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Procedure to format and re-partition primary HD?

Posted on 1999-01-22
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-16
I'm in the process of backing up my primary 4GB hard drive, repartitioning it (it's presently set as drive C: and E:), and reloading Win95. The reason I'm doing this is because of some suspected Registry corruption and ongoing lock-ups and crashes.

I have a second 425MB HD (designated as D:) where all of my key files have been transferred or saved to. My question is pretty straightforward: what is the correct procedure for a reformat and repartitioning? I had everything set to go on Thursday night (even had my finger poised over the Y/N key after typing "format c:" at the DOS prompt) but stopped at the last minute so I could post this query. (I want to make sure I do it right and I've never partitioned a hard drive before).  

I have the necessary DOS 6.22 and CD-ROM driver diskettes ready to go as soon as everything is done but I just want to make sure I haven't overlooked anything. Could someone please give me a step by step procedure for formatting and partitioning a 4GB primary HD (the boot drive for my system)?

Andy Mahood
Question by:Andy_Mahood
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Expert Comment

ID: 1761676
Use the following partition manager. You don't have to format the drive, just repartition it will do.

Expert Comment

ID: 1761677
Depending on which version of Windows 95 you have, make sure you have made a start up disk. Use the start up disk to boot the machine and at the a: prompt use the following commands

When preparing your old drive, use the "FORMAT C: /S" command. This high-level formats the volume C:, copies hidden operating system files to the volume, and prompt you for a label. It marks bad sectors as unreadable, writes the boot sector, creates the FAT, writes the root directory, and copies system files.

Once the C: drive is formated Type "Format E:" to format the second partition.

One this has finished it is time to re-install your CD-Rom drivers. Once this is done, you are ready to install Windows 95 again.

The other type of formatting is the low-level format. In general, this procedure is already done on your drive when you buy it. Only on a really old drive would this need to be done. Other situations exist where you would want to low-level format your hard drive. If you need to erase all traces of data on the disk, a low format will do this. It will also remove corrupted operating systems or viruses. It will also remap the drive so as to reallocate all bad sectors to other sectors. This basically replaces bad sectors with good ones. It will make your drive appear to be free of defects. This process is called defect mapping.

That said, manufacturers recommend you never low-level format a hard drive.

A low-level format cannot be done with the FORMAT command. It is recommended you get a low-level format program from the manufacturer of your drive. These programs are tailored to work with specific drives and can sufficiently trace the defects and map them. Visit the web site of the manufacturer to find these programs. They are often available for download.


Expert Comment

ID: 1761678
Do you want to erase the whole drive?

If not, Windows is probably installed on the C: drive, so it won't be necessary to format the E:drive. (unless you have another reason to do so.)

You were already set to do it, so "just say yes" at the prompt after booting from that floppy.

When the format is done, run SETUP from the Windows CD, and you're back in business!

If you find the present proposed answer does not answer your question, please reject it.

If you are unclear about anything I've said, please ask.

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Author Comment

ID: 1761679
To chewhoung: I appreciate the link but the only way I can ensure my corrupted registry is gone is to format the drive.

To blofeldt: (p.s. do you have a white cat?) By reading your post I see that I may not have to format drive e:  I thought this was required because it's part of the same physical drive. So if I just format the c: drive I won't need to worry about repartitioning. (Correct?). Is there any reason I can't just boot to DOS (using the F8 key during startup) and just type the format c: command from the c: prompt? I created a startup disk by formatting a floppy with the format /s command and then copying format.com and fdisk.exe onto it as well. Will that suffice as a startup disk? Also, must I reinstall DOS first, or will Win95 (4.00.950 b) install without needing an underlying DOS installation?

To rmarotta: Your response was actually the one that got me thinking about the fact that I may not have to format the e: drive. Between blofeldt's step by step instructions and your observation I may have to apply some points to both of you.

Expert Comment

ID: 1761680
Ok, if you want to repartition your entire hard drive, here's what to do:

1.  Make sure your boot floppy disk works and boots your system to Dos correctly:
-It must have the files format.com and fdisk.exe plus the necessary DOS files (if you can get to DOS you have them), and scandisk would be great.  Make SURE you can access the CD ROM drive, or else you will seriously be up a creek without a paddle - make sure all the drivers and files called by the floppy's autoexec.bat and config.sys are located on the floppy disk - or else they will be lost when you format your drive.  In fact, given that you have a second hard drive, I would recommend the following:

Before doing anything else, copy the Win95 folder and the setup.exe file from the CD ROM onto your second hard drive. That way you can run setup from there.

Next, you must run FDISK to remove all your current partitions (make absolutely sure you go after the correct drive!).  Then reboot, and create new partitions (if you need help with running FDISK please ask).  Also, if you get a question about "large disk support" this is where you choose between FAT32 and FAT16 - 'y' to large disk support enables FAT32, if you can use it.  For more info on this question please ask.

Then format each partition (do an unconditional format if you want to be absolutely sure that all the old stuff is removed).

Next, it would be a good idea to run a thorough Scandisk (Norton Disk DOctor is much better though if you have it on a floppy) to check the drive, just in case you have any surface errors.  Keep in mind though that a thorough scan can take upwards of an hour, particularly with Windows' scandisk.

Once that is done, start reinstalling your software.

