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Janice CookFlag for United States of America

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Does reformatting C drive automatically reformat internal secondary drive?

I have a Dell Windows 10 desktop computer, with C drive an SSD 120GB, additional drive storage of 1 TB.

I also use external storage, a 5TB WD drive size approx. equal to a deck of playing cards. 

My secondary drive is full, so I download all files to external WD.

My SSD drive is full, so I am having problems. I need to reformat and clean up the thing. 

My computer didn't come with Windows installation files, but I can run a reformat from the boot menu. 

My question is, will it reformat even the secondary drive as well, meaning any drive connected to the computer internally or externally, or just the C drive?

I plan on backing up the internal secondary drive onto external media, but I am wondering what would happen if I did not.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Are you talking about the "Reset this PC" option with Windows 10?

If so, you have the option to choose to keep your personal files, or remove them, and re-install windows 10.

Normally, an installation will only affect the system drive, however, I would double check with the manufacturers documentation to confirm for your specific computer, as the "reset to factory defaults" could be programmed differently for your computer, and may include wiping all internal drives. (I have never encountered this myself, but it is possible)
Best practice would suggest backing up your personal data anyways, and then you will have it no matter what.

Hope this helps.


Unless someone did something really crazy (in my opinion), Formatting a single drive never affects another drive's data.  

I don't know what boot menu you're talking about - I've never seen a boot menu offer the option of wiping a computer (extremely dangerous in my opinion).  Pictures would help.

Simple way to ensure nothing happens: unplug the connections from the internal and external drives you don't want affected.

Are your main and secondary drives partitions on the same physical drive or do you have two physical drives in the computer?

You need to be really careful here.  If it's two partitions on 1 drive, a format from the boot menu could easily mean format the device, not the partition.  If so, you lose everything on both partitions.

If you want to format the secondary drive, use the File Explorer to format the drive.  That'll make sure you format only that one drive.

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If your PC didn't come with installation media and you reformat c: how will you boot?

Download the install media from Microsoft before hand or using another computer.

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If you reformat the C: drive,  only that partition is reformatted. (other partitions on the same or other drives are not touched).  

If you reinstall windows clean (don't save my data or apps) or on to your formatted C partition on your 128gb SSD, it will work.  Any data and programs  will be lost.

Eventually your 128gb C drive is going to have space issues again, even if you offload all your data to a different drive. The problem is 128gb does not provide enough room for ongoing Windows updates.