest and, from the context menu, press on the item Format . A new window will be shown: press on the drop-down menu under File System and select the file system you prefer.
Then define the volume label , inserting a wording to help you identify the volume in question. Click the Start button , then click the OK button in the next confirmation window that is proposed to you and wait for the operation to complete. You can choose whether to perform a quick format or not: in the first case, no additional checks will be performed on the disk after formatting, making everything faster.
If, on the other hand, you want to perform a more advanced formatting (with zero padding, usually not necessary for new disks), I invite you to use the solutions I recommended in my tutorial on how to format in FAT32 (also applicable for other files system).
How to initialize a hard drive on Mac
Now let’s see, instead, how to initialize a hard disk on Mac . First of all, you must know that in this case the formatting and initialization operations are contextual, so it will be enough to perform a single procedure to access the new volume.
First, click on the Launchpad (the icon with different colored squares) in the Dock bar, then click on the search field at the top and type Disk Utility . Then press on the application icon (shows the image of a hard disk and a stethoscope) to start it.
Let’s suppose that the new device is contained in a special case connected to the USB socket of your computer and that, therefore, you need to understand how to initialize an external hard drive on Mac . Well, you will certainly find it listed under the External section , in the left panel of the Disk Utility interface.
Click on it with the right mouse button and from the context menu press on the Initialize item . In the window that is proposed to you, type the name of the hard disk, select the format (usually on the most recent Macs APFS is set ) and select the scheme , that is the mapping of the partitions you want to use, choosing between GUID , MBR or that specific for Apple . Click on the Initialize button and, at the end of the procedure, click on the Finish button .
If you want to make a hard drive for Mac and Windows , select the ExFAT or MS-DOS (FAT32) file system . By pressing the Security Options button you will also have the possibility to set the number of writes to be done, to perform a more secure formatting (with writing zeros). Read more here .