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

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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, thank you, thank you. I like to think that I’m pretty good with computers but uninstalling Win 8 and putting in Win 7 took me for a ride. This helped tons.

  2. Thank you very much.. I am very much pleased by this article.. It really helped me a lot.. Thank you once again.

  3. 750 gigs regained. I lost a huge amount of information because I scanned and did not read slowly this tutorial.
    I’m crying on the inside right now. New people I URGE you to get a coffee take your time and follow this great tutorial .

  4. So, is there no way to delete just a SINGLE PARTITION on the drive ?
    Must I bomb the WHOLE DRIVE ?
    Surely there must be a way to FORCE DELETE a single partition, and not everything ?
    Thanks, but this doesn’t work or me.

  5. Yes, there is a way to delete just a single partition. Using “Disk Management” tool, you can view all volumes. It lists each disk individually and also breaks them down by partition. To delete a single partition first verify the physical disk that the partition is on, then right click said partition. As long as it is not “Boot”, “Crash Dump”, or “Page File” partition you should have the option to delete the volume.

  6. Thanks for this! The other tutorials only talked about the “delete partition override” method, which wasn’t working for me. This worked perfectly with one command. :)

  7. Excellent! Spent an hour reading all the usual sources and none provided the info as clearly as this. This worked without any hassle our issues. Well done sir!

  8. Well, it was actually a little to wordy but the information is accurate so it works perfectly! Thank you.

  9. thanks! Worked very well. I got an error after doing the clean command but i just tried it again and it worked. thanks!!

  10. Worked Perfectly. I skipped the CTRL + Shift combo (Great Little Shortcut As Well), so I had access error, which makes sense.

    This worked perfectly on Windows 8 as well.

    Great write up!

  11. Hi, none of the recommendations above actually works for wiping my SSD drive. It was working under MAC OSX with Firevault 2 but due to some strange reason it does not accept my passcode anymore (or I may have it wrong and do not remember the correct one) so I just want to delete all partitions. I also already tried eraseUS partition manager but nothing seems to be able to delete these partitions. Sometimes I get the message that it is done but then thes epratitions just re-appear.

    Aby thoughts?

  12. Great tutorial – huge thanks to you! You saved me from a lot of computer-trouble! :D

  13. thanks a lot. hav’nt used cmd for many years, after reading your tutorial brought it all back. BRILL ;~)

  14. AWESOME information.
    This got me through opening/formatting a protected partition great and every step was spot on – even on this POS VISTA unit we use as a spare PC.
    Thanks for the great write up

  15. cant clean disk. information is: the request couldnt be performed because of an I/O device error

  16. Well, this response was helpful to the person who has his windows os n the efi to be deleted on different disks.
    i was tryin for a dual boot of windows 8.1 and fedora, but my laptop boots directly to win without even the grub loading up.
    i noticed 2 efi partitions created, on the same disk, which has my windows os.
    how can i delete these efi partitions which are on the same disk as the windows os???

  17. This was great, but you have several disks here. What happens when you have only one disk (disk 0). You cant clear it since it has the O.S system running on it. So explain what is that healthy EFI partition doing in front (to the left) of the primary partition? I am sure if you right clicked that 200mb healthy partition, you have no options to extend, create etc…just help option. So my question is why is it there? It was nice to have the flexibility of cleaning it up, but with one drive, that option is not acceptable

  18. Thanks for being so clear and direct, not everyone who knows something can teach it to others, even if the wanted.

  19. *click* save website to favourites.
    11/10 – Will submit to your superior knowledge and extremely organised way of conveying information again.

  20. Hey, I had the problem that i couldn’t delete the 10gb partition that i made to boot kali linux on from the disk management. So I tried the DISKPART but the 10gb partition doesn’t show when i type list disk it only shows my main disk being 600gb . Please be my hero ! Thanks in advance!

  21. This is just what I needed! I want to thank the author and host for taking your time to help people like me in need. Amazing tutorial and website! Thanks so much!

  22. Thanks for a very clear tutorial. I had an old HDD full of files and partitions, and now it’s all clear and doing something useful as a backup disk.

  23. Thanks! I got worried because my Kingston 16GB SD card was being recognized as a 64MB drive and I couldn’t do anything with Disk Management. This was a nice refresher of how to use disk utility.

  24. OMG! your instructions saved my life! believe in me! you saved a life. Now my external hard drive is accessible.
    Thank you so very much.

  25. hiya, I like the way you explain things, you assume the person reading has very little knowledge and then explain very carefully the what’s and whys of things, This technique worked perfectly and saved my 8Gig Sd card, which also just happened to be disk 4 lol. thanks for your help. Tony

  26. By mistake I formatted a partition as EFI.
    Used MiniTool Partition Wizard.
    Install, mark the EFI partition/Delete/Apply and done!
    Best of all it’s free.

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