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Formatting a Disk - Quick format vs Full format

When formatting a disk on a Windows PC, you might have come across the option of Quick Format and Full Format. So, what choice do you make? And how to make that choice? Apart from the speed, quick and fast, what’s the real difference between the two?

Disk formatting is the process of preparing a data storage device such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, floppy disk or USB flash drive for initial use. In some cases, the formatting operation may also create one or more new file systems.

Formatting can be considered similar to destroying the bookshelf and catalogue. However, if you choose the quick format option, the books are still present in the debris and one can regain them. On the other hand, full format removes the books completely. Now, let’s go in the technical details.

What happens during full format?

If you choose to go ahead with the full format option, the files are removed completely from a particular volume. Also, the hard disk is scanned for bad sectors. If found, the full format option also tries to fix the bad sector. If the fix is successful, the hard drive is made healthy again and you can again write data on it. This also creates a new filesystem table on the hard drive.

A bad sector is a disk sector that’s unwritable or inaccessible due to permanent damage. This might be due to failed flash memory transistors or damage to the disk surface.

Since the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft has started writing zeros to all data sectors. That’s why full format takes much more time than the quick format. Permanently delete file no recovery can be done.

What about quick format?

Instead of deleting all the data (and replacing it with zeroes), a quick format only deletes the file system journaling (the bookshelf catalogue). A quick format simply destroys the journal that is used to keep a track of the file and its location on the hard drive. It doesn’t scan the disk for bad sectors and skips rebuilding the file system in short Very Fast when it comes in reformatting. After that, as you write new data, the older data gets overwritten. At this point recovery tools can be used to regain all deleted files.

Full format vs Quick format — Which one should I choose?

A quick format doesn’t destroy your data. The data is still on the disk and using many file recovery software, one can undelete the files. A full format also scrubs the hard drive from scratch and rebuilds all the file structures. So, if you are selling a device or giving it away, full format is the only option you need to choose. A full format will also help you increase the disk performance, speed, and stability.

However, if your hard drive is already clean and it doesn’t have bad sectors, a quick format is suitable. If you aren’t sure about these points, perform a full format.

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