How to Initialize a New Hard Drive on Windows Vista

I noticed that the process to initialize a new hard drive on Windows Vista is not particularly intuitive – at least for a first time user – myself included! (I’ve just always used GNU/Linux, LiveCD or boot disk from the Win9X era.) However, in Windows 2000 and above, including Vista:

  1. Launch the Computer Management: [Win]+[r] or simply [Win] and enter compmgmt.msc in the run/search box
  2. Go to Storage -> Disk Management
  3. Find the drive from the list (colored black if unformatted)
  4. Right-click on the “Disk Label” on the left (displays the drive name and size, not the drive image) and select Initialize Disk
  5. Then you can right-click on the drive image to Create New Simple Volume


This “where to right-click” actually caught me! Typically clicking on the “Disk Label” only has the option of “Properties…” or “Help” which is not typically useful, at least for me.

FYI background: I just bought a couple new WD Green SATA 1TB hard drives ($85) and a nifty Cavalry USB hard drive dock ($40). Should be handy for backing up and accessing my data on multiple hard drives!

Larger Screenshots:

Right click the drive label to initialize disk a disk.

Right click the drive label to initialize disk a disk.

Right click the drive to create new simple volume (partition).

Right click the drive to create new simple volume (partition).

5 Responses to “How to Initialize a New Hard Drive on Windows Vista”

  1. Travis D. Says:

    Heresy! You’re leaving GNU / Linux in exchange for Windows — and of all things, Vista?!?

    Get back to your roots… go grab that Ubuntu / Gentoo install disk you have in your back pocket and get back to work! ;-)

  2. Jason T Says:

    Brian,

    Thanks mate – great tips that worked well even for a dullard like me.

  3. Brian Says:

    Great – glad to hear you found it useful Jason!

  4. David Jones Says:

    Hi, ive recently bought a 3 tb western digital mainstream that i wanted to use as a secondary storage drive. Ive got the computer to pick up the disk but it only recognizes it as 946gigs. How do o get the computer to recognize the entire size? Im running windows vista 32 bit

  5. Brian Says:

    David – it sounds like you are on the right track, that unfortunately 32 bit operating systems cannot address the size of a 3TB hard drive. You may need to upgrade your hardware (motherboard) as well. When you do get it set up, perhaps initialize two 1.5TB partitions out of it. You could also try a 64bit linux livecd to format and partition the drive.
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/235088/everything_you_need_to_know_about_3TB_hard_drives.html

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