Importance of Formatting cards?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Tbini87, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. Tbini87

    Tbini87 TPF Noob!

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    Hey guys. I have been hearing a lot about formatting memory cards, which is totally new to me. I have never formatted a card, and didn't even know what it was until i just Googled it. I have always just put the card into my camera and shot away, then after loading the pics onto my macbook i would let the computer software delete the originals. I have never had a problem, so why is formatting important? What does it do? Do you guys format a card before every shoot? Thanks guys!
     
  2. pbelarge

    pbelarge TPF Noob!

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    Formatting your card is like a tuneup for your car.
    It helps clear the card of extraneous issues from standard use.

    You always want to format your card in the camera. In the camera manual it will tell you how to do so with your camera. It is very easy to do. I do it everytime I put the card back in the camera after downloading my photos. Make sure that you have downloaded your photos before formatting. Formatting removes the images from the card if you did not do so as you downloaded them to your computer.
     
  3. pmsnel

    pmsnel TPF Noob!

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    By just deleting images you tell your camera that it's okay to write over the images already on your card. So you will not actually really remove images, but just take images over the existing ones. This always leaves "traces" of data on the card. By formatting it you actually remove the images before taking new ones. So you will start of with a fresh datafree card.
    As told by my workshop guy... Hope it clarifies things.
     
  4. MrBarney

    MrBarney TPF Noob!

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    ^^ True, but is it a problem to have traces of data left?

    Flash memory, such as that used in CF and SD cards, has a limited lifespan based upon the number of write cycles. I suppose you could argue that reformatting the card therefore reduces it's life as you write over every block of memory. As the lifespan is typically thousands of write operations, and the card has logic which spreads these writes across the card and maps out failed blocks (up to a limit) it's probably not an issue. The card logic is also responsible for "garbage collection" to ensure consistent write speeds even over previously deleted data. However, formatting may avoid problems with corrupt file systems and does give you some peace of mind that the whole card you're about to write your images to is still good.

    This write-up seems very thorough. (please tell me if it's against forum rules to post links to other sites): Rob Galbraith DPI: CF/SD Performance Database

    So, no real conclusion there then :D
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Actually it's about 100,000 program/erase cycles before 'memory wear' starts to become a concern.

    Flash memory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It is my understanding hard formatting flash memory only rewrites the FAT (File Allocation Table) and that formatting in the device the memory card will be used in assures compatibility, because though FAT is relatively straight forward technically, and is supported by virtually all personal computer operating systems, each device maker has their file convention peculiarities.
     
  6. Tbini87

    Tbini87 TPF Noob!

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    so you guys all format your card BEFORE you go out and shoot every time?
     
  7. Darkhunter139

    Darkhunter139 TPF Noob!

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    I do pretty much every time just to get rid of everything that was already on there.
     
  8. Boomn4x4

    Boomn4x4 TPF Noob!

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    Its not necessary unless there is a problem with the card or you want to delete all of the data on the card (though technically the data is still there until you overwrite it with new data)

    As mentioned, flash media has a limited number of read/write cycles. The number of cyles is in the 10's if not 100's of thousands of life cycles...At a minimum, needless formatting the card is simply reducing the life of your card.... Considering the number of read write cycles the card will go through, this shortened life time is insignificant... but there none the less.
     
  9. flyingember

    flyingember TPF Noob!

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    formatting leaves traces of your images there. all it's doing it wiping and rewriting the partition table otherwise it would take quite a bit longer than it does because the processor isn't that powerful
     
  10. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I always reformat mine after I transfer the pictures off of the card.

    That way, I have an empty card whenever I happen to pick up my camera.
     
  11. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Yes! Every time.
    After I have verified all the images uploaded ok, I take the card out of the reader, put it back in the camera, turn the camera on, re-format the memory card, turn the camera off and then start my first cull run through the images.
     
  12. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    Over the last decade plus of digital photography, I've reformatted my CF cards about 20 times, 30 times at the most. I've never had one file lost or damaged on a CF card. I've recently switched to a camera that uses SD/HC cards and I don't expect to change my habit of reformatting only periodically (~once every 6 months to a year).

    Both CF and, in recent years, the SD family have proven very reliable. The same can't be said of some older card types, particularly SmartMedia (the only type of card with which I've ever experienced a failure), and can't be said of the SD types during their first few years on the market.

    Still, its a good idea to refresh a card's format periodically. How often depends a lot on how many files you create and delete in a given length of time.
     

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