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Format an SD Card the Easy Way

SD cards can be tricky little gadgets. They sit in our cameras and cell phones, just waiting for us to take a picture for life, and at that time, of course, they stop responding. While nothing can predict when or where an SD card will die, proper formatting can both extend the lifespan of the card and maximize the available space.

The SD Association provides an SD card formatter for this purpose. Yes, they acknowledge that Windows has built-in formatting, but caution that using the operating system’s standard formatting tool “may not achieve optimal performance.” Translation: death of SD card and less space to save images.

The program can be downloaded on both Mac and Windows. All SD, SDHC and SDXC cards are supported, and it is recommended to use a USB card reader for the formatting process.

Once installed and launched, the program initializes with only one small screen.

Make sure to insert your SD card into the reader before starting the program. The program is smart enough to scan all disks and find the disk for the SD card. If not, just click the Refresh button. If you are having trouble displaying the card in the dropdown, you may need to install the SDXC driver for that specific card type.

Then click Option to choose how to format the SD card. A drop-down menu dialog box appears listing three “format type” options. The first, Quick, is simply a standard format that erases the Master Boot Record (MBR) on an SD card. Although the data cannot be accessed using File Explorer or Finder in Windows and Mac, it remains on the card itself.

The Full (Overwrite) option initializes the card and replaces all data with meaningless data. This method is safer than simply erasing the data on the SD card because it is much more difficult to recover previously written data if you overwrite it. This option will take much longer than Full (Erase) or Fast.

Full (Erase) option deletes the data on the SD card. Using special software and tools, you can retrieve data that has been deleted using this method. If the card does not support this method, it will revert to fast format.

The Format Type drop-down menu contains a second menu called Adjust Format Size, which asks if you want to try to increase the amount of space on the SD card. Enabling this option will allow you to use the maximum possible space on your SD card. After making your choice, click “OK”.

I recommend selecting “Full” (overwrite) and enabling “Size Adjustment”. Back at the home screen, it should show you the settings you’ve selected.

Finally, click “Format”. You will be asked one last time if you are sure you want to do this. If you are sure, click OK.

Then a new dialog box displays the status of the formatting process. For the options selected above, it will overwrite the entire card with random data and then format the card. If you are using a larger disk, the process may take some time. Do not turn off your computer or remove the disc until the entire process is complete.

When finished, a dialog box will appear showing the results of the formatting process.

In general, the program works well and ensures that your card will last longer and your data will be permanently deleted if you plan to transfer it to someone else. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave comments. Enjoy!

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