How to Format C From Recovery Console

Format C from recovery console in Windows XP & 2000

Screenshot of the format command in the Windows XP Recovery Console

One of several ways to format C is by using the format command from Recovery Console, accessible from a Windows XP or Windows 2000 Setup CD. You must have Windows XP or Windows 2000 on your C drive.

You have to have access to a Windows XP Setup CD or a Windows 2000 Setup CD to format C this way. Borrowing a friend's disc is fine since you won't actually be installing Windows.

If you can't get your hands on a Windows XP or 2000 Setup CD, or you don't have one of those operating systems on your C drive, then you won't be able to format C from Recovery Console. See How To Format C for more options.

Follow these steps to format C drive using Recovery Console:

Recovery Console does not install Windows and you will not need a product key to use Recovery Console.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: It could take up to several minutes to format C using Recovery Console

How to Format C From Recovery Console

  1. Enter Recovery Console.
    1. If you don't already know how to start Recovery Console, just click the link above. The process is a little confusing but if you can follow step by step instructions, you'll be fine.
  2. At the prompt, shown here in the instructions linked in Step 1, type the following and then press Enter:
    1. format c: /fs:NTFS 
      The format command used in this way will format C with the NTFS file system, the recommended file system for use in most versions of Windows.
    2. Important: The drive that Windows is stored on, which is usually C, may in fact not be identified as the C drive from Recovery Console. In most cases it will but if you have multiple partitions, it's possible that your primary drive might be identified by a different letter than you're used to seeing. Be sure you're formatting the correct drive!
  3. Type Y and then press Enter when prompted with the following warning:
    1. CAUTION: All data on non-removable disk drive C: will be lost! Proceed with Format (Y/N)? 
      Take this seriously! You can not change your mind after pressing Enter! Be very certain that you want to format C, which will delete everything on your C drive and prevent your computer from starting until you install a new operating system.
  4. Wait while the format of your C drive completes.
    1. Note: Formatting a drive of any size will take some time; formatting a large drive may take a very long time.
  5. After the format counter reaches 100%, your computer will pause for several seconds.
    1. Once the prompt returns, you can remove the Windows Setup CD and turn off your computer. There is no need to exit the Recovery Console or do anything else.
  6. That's it! You just formatted your C drive.
    1. Important: You remove your entire operating system when you format C. This means that when you restart your computer and attempt to boot from your hard drive, it will not work because there's no longer anything there to load.
    2. What you'll get instead is an "NTLDR is missing" error message, meaning there was no operating system found.

More on Formatting C From Recovery Console

When you format C from the Recovery Console, you don't truly erase any information, all you do is hide it from the next operating system installed.

See our article on How to Wipe a Hard Drive if you actually want to destroy the data on the drive, preventing it from ever being recovered.