How to Format External Drives in Windows 11

This post shows students and new users how to format external USB and other portable drives in Windows 11.

Sometimes you will need to format or reformat an external or internal drive before it can be used in Windows 11 as a backup drive or to store files since operating systems have different filesystems.

Although it’s true that most disk drive are formatted with Windows compatible filesystems, some drives may need to be reformatted to work correctly in Windows 11. In most cases a new thumb drive should work out of the box on Windows machines, except you got it formatted with another operating or it’s a second hand drive.

To format or reformat your external or portal drive is easy, and the steps below will show you how to do that.

The new Windows 11 will come with many new features and enhancements that will work great for some while adding some learning challenges for others. Some things and settings have changed so much that folks will have to learn new ways to work with and manage Windows 11.

One legacy feature that’s still available in Windows 11 is drive formatting. Although buried deep in the System settings pane, the process is still as in previous versions of Widows.

You should be aware that formatting a drive will erase all the content store on it and may never be recovered or restored. So you might want to make sure nothing important is on the drive you want to format.

Also know that formatting a disk is not a completely secure way of wiping all of its data. A formatted disk will not appear to have files on it, but it is still possible that special recovery software could retrieve the files.

If you need to securely delete the files, you will want to use a special software for securely erasing data on the disk.

To get started with formatting your external drives, follow the steps below:

How to format or reformat hard drive in Windows 11

Again, the process of formatting drives in Windows is pretty easy. Formatting is a way to prepare a drive to be used in Windows for backup purposes or to store data. It should not be used as a way to securely erase data on hard disk drives.

Windows 11 has a centralized location for majority of its settings. From system configurations to creating new users and updating Windows, all can be done from its System Settings pane.

To get to System Settings, you can use the Windows key + i shortcut or click on Start ==> Settings as shown in the image below:

windows 11 start settings

Alternatively, you can use the search box on the taskbar and search for Settings. Then select to open it.

Windows Settings pane should look similar to the image below. In Windows Settings, click System, select Storage on the right pane of your screen shown in the image below.

windows 11 system storage

On the Storage settings pane, click on Advanced storage settings to expand additional settings.

advanced storage settings

On the expanded settings pane, select Disk & volume as highlighted below.

windows 11 disks volumes

That will bring up disks and volumes on the computer. Select the correct external disk or drive attached to Windows 11, then select Properties as highlighted below.

windows 11 disks and volumens drive 1

When the drive properties opens, locate the Format button under Format as highlighted below.

windows 11 format drive

When you click Format, a new dialog box will appear, where you will be able to label the drive and format it. When ready, click Format to begin formatting the drive.

windows 11 format volume

After a brief moment, depending on the size of the drive and the speed of your computer, the drive should be formatted and ready for use.

windows 11 volume data format

Once done, eject the drive from your computer and you’re done.

Again, formatting a disk will wipe the disk of all content, so you must be sure you want to format and want to select the correct disk.


This post showed you how to format external or internal drives in Windows 11. If you find any error above, please use the comment form below to report.

1 Comment

  1. I tried this on my new PC with Windows 11 Home, but when I got the external drive selected and clicked on Properties, it opened but there wasn’t a Format option to select.

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