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I have an HDD [IDE connected through a USB case] with some damaged areas. Windows [Vista] format fails. I was given to understand that Low Level format is mostly for older drives and might not work on a newer one. And that there might be other techniques of wiping/formatting.

What kinds of formatting are they? And which ones might help to exclude the damaged sectors so that the drive will be usable with the remaining capacity.

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FYI, newly damaged areas on a drive can be a red flag for imminent disk failure. I'm not sure I would trust the drive. – romandas Jul 18 '09 at 16:55
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Try using something like the GParted Live disk to format the hard drive. This way Windows cannot accidently interfere with the process.

If you are going to use it just on Windows, then you would want NTFS as the file system. Otherwise, go with FAT32. Although it does have a 4GB file size limit, it seems to be the most compatible file system out there.

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I wasn't aware that GParted could low-level format a drive. I thought it could only partition and high-level format? – ChrisInEdmonton Jul 30 '09 at 16:15

First, try running the Windows Disk Error Check Utility:

  1. Go to My Computer
  2. Right-click the drive and select Properties
  3. Select the Tools tab
  4. Select Check Now ...
  5. Follow prompts

If this fails, then you may be looking at replacing the hard drive. If you fail to get sufficient information from this utility then you could drive a free linux-based solution such as DBAN which can not only wipe hard drives but also report on errors. Or you could use a commercial solution like WipeDrive.

Both of these tools will provide more robust and complete options for your drive than the standard Windows utilties.

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You can use the dd command on Linux to perform low level wipe of the disk.

Just do dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda conv=noerror (Substitute sda with your disk id) to overwrite whole disk with zeros. This will wipe out everything, including partition table.

See for more info on dd.

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You have to MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE DISK ID CORRECT. The version here will by default wipe out your main HDD if you just copy/paste it. If you can mount the drive in linux, run the mount command in order to find out the drive id. – MiffTheFox Jul 18 '09 at 15:05

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