How to delete a protected EFI disk partition with Windows 7, 8, or Windows 10

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As you probably know, in order to be able to store files on a hard drive, it needs to be prepared just right: it needs to be initialized, partitioned, and formatted just the right way. If you've bought an external drive in a store, the preparation has probably been already done by the drive manufacturer. However, what if you want the drive to be prepared differently? For example, you may want to re-format the drive, or change the partitions that it has. The way to do such tasks in Windows is to use the Disk Management tool that comes preinstalled with Windows.

To get to the Disk Management tool, click on the Start button, right-click on Computer, and choose Manage from the menu:

Opening Windows 7 Computer Management console from Start menu

If you use Windows 10, right-click on the Start button, and choose Disk Management from the menu instead.

Before you continue, first things first: Disk Management is a very powerful tool, and with great power comes great responsibility! If you are not very experienced with computers, you can look, but better not touch and let someone more knowledgeable to do the job. Because with Disk Management it's very easy to destroy your partitions and lose your files, if you don't know what you are doing.

Windows 7 Computer Management console

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The most important thing when using the Disk Management tool is to make sure you can identify the disk you want to manage in the list. Usually you can do it by the total size of the disk displayed, although it may be confusing. For example, in this example, a hard drive that's described as a 60 GB drive by the manufacturer, is shown to have only 55.89 GB by Windows. (Apparently, the disk manufacturers and Windows have a different understanding of what a "gigabyte" is.) Also, if you have several disks of the same size attached, it may get even more confusing. If in doubt, better unplug all external drives except for the one you actually want to work with, to make sure you are not accidentally erasing data on a wrong disk!

In our case, the 60 GB disk (shown as 55.89 GB disk in the list) is Disk 4 (let's remember this number, we will need it a bit later.) It has two partitions, one is a 200MB EFI partition that has no drive letter assigned, and another NTFS partition of the size 55.69 GB, that has the label test and the drive letter F:. Although these two partitions looks similar, they are treated very differently by Windows. If you right-click on the normal NTFS partition, you should see the normal menu that lets you perform various tasks on that partition, including the Delete Volume command:

Context menu for the regular disk partitions

However, if we right-click on the first EFI partition, the menu we get is completely disabled:

Context menu for the EFI disk partition is disabled

As you can see, the partition is protected in such a way that even the powerful Disk Management tool cannot do anything to it. Note that it's not because the partition is EFI, it's because the tool that created that partition had marked it in a way that prohibits other tools to tamper with it. (That's usually the case for the system hard disks formatted on the Mac computers.) However, what if we want to delete such a partition and re-initialize the disk from scratch?

While the Disk Management tool is helpless in this situation, fortunately Windows offers yet another tool, DISKPART, that can do things to the disks that Disk Management can't. The tricky part is, that DISKPART is a command-line tool, that requires us to type commands into its command prompt to make it do what we want.

To get access to the DISKPART tool, first let's open the Windows command prompt in the "administrator" mode. We can do that by clicking the Start button and entering cmd in the search box:

Locating the command line prompt using the Start menu

(If you use Windows 8 that has no Start Menu, you can get our StartFinity utility to get the Start Menu back.)

Make sure that cmd is highlighted on the menu above, but do not press the Enter key yet! Instead, press the Ctrl and Shift keys together, and while keeping them depressed, press Enter. The Ctrl+Shift combination makes the command prompt to open in the "administrator" mode. To start the DISKPART tool, enter the diskpart command into the command prompt window:

Starting the DISKPART command from the command prompt

This should display the DISKPART command prompt. The first command we should use is list disk that should display the list of the disks currently connected to the computer:

Listing the disks with the DISKPART command

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Again, it's very important to properly identify the disk we want to work with in the list. Our 60 GB disk is still listed as Disk 4 with the capacity 55 GB. Once we are sure that this is the disk we want to re-initialize, we need to select it, by entering the command select disk 4 (yes, that's how selection is usually done when using the command line tools!). Then, let's use the list disk command again, to confirm that the disk in question is indeed now selected:

Selecting the disk with the DISKPART command

After double-checking that Disk 4 is now selected (it should have the star character * in front of its label), it's time to finally issue the command that will erase everything on the disk 4, including the protected partition. The command that does that is clean. Note that this command erases everything on the selected disk, all partitions, protected or not. If you still have files on other partitions of disk 4 that you want to keep, you should exit now and backup those files, because after using the clean command all such files will be erased without a trace!

Erasing the disk with the DISKPART clean command

After the clean command is done (it should take no more than a few seconds), we get a fresh disk with all partitions erased. We can exit the DISKPART command prompt (by typing exit into its command line), and go back to the Disk Management tool (see above how to open it.) When it starts, it automatically detects the presence of the clean disk and prompts us to initialize it:

Initializing the clean disk with the Disk Management tool

Press OK and the newly cleaned disk will appear in the list. The difference is, the protected EFI partition is gone! (The normal NTFS partition that used to be on the disk 4, is gone, too.) The disk is now ready for you to start creating partitions, formatting them, and do other things as needed:

Working with the clean disk with the Disk Management tool

Note that if you are trying to erase the system disk that hosts the C: drive where Windows itself is installed and running, then even the powerful DISKPART command can't work: Windows simply refuses to erase the drive from which it is running. To erase such a disk, you need to physically remove it from the computer, attach it to another computer as an external drive, and then use DISKPART on that computer to erase the disk.

Happy disk managing!

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  1. Thank you for this, took me hours tearing out what little hair I have left getting nowhere. Sorted!

  2. Awesome! This is a solution I’ve been after for a while. Worked a treat – and makes me think I really should learn a bit more dos..

  3. Omg, Thank you so much, been using Microsofts operatingsystems and DOS itself for many years.. and ofcourse i had problems removing a partition from a SD-card – never used Diskpart before! Didnt even know it existed, so easy and so logic to use..

    Big thanks!

  4. You have saved my bacon. Brilliant, informative and helped me out. Look forward to using other tutorials you have.

  5. Hi
    Spotmau Bootsuite is a very good utility where you don’t have to take the hard drive out. Thought this might be helpful.

  6. This was EXACTLY what I needed! Unfortunately it sees the USB drive has failed. But thank you for this detailed and easy to follow write up. Well done

  7. I cant delete it. It say “Virtual Disc Service Error: Clean is not allowed on disk containing the current boot, system, pagefile, crashdump, or hibernation volume.” When I install windows I chose other HDD and name partition on it with “C”. I was formated this disk, but it looks like I not do it wright. I can’t reinstall Win again, is there chance to delete this disk part somehow? And is there any way to change disk number? Because this disk is “Disk 0” and disk with C partition is “Disk 2”

  8. Alex: even if you choose to install Windows on another disk, it will still store some system information on disk 0, that’s why it does not let you delete it. The only way to solve such a problem is to physically disconnect disk 0 while installing Windows on another disk, then reconnect it again, after the install is finished. Good luck!

  9. THANK YOU! It’s been a long time since I used DOS, and was trying to use FDISK – which evidently is a command no longer used.

  10. Excellent, just the advice I needed. Much better than the Windows site. Will definitely use your site for future advice. Thanks.

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