Any more info, please ask.


Author Comment

ID: 1761681
My 64 dollar question is now this. Can I reformat drive c: (the boot drive) without having to touch drive e: even though they are part of the same physical drive? If the answer is yes then I'll be a happy camper because I can use the 2GB of space on drive e: to backup many of my key files without having to rely solely on the much smaller drive d: (the only separate "physical drive" I have). This also means that I won't need to re-partition the 4GB drive once I'm done.

The formatting part I've done before (with my old P-133's 1.6GB drive) so I'm fairly comfortable with the procedure. As long as I can rid my computer of its ongoing lockups, fatal errors and corrupted registry this way then I will have accomplished what I set out to do.

Expert Comment

ID: 1761682
Andy Mahood,
the partition manager also allows you to format partition. I think you try it first and let me know.

Expert Comment

ID: 1761683
if you want just delete the USER.DAT and SYSTEM.DAT files which are the registry files for the system, and reinstall win95 again, then reinstall the software you have and you will not need to repartition and a bunch of things, you will need a boot disk with CD-ROM drivers, or if the CD-ROM is already installed in the HD, then you will need to press F8, command prompt, and go to the folder where the WIN95 is and type setup, as long as you delete the USER.DAT and SYSTEM.DAT it will reinstall everything again, then just reinstall the software you are using. that would be easier for you if you want to. JAO

Accepted Solution

angmar earned 800 total points
ID: 1761684
Partitioning and formatting are 2 seperate things. Partitioning will allow you to change the size of the C: (which is your "primary" boot drive) and E: (which is your logical drive in the extended partition on the 1st disk). Your drive D: is also a "Primary" partition (on your 2nd disk). DOS/WIN95/98 assigns drive letters to all "primary" partitions 1st then it looks for logical drives. If you are happy with the primary/extended partitioning and with the size of each drive then there is no need to run fdisk.

In short, partitioning carves out a physical portion of the disk to use to store files and such in. To put it in understandable terms (and to show my age), Your C: is like the 1st 4 songs on an LP record and your E: is like the last 4 songs. I.e. there can be no fragging between partitions (all the junk on the outer half of the disk is C: and all the junk on the inner half is E:).

Formatting establishes the type of file system you want to use. You can format any partition without affecting the other. If you do nothing but "format C: /s" you will have a bootable C: drive with nothing on it but DOS. And your E: and D: will be just like you left them. Copy the sbide.sys or mtmcdia.sys (or whatever your CD driver is - these 2 will find just about any CD made except a sound card CD (for that you need SB2CD.sys or SBCD.sys (stands for SoundBlasterCD.sys)) and mscdex.exe so that DOS will load a CD file system. Test your booting until you find your CD on bootup (should be drive F: in your case) (The actual lines should be in your old config.sys or config.dos and autoexec.bat or autoexec.dos). IF YOU ARE HAPPY WITH E: THEN YOU DON"T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING TO IT. If you have WIN95 or WIN31 programs on it, they won't run after you format C: because you will wipe out all the .dll's in the Windows/System directory, but if you have or can get all the installation disks, then is is always a good idea to reinstall fresh anyhow. It could have been one of those that was locking your machine up.

When I wipe C: (which I do on about an annual basis just to get things clean again) I usuall copy the C:\windows\desktop (to see how to set up my new desktop) and C:\windows\favorites (internet explorer links), my C:\ directory (root) and any files referenced by the autoexec and config.sys and my email folder (any *.pst files if you are using Outlook, you will have to figure them out if you use something else) to my D: (your E:) under the directory E:\zoldCDrive. If you have stuff installed on C: you might want to drag the whole C: to your E:, but I hate moving this much data 'cuz you will never need 99% of it again. But it is better to be safe than sorry if you are a novice. You should make sure you can "view" all files including hidden before you drag and drop the whole drive. Then format C:, find your CDROM, and run setup. You do not need to install all of DOS 1st if you have an OEM (non-upgrade) version of Win95. You better make sure you have driver disks for all your hardware just in case you need them.

Anyhow, this is getting long winded. I also do what was recommended above (make a C:\zwincab directory and copy the CDROM:\WIN95 directory into it and run setup from there) It makes installation go faster, and you won't need the CDROM whenever you have to add a printer or something.

I hope this helps, good luck. Man should not fear reformatting his computer. If you fear that, then you are slave to the machine. Onward......to conquer the world........or maybe not.


Expert Comment

ID: 1761685
I thought I made the same point in one sentence......

"......it won't be necessary to format the E:drive. (unless you have another reason to do so.) "


Author Comment

ID: 1761686
Thanks everyone. I have successfully reformatted drive c: and reloaded everything to get me back up and running again without the necessity to repartition anything. Apart from the incredible hassle of finding CD-ROM drivers that I could put on a start-up disk everything went fine (I ultimately had to pull them off the Net and then perform a fake install from a DOS boot disk just so I could see how the appropriate lines in the autoexec.bat and config.sys files were written!). I have accepted angmar's answer and have sent the 200 points his way.

To blofeldt and rmarotta: I am now going to post separate "questions" intended specifically for you two. They are not actual questions but follow-ups that you can respond to and receive points for your help in this affair. Please "answer" them and I'll send 200 points to each of you.

Thanks again,

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