Subscriber Stuart Cropper wrote with a question about re-using old hard drives:
Some years ago, I took a course on computer repair at that time technology was moving very fast and by the end of the course, which was about six months, new innovations were coming fast no updates were given by the company that I studied with. I passed the course which by today’s standards would have been the normal learning that computer lads and lasses have nowadays.
Anyway, getting back to the question that I want to ask you is this, I have three hard drives that I would like to format they came from a friend. Because they contain Windows XP, I cannot load my Home Edition over the top of the copy that is installed.
Is there any method that I can overwrite these copies with the one that is my registered operating system? Also, is there any method that I can use to completely format these discs, so that they can be used again.
I know that there is discs that you can buy to do this task but if they could be formatted from within windows it would be better.
The answer to Stuart’s question is a resounding "Yes!" There are several methods he can use, depending on what he’s trying to do.
He’s right that he can not load his Windows XP Home Edition over the top of the copy that is installed — assuming he’s trying to do use an upgrade version of Windows XP Home.
I understand from his question that he wants to use one of these hard drives as his primary hard drive (perhaps it’s larger than the one he’s currently using), and that’s why he’s trying to load Windows XP Home Edition on it.
He can do the installation by booting the Windows XP Home CDROM. That will give you some options that aren’t available when you run the Windows Upgrade CD from within Windows.
One of the first steps in the Windows installation is to specify which hard drive partition is to be used for installing Windows. That same step allows you to delete any existing partitions on the hard drive (Windows actually uses a partition on the physical hard drive as a "drive" in Windows).
So, Stuart can delete the existing partition. Of course, to install Windows, he’ll have to create a new partition in which to install Windows XP Home Edition.
If he’s just wanting to get rid of Windows XP from the drive so he can use it for storage, he should be able to install the drive and then use the Windows XP disk management utility (diskmgmt.msc) to delete the partition(s) on it. After that step, he would use the same program to create a new partition and to format it with either the FAT32 or NTFS file system.
If he’s just going to use the drives for storage, he can use an external hard drive adapter to hook the drive temporarily to a USB port on his computer. That wouldn’t be suitable for installing Windows, since Windows can’t run from an external hard drive.
An external hard drive adapter can be an external hard drive case with power supply, readily available for about $20. That would require installing a drive into the case before being able to modify it. Or, it can be a much more flexible external connector with power supply, where the drive is sitting in the open and just temporarily hooked up to the adapter and power supply.