Newly purchased external hard disk drives, and thumb drives, usually come already formatted with a FAT32 file format that can be universally read by any operating system. Reformatting the drive to use a more reliable and faster file format that matches what you are already using may be desirable. These directions apply to Windows Vista.
First click the Windows Start button -> All Programs -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management, select Storage -> Disk Management, and finally select a external hard disk drive, or thumb drive to format.
Right click the drive, then left click on Delete Volume.
Make sure you have removed or copy any data you want saved from the drive before starting this process. Yes, you want to delete this volume and erase all data on it.
Right click on the drive again, and choose New Simple Volume.
Assuming you want to allocate the entire disk to this volume click next. You can always shrink, and repartition the disk later if needed.
Choose to assign a drive letter to be sure you can see your drive when you plug it in.
For this example I have chosen the NTFS, since that is the native file system for Windows Vista. The Volume label allows you to easily identify this disk. Check the box that says Perform a quick format, or you might be waiting hours for the format process to finish.
Hopefully that was quick. Now click Finish. You could stop now, but there is one important setting you might want to set for this drive.
Right click on the drive, and left click Properties.
Go to the Hardware tab, select your drive, and click on Properties.
Go to the Policies tab.
There are two choices here, Optimize for quick removal, or Optimize for performance. On hard drives reading data is fast, but writing can slow down the hard drive, so Optimizing for performance uses caching to speed up the write process, but the downside is losing data, or corrupted data if the there is a power loss. With the Optimize for performance you can’t just disconnect the drive, first you have to right click the Safely remove hardware icon in the tray, or right click the drive in Computer window, to commit the Windows cache to the drive before disconnecting it.
If you can’t risk losing data, you can take the safe route and choose Optimize for quick removal to eliminate the chance of data loss or corruption, but if you want the hard drive to run faster choose Optimize for performance, but only check the boxes below if you have the drive and computer hooked up to a UPS (uninterruptible power supply).