Formatting a hard disk

I recently cobbled together a Frankenstein’s monster second computer out of spare parts I had sitting in my parts box. But I’m having trouble getting it up and running. All the components are hooked up and seem to be working, but I can’t get an OS installed. I used fdisk to delete all the partitions on my hard drive (an old 20MB that had Win98 on it but no longer boots for some reason), but I can’t seem to format it. I can get to the “A:” prompt by booting off a windows CD. But if I type “format c:” I get a “bad command or file name” error, which is like a bad acid flashback to 1982 (typing “format” gets me the same error, rather than something like “missing parameter” or whatever it’s supposed to say).

I then tried to do an OS install off of a Win98 SE CD, figuring that would automatically format the drive. The setup gets to the part where it’s supposed to format my HDD but then inexplicably asks me to insert the Windows setup CD. Which is already in the drive, because how could I get to this point without the setup CD? Hitting “OK” just kicks me back to the “Please insert CD” message.

I figure there must be some newfangled command I’m supposed to use to format the drive, or maybe there’s something wrong with the drive that makes it unformattable? It’s bizarre, because before I fdisked the drive, I could move around in it using the DOS prompt–it had all the old directories, and I could go into them and try to run executables (although the windows executable always halted with a “VFAT Error,” whatever that means, which is why I decided to format and reinstall). I can’t figure out what the problem is from these error messages, and a few minutes’ Googling didn’t help. Anyone here got any advice? Thanks.

Do you have the utility on the floppy drive? If you’re using a Win9x setup disk, you have to put it on there.

For some bizarre reason, W98 setup needs a formatted disk to install itself. I remember trying the same thing and it would hang my computer.

format c: /mbr

That should do the trick.

Not sure if it’ll be necessary, but Bootdisk is always handy to have around.

Ry, you need to create the partition with fdisk before you format it.

Some Win98SE setup CDs have been known to be able to deal with the partitions within Setup. That is to say, it will create one for you and then format it. It wasn’t a fully featured partition util, though.

I also know that the bootable Win98 CDs don’t have the on them, and you’ll likely have to find a different source. But as was stated, if you create a new partition, Windows 98 Setup should format it for you.

Also, restoring the Master Boot Record may help

Just in case it wasn’t clear from everyone before:

Download the Windows98se bootdisk from (I’d download the boot98se.exe file, since that’s the one I’ve used for the last 2 years without trouble). When you launch the file, it’ll prompt you to insert a floppy disk, then format the floppy and transfer a bunch of files. Put that floppy in the A:\ drive on the new machine, and boot up the machine.

Once it boots (hopefully from the floppy), do an fdisk /mbr to delete the existing master boot record. Then launch fdisk and create a new primary partition (using as much of the space as you think appropriate – probably 100%) and set it as active. Once you do that, it’ll complete and tell you it has to reboot.

Reboot using the floppy disk again, and when you get to the A:\ prompt, format c: /s. That’ll format the disk.

At this point, with Windows 98SE, I usually follow the instructions at for copying the setup files from the CD to the HD, and then installing directly from the HD. It means that Win98SE won’t ever again ask you to insert the CD, since it’ll already have all the CD files on the HD and will have the HD recorded as where it should go to find the files.