Initializing a New Disk

I just installed a new SATA disk, and was a little surprised that it did not appear on Windows Explorer as soon as I had installed it in a caddy and connected it via the caddy’s USB port.  Then I remembered that I would have to partition the disk, which is done via Administrative Tools | Computer Management (Administrative Tools is available from Control Panel, then select the Storage | Disk Management item from the tree at the left of the screen).  The unallocated (as in – not allocated to a particular type of disk partition) appears in the list as a black-barred-box, as per the screen-shot below.  I right-clicked, and tried to create a partition, but to no avail, as every time I got the message: “The operation cannot be completed because the disk is not initialized.” This quick post is about the simple solution to that problem.

The unallocated disk

Try all you will, there is no initialize option (or Initialise if you prefer the English – but you definitely won’t find that spelling in Windows) when right-clicking the main drive box, or anything apparent on the top-menu.   However, if you click in the little box highlighted with a red outline above – i.e. the box which describes the disk capacity,then you will find an initialize option.  Click that, and you will be presented with options for how you want to disk to be initialised; I selected MBR or Master Boot Record… and two seconds later you’re done.  (Sorry, the screen-shot above is taken after initialisation, so I don’t recall if it was different before [Update – see the next screenshot for what you should expect to see – note how the left box says ‘Not Initialized’]).

The uninitialized disk menu

The drive is still not allocated, however, but you can proceed with assigning the physical space on the disk to different partitions by using the right-click menu on the larger right-hand box:

The New Volume context menu

I’m not going to go into the details of how you would want to configure partitions on a new drive, but I just wanted to document the hidden location of the ‘Initialize Disk’ option.

Update 17/2/2010

Like one of the comments below, I recently experienced an issue with Initializing a new USB disk, when I received a ‘Data Error (Cyclic Redundancy Check)’ error during initialization. To cut a long story short, in that instance the problem was with power. The drive was USB-powered, and although it appeared to turn on OK when I plugged it in with one of the cables, it looked like it was functioning. It was only when I plugged in both USB cables (the additional one to help provide extra power) that it operated, and in fact then it showed that it did not even need to be initialized at all! (it had already been formatted etc).

One other problem related to this disk was that even with both USB plugs plugged-in at the computer end, recognition of the drive was still flaky, and required a reboot just for the drive to be recognised and for the drive to be displayed under My Computer.

74 thoughts on “Initializing a New Disk

  1. hey.. did as u said above… but i get an error..

    data error (Cyclic redundancy Check)

    what do i do?

    its a pocket drive.. 6 GB.. plz help…

  2. All I can is THANK YOU!!! I thought I was losing my mind and actually lost some hours trying to find this damn thing. I knew I had to go through computer management to add the new sata drive, I just had a hard time finding the initialize function in Vista. It was very frustrating for me because I don’t consider myself PC illiterate. I searched high and low for an answer, but none were of any use. Then I found your article and I am so HAPPY. Yours was the only one clearly outlining the details behind it 🙂

    Thank you again for this awesome information – I know I am not the only one out there trying to find this “hidden” setting.

  3. Your article saved me a lot of time and frustration! Thank you! I spend a good 15 minutes scouring forums and related articles, but yours is the only one directly addressing this issue. Thanks again!

  4. Great Job. This article worked great with my external hard drive error message. Thanks

  5. Thank you very much! This also saved me a considerable amount of frustration! Similarly to Adam i was scouring forums for this solution. How stupid that you have to right click just in that little box!

  6. Just installed a 500 GB hard drive and encountered this problem. Thanks for the help.

  7. Thanks, could not find that option either.
    Very strange that Vista just does not ask if you’d like to initialize the drive and instead you receive the error… very unfriendly to say the least.

  8. Thanks! Just bought a TB drive and was afraid I would have to return it. I can’t believe this process is still so manual.

  9. Thanks for that. You’re right! It certainly is NOT obvious where to find it.

  10. Thank you so much for your help. Without your post, I would spend endless hours to solve this problem. Thanks again…..

  11. Thank you for this – happens a million times, try to do something new and its always some minor little fix that took HOURS trying to solve on your own. Much appreciated!!!!

  12. Hey,

    I still have a problem after I completed the aforementioned steps.

    When I try to initialize the hardrive, this error message pops up: “cyclic redundancy check.”

    Would you happen to know what this means and what I can do about it? Thanks

  13. I spent some time to find how to initialize my new HD. Your post saved me many many hours…Dxmn Vista..I still prefer XP.


  14. THe little red arrow!!! Thank you!!! I used to build machines as a side business, and it’s been a while since I installed a drive. This info was very helpful!

  15. Cheers for the well constructed and easy to follow solution. You’ve saved me from a prematurely receding hairline with hairy knuckles… MS Vista help is poo.

  16. Thanks. Worked great! I certainly wouldnt have thought to look there for the initialize option.

  17. i had a problem same like you, but i cant do new simple volume, new spanned volume, i cant click it, any other idea?

  18. Thank You

    You saved me heaps of time and actually thinking the hard drive was dead, I changed my USB port it was plugged into and it worked straight away, took forever to format through a USB port though Yikes!! 😉

  19. You, sir are a legend. Thank you! What a ridiculously well-kept secret this was!!

  20. Thanks a Lot!!!! I was going crazy not being able to format my original PS3 HDD (after a PS3 HDD upgrade) on a Vista PC due to the initialization error!!! You saved me a lot of time and money!!

  21. I am, like everyone else who left a message here, only sorry there is no way to say in HUGE RED FLASHING text how much your post is worth. Well done mate.

  22. i love you OP, this is the best instruction i found in the internets

  23. What a strange oversight in the disk management plug-in!!! I was looking everywhere for the Initialize option and would never have thought of clicking on the box on the LEFT. Thanks for the tip!

  24. Big thanks mate! its the little things you miss with this sort of thing, have been thinking how to solve this for weeks!

  25. Simple solution, glad someone figured it out … Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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