How and Why to Format a Memory Card

Most people don't understand the difference between erasing all the photos on a memory card and formatting it. You should format your memory card at least twice a year, depending on how often you use it. But why would you want to format the card as opposed to erasing the pictures?

When you're constantly using the card, you're going to gradually wear down its performance. Erasing the photos won't help. You need to format the card occasionally to start with a fresh slate. It takes a little longer than erasing, but it is a great maintenance habit to get into. It's also very easy.

Transfer All Your Photos

Formatting the drive erases everything on it and then reestablishes the directories. Before you begin the process, you need to make sure that you have transferred everything from the card to your computer, because you will never get it back.

Formatting in the Camera

Some people say that you should format the card within the camera instead of your computer. Every camera is different, but they follow the same structure. Make sure the card is in the camera, turn it on, and put it in playback mode. Open the menu and navigate to the option that allows you to format the card.

To maximize the efficiency of your card, you should always format the card in your camera when it is new. This way the card's system conforms to your own camera's setting, giving your speed a little boost. You should also format the card when using a card that was in another camera. This way it is accustomed to the new camera before your start shooting.

Formatting in Your Computer

If your computer has a memory card reader, then you can format it in your computer. Otherwise, you'll need to buy an external card reader that plugs into your USB drive. When you plug the card into your computer, it will treat it like an external hard drive. 

Open "My Computer" and you will see the drive. Double-click it to confirm that this is the right drive that you wish to format. When you're sure, right click the icon and choose "Format." Leave all the options untouched. Make sure that you are really ready to format it, because once you do this, you can't reverse it. When you're sure you're ready to format, click "Start." Depending on the size of the card, formatting could take a few minutes. 


When you're getting rid of an old drive, you should format and destroy it so that any personal information about you can't be retrieved.

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