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

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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

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Before you click on Manage, 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.

After you've clicked on Manage, wait a few seconds for the Computer Management console to open. Select Disk Management in its navigation page and wait a few more seconds. Finally, the list of the disks that are attached to your computer will be displayed in its main window pane:

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 marked as 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

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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Comments:

  1. Nurul says:

    If you vae a boot disk or a recovery disk you need to use soeonme elses computer and load the disk onto a flash drive.Look on ebay there are a few people that sell the boot disk loaded onto a flash drive.It will work only if it is copied right.Otherwise there is nothing you can do unless you take it in to have soeonme to look at it and take care of it for you

  2. mbt shoes usa says:

    As a Newbie, I am constantly searching online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you

  3. PacoBell says:

    Thanks for the diskpart tutorial. You’re a godsend! =D

  4. Robert Rea says:

    Thanks. worked like a charm. I updated something that looked like Adobe reader and clicked with out thinking. It took the C drive and converted it to GPT disk. That was not fun.

  5. Andrew says:

    I receive error: Data error (Cyclic redundancy check) after issue “clean” command.

  6. admin says:

    Andrew: most probably, your disk has a hardware problem. You may want to visit the manufacturer’s web site and see if they offer a tool that could check the drive for errors. Good luck!

  7. Markus says:

    Thanks alot, this was a good article that helped me alot. Notis, i was needed to disconnect and reconnect my external HDD and restart the Disk Management to be abel to get this ”Initialize Disk” promt.

  8. Joseph says:

    Thanks, want to get Hackintosh Lion off one of my Harddrives. It was fun testing and messing around with it but I ran into problems like only getting two speakers out of my 5 speaker set to work. Also, Safari worked poorly. I think with my 2nd harddrive I’m going to try a Linux OS call Pear 6.1.

  9. hkb says:

    great tutorial.Thanks

  10. Evandro Araújo says:

    Nice tutorial! Works to me!

  11. secret says:

    i have a big prob. a vaio laptop with OS Win8, at the fisrt day i wanted to make a pertition using Eseus pertition master but i think a did a mistake to using it. after reboot windows is not statìrting because does not recognise the boot disk, now when i start the pc it shows me to select keyboard layout language and a recovery utilitis etc. but using them i get error that there is no disk or something like that. but i can access somehow on diskpart and can show the disk lists the fisr time it shows me two pertitions one has raw file system and another is ntfs (which will be boot disk and changed file system when i tried to pertitioning).
    what i have to do or how can i make to recognise it by windows using only diskpart (only way i have?
    plz help me!

  12. WinAbility Software says:

    @secret: there could be many possible reasons for the disk to become unbootable. Unfortunately, we cannot help you without being able to physically access your computer and analyze the disk. You may want to take it to your local computer repair shop for the analysis and help.

  13. will says:

    thanks for the help, very straight forward & clear tutorial.

  14. Jose says:

    thank you for a clear and well presented answer to an otherwise frustrating problem. much appreciated!

  15. Marc says:

    Amazing – solved my problem when others didn’t. Thank you…

  16. Tom says:

    You rock! Thanks so much for the information, easy to read, and extremely helpful. Your help got me out of a bad situation. Thanks again. :)

  17. Winfried says:

    superior work Thanks:-)

  18. Richard C says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for your excellent tutorial. It got me out of a bad situation whereas other solutions didn’t work at all. Now, I have a fully functioning SSD once again. Thank you, thank you!

  19. Ruffdon says:

    u are awesome, great tutorial

  20. Donald says:

    You are the bomb, thanks alot, nice tuts and to the point, how can i get to know you guys more?

  21. SRINATH says:

    I want to delete a partition that had my previous windows version.. now i installed my newer windows version on a different partition.. i currently tried the above said diskpart command but.. in the listing my whole hard disk drive was shown in a single piece.. which ofcourse no fool would delete… is there any possible way to delete only that particular partition f my drive… by the way i tried directly to format from both explorer and disk management in my newer version of my windows but it proved futile..

  22. Tof says:

    Thanks a lot, great job!

  23. doug says:

    nice work, simple and accurate.

  24. Óðinn Eldon says:

    thanks this was dead on what was wrong for me i accidentally converted an SSD into a GPT and it wont let me install OS’s on a GPT so thanks again

  25. slasher says:

    Great Tutorial. Works!!!

  26. rick says:

    great work!!! thanks for making it so simple and informative.

  27. jonathan says:

    For view the partion just run diskpart as amindnistrator in cmd
    diskpart than type { list vol }
    than went you see the volume listed there type { select volume ? } can be a Ltr or ### after that
    went you got the volume selected next command gonna be { format} with out the {}}}

  28. joshua says:

    thank you very much! it did help me great way B-)

  29. James says:

    Very good tutorial…exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for the clear instructions!

  30. Thierry says:

    Installing WIN8 brings trouble on HDD and multiboot. I have definitly removed WIN8 and with your very clear tutotial remove EFI partition. I am back to a stable situation. Never gain Win8. Many thx to you

  31. swapnil says:

    Thanks a lot!!!

  32. medgeek says:

    i tried every damn method to delete partition on my sd card including yours… it gets formatted too. but when i reinsert the sdcard then partitions comes back and everythng returns to normal….. whats the problem.plz tell me….its a headache for me else i have to throw my sdcard coz i cant download or install anythng on sdcard.

  33. WinAbility Software says:

    @medgeek: Could it be that you have accidentally locked the SD card using its Lock switch? If this is not the case, then yes, it looks like the card is damaged and needs to be replaced. Good luck!

  34. vibhor says:

    you saved my disk..Thanks a lot.

  35. uncalz says:

    thanks a lot!!!. it work for me. :)

  36. sxlcartron says:

    Thank you. It worked perfectly – just be VERY careful you pick the correct disk to CLEAN!!

  37. Sameer says:

    Thank !!! Big Help !!! Saved my day !!!

  38. Fabian says:

    I received a USB Stick which contains some bigger files from a friend by mail.
    The stick has an 200 MB EFI system partition and a big primary partition, where the files are probably located. Unfortunately I have no access to this primary partition, i.e. I can’t assign a drive-letter or anything (even in administrator mode). The right-click menu is completely disabled besides the delete volume option. As I want to access the data I can’t just delete the drive. Any idea how to access the data?
    Thanks a lot
    Fabian

  39. WinAbility Software says:

    Fabian: if your friend just copied the files on to the USB stick, they should appear in a regular partition, with a drive letter. If you don’t see that, it could be that the USB device is malfunctioning. Ask your friend to send you another one. Good luck!

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