Poll: How often do you format SD cards?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by SVQuant, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. Never

    8 vote(s)
  2. Once (initially)

    10 vote(s)
  3. Only if I have an error

    11 vote(s)
  4. Regularly (but not every time I download images)

    53 vote(s)
  5. Every time I download images

    36 vote(s)
  6. In camera everytime I reinsert it

    55 vote(s)
  1. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    I had some issues with video recording with my E-M10 and one suggestion was to format the SD card and see if that helped. I realize that I have never reformatted my cards after the initial format. Haven't really had any issues until now, so I guess this has worked for me. Curious as to how often people format their cards.

    Also, if you feel like sharing your rationale for your workflow, that's awesome.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  2. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    I reformat (in camera) every time :)
    Just an easy way to clear the memory.
    • Agree Agree x 6
  3. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
    I reformat after shooting video every time. If I have been shooting stills, I reformat every ~ 2 - 3 times. I reformat on my iMac.
  4. 50orsohours

    50orsohours Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 13, 2013
    Portland Oregon
    I also reformat every time.
  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I reformat every time I put a card into the camera and do it via the camera (never on the computer). Did not answer poll because it does not differentiate between in camera or on computer.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  6. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Good point. Added another choice to the poll.
  7. In camera after every time I down load.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  8. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Voted now :biggrin:
  9. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    In camera every time I re-insert. Purely because it's the fastest and most convenient way to wipe the cards.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  10. TonyG

    TonyG Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 15, 2012
    Ontario Canada
    I format every one in a while. Usually I delete the files. Haven't noticed any issues either way.
  11. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Clearly, I am an exception. Going to change my workflow to start formatting in camera.

    Also, sharing this article as it actually used an E-M10 for testing.
    The Best SD Cards
  12. astrostl

    astrostl Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 4, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Justin Honold
    Team formatting. If you delete 1000 photos, that is 1000 discrete writes against a write-limited device.

    Formatting simply blows away the partition table, leaving the data technically intact. Fewer writes == longer lifespan.

    And it's faster. What more could ya want? :D
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Informative Informative x 2
  13. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    Deleting 1000 photos just updates the FAT file table marking those files as gone and the blocks available for overwrite. It's not going out and doing a bunch of file operations. There's essentially no difference. Quick format is writing a new partition table and bulk deletion is editing the file table. No actual file data is touched.

    Either way, though, with flash storage it will have to write zeros to a block of data before it can be written to again. That happens either during a full or low-level format, or it happens just before your file is saved decreasing performance. If you've filled up a card a couple of times over, then you'll want to do a full format to increase write performance.
    • Informative Informative x 3
    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. NigelD

    NigelD Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 23, 2015
    Format every time so the memory is all available for a new shoot. It hasn't happened to me but I can imagine nothing worse than getting to a shot, 1/2 way through and no memory left because you've left loads of stuff on there AND forgotten your extra cards too.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Rob Campbell
    came here to say this. Deleting a file doesn't write over any old data, just removes it from the file table.

    There is no reason to format a card unless the file table has become corrupted. In most cases, it's slower, unless it's a quick format as above.

    One of the funny things about modern microcontrollers in flash storage is that they've become very sophisticated. They have to fight constantly against write errors on the somewhat unstable solid state memory structures they use. As a result, there's loads of caching and writing to different sections on the card, error checking and redundant writes. These tiny computers can be reprogrammed with viral payloads that can infect computers or take over the wifi radios in a modern camera.

    There was a demo at blackhat in 2013.

    SD cards hacked | ZDNet

    Formatting flash storage doesn't always do what you think it's doing. Nor does deleting.

    And there's your healthy dose of tin foil hattery for today!
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  16. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    I wait for the card to nearly fill up, and then format.
    This is "manual/forced wear leveling"... The SD standards don't specify any wear leveling so DIY.

    Deleting 1000 files means 1000 writes to the FAT.
    Buffering and write-back caching would reduce that, but Windows won't do write back by default on removable devices.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. astrostl

    astrostl Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 4, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Justin Honold
    Yes, and common importers will sequentially overwrite N (e.g. 1000) times, as opposed to overwriting the partition table alone. Thus I prefer formatting.
  18. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    I'm a computer designer and system programmer by trade and also worked in the semiconductor industry. I format my hard disks and SSDs once after they are installed. Same thing with memory cards. Once.

    Yes, there is a wearout mechanism but it is unlikely to be an issue for us. IIRC wearout issues and the idea of wear leveling get discussed when individual memory cells are expected to see 100K or 1M cycles. In fact, repeated low-level formatting probably has a higher theoretical potential to wear the card out than does simple erasing which, as has been pointed out, simply marks the FAT to indicate that the formerly-used memory is again available. The notion that old deleted files somehow fill up the card or make part of its capacity unavailable is completely false.

    IMO, the reason the OP hasn't had any issues from never reformatting his cards is because never reformatting doesn't cause issues. (As of this post, I am the one and only person in the poll who selected "Never." "Never" over maybe ten years of shooting digital.)

    The idea of reformatting being the fastest way to erase the card is an interesting one. I intend to do some speed tests as my GX7 and GX8 do seem a bit pokey when I select "Erase All."

    The theory that writing zeros before writing data produces slower file-save speeds than speeds on a "clean" block is also interesting. It's been a long time since I looked at flash memory cell technology. I'll have to do some testing. There's so much other overhead involved in the file saving process that it seems unlikely that the zero-write delay is material. But maybe ...
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. astrostl

    astrostl Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 4, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Justin Honold
    I would expect this to be a higher risk for corruption, esp. after unclean operations (e.g. removal w/o unmounting).
    And it's even less likely with fewer write cycles!
    None of my Olympus or Panasonic bodies even have the option to low-level format a card, only to format (clear the partition table).
    It's especially faster compared to sequential software deletes.
  20. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    I don't get your point. The OP was talking about reformatting as some kind of preventive measure, which it is not. If a disk gets corrupted, then reformatting is possibly an option.

    True. But there is no difference between a negligible risk and a less-negligible risk. Negligible is negligible. It is a little like Powerball. Your chances of winning are about the same whether you buy a ticket or not.

    Glad for the idea. I'll try it.