Are you going to format? Choose between fast and full format

Either to erase all the data on a storage unit or to clean our hard drive to perform a new installation of an operating system, we are going to use the Format function. When in doubt about whether to decide on a quick format or a complete format, we must be clear about several factors. For example, we must know what a format is, what type of formats exist, and the differences that we find when doing a quick format format and a full format format.

What is a format and a file system

When we talk about formatting a device, we mean initializing the data on that medium. Or what is the same, order the layout format of the data of that storage system. At the moment we format all the content of our hard drive or pendrive will be initialized, that is, it will will erase everything it contains, so care must be taken to safeguard the important data that we may have stored.

When formatting our storage unit we must select one of the file systems such as FAT32, NTFS and exFAT. Of course, there are differences between one format or another, such as the operating system where it can be used and the data capacity limit. Generally, Windows computers use a format NTFS It is characterized by its fast writing to the disk and greater security. The format FAT32 It is the most used in old PCs, being able to move and save files of up to 4 GB, being compatible with computers with the macOS operating system. Finally, exFAT It is the successor format to FAT32, which removes the 4 GB capacity limitation and can be used on Windows, macOS and Linux.

Differences between the two types of format

The format option is used mainly when we want to completely eliminate the data from a unit or we want to install a new operating system on our computer, eliminating all the data it contains. When formatting, the system will offer us the possibility to choose between a Quick Format and a Full Format.

Quick format

When we use this type of format, it will take less time to format the selected drive. It will simply take care of removing the address of the data, but it will still be there, even if we are not able to see it. In this way, as we copy new data, the overwriting old datas getting a new address for the data. This formatting will not rebuild the file system or search for bad sectors. Therefore, in case there are bad sectors and we have used the Quick Format, the overwritten data could be corrupted by these bad sectors.

To use Quick Format, all you have to do is right-click on the storage unit and choose the “Format” option. Within the menu that appears we check the box of «Quick format» and click on «Start».

Windows Quick Format

It is also possible to use the Command Prompt application, run as administrator, to be able to quickly format a drive. For this we write diskpart and press Enter. Later we write this command and press Enter

format fs=ntfsquick

Quick format from Command Prompt

Full format

If we use the full Format, will delete all files completely out of the unit. Likewise, it will also be in charge of de scan the drive for bad sectors. In the event that bad sectors are found during the formatting process, it will also fix them. It is a type of format especially used when the drive is in poor condition and the data is corrupted when copied due to bad sectors. Therefore, this process requires much more time than if we use the fast format, since it will replace all the data with zeros. The duration of the format will depend on the size of the storage device and its speed.

If we want to select the full format, we must right-click on the unit and select “Format” from the context menu. In the menu that appears, we must choose the file format, make sure that the Quick Format box is not checked, and click on “Start”.

Full format

We also have the possibility of carrying out a complete format using the Command Prompt, being necessary to run it as an administrator. Once open we write diskpart and press Enter. Then we write this command and press Enter

format fs=ntfs

Full format from Command Prompt

When to choose between one format or another

When deciding between choosing between the fast format or the full format, it will depend to a great extent on both the state of the device and the use that we are going to make of it. If what we want is to install a new operating system on our hard drive, we can choose the full format. For this, the system will be in charge of completely eliminating all the data and looking for possible reading and writing errors that could affect the proper functioning of the system.

In the event that we are going to format a pendrive, memory card or other external storage device that works correctly, we can opt for the quick format. Skipping the check for bad sectors allows us to greatly reduce formatting time. In the same way, we make sure that the stored data is overwritten as we copy the new data.

Not to be confused with the low-level format

Sometimes some users may tend to confuse low-level format with fast format. While the fast format is meant to create a new file allocation table, the low-level format is a procedure where data is written onto the storage medium, bypassing the file system layer. The low-level format is often used by manufacturers before shipping new storage devices. By using the low-level format, tracks and sectors are created that can then be used by the fast and full format.

When using this type of format, it does not matter if the storage system has one partition or more, or the type of format it contains, since it is written in each and every one of the device’s bits, so it is ensures that all old data is destroyed forever.

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