Formatting the memory card

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Toomanyputters, Feb 18, 2006.

  1. In the cameras I have used, the "format" command takes less than 5
    seconds. This I regard as less wear on the card than in deleting
    individual images and directories.

    I can't really add to your comments on low-level formatting - I've never
    needed to do so with a flash memory device.

    David J Taylor, Feb 25, 2006
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  2. There is no low level format on a CF card, from a user's
    perspective. That is hardwired by the manufacturer.

    The concept of a low level format applies to magnetic media, and
    is the laying down of a complete magnetic track. All other
    operations (high level formatting, writing, and reading) require
    that initial track to exist, and each uses only parts of it.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Feb 26, 2006
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  3. No. If you expect something longer than a few seconds it means
    you don't know what a "full format" is.
    That is an accurate report too.
    There is no way for a user to "low level format" a CF card. The
    concept doesn't actually make sense with a CF card.
    I suppose that comes very close to doing a bad block check on
    the entire card, but I doubt that it actually does write to all
    byte locations.

    I haven't looked to see, but would imagine that there are
    programs available to do a complete byte check on the raw
    Floyd L. Davidson, Feb 26, 2006
  4. Toomanyputters

    ASAAR Guest

    I don't think so. In this case the formatting time was what the
    camera would take, not a computer, and some of them take far more
    than a couple of seconds to do a quick format. None that I'm aware
    of take as much as a minute or two for these "quick" formats, which
    was the point. The full format that I'm talking about (and which I
    believe others here are as well) overwrites *every* byte on the
    media, which is a way to check for, and possibly deal with hard
    media errors. Are you saying that this type of full format could
    complete on a multi-gigabyte card in a matter of seconds? If so,
    please explain.

    And what would happen if a user tried it with a low level
    formatting utility? Nothing? It's not anything that I'd attempt,
    but if you're so sure that nothing *could* happen, why not try it
    with a few cards and let us know what happens? What happens may
    depend on the design of the card. Back in the early days of IDE
    hard drives, which weren't supposed to be low-level formatted, if
    tried, some would appear to have been formatted (obviously not,
    since the entire operation completed in no more than a few seconds),
    but others were totally ruined and would then need to be scrapped.
    Some types of I/O operations might not be permitted by sophisticated
    operating systems, but I've got some old palmtops that run either
    DOS or Windows, were designed to access flash cards, would just love
    to try formatting one of your cards. They haven't been powered up
    since sometime in the last century though. :)

    If the file size is carefully chosen, the entire writeable portion
    of the card could be written to. As you correctly infer, that's
    probably not going to happen if files aren't carefully chosen for
    size, and is why I specified 1MB or 2 MB files. I took an easier
    way out by writing a utility about 20 years ago that makes it quite
    simple by writing (and then checking, if desired) files with a user
    specified block size that's a multiple of 1024 bytes. One of
    several other input parameters is the number of files to write, and
    if these two parameters are large enough, all of the remaining disk
    space will be filled. The program detects any "out of disk space"
    condition and returns an appropriate error value. At least the
    version written in C does. An earlier version that was written for
    a basic compiler didn't.

    Probably. And they're likely to be more thorough than mine, as it
    was written mostly for simplicity and speed, back when computers
    were a lot slower. It was written for both CP/M and MSDOS, and was
    used to check the first available (and very flakey) plug-in hardware
    RAM drives.
    ASAAR, Feb 26, 2006
  5. Why say that... and then specifically agree with me????
    Hence, as I said... none of them take longer than a few seconds,
    and none of them take any 17 minutes, simply because they are *not*
    doing a "full format" in the sense stated above.
    I am saying that there is no such thing. Period.

    You are talking about a *low level format* and calling it a
    "full format". That is not done on a CF disk, and since it is
    not a magnetic media it makes no sense at all.

    You can find programs that will write to every byte of the card,
    but it is *not* doing any kind of a format.

    I doubt that a 1MB or 2MB file would accomplish writting to
    every byte.
    By accessing the raw device (in essense, do your own high level
    format), it isn't hard. But you cannot do that using files
    written by a filesystem, because that is an abstraction which
    from user land we can't see through.
    Floyd Davidson, Feb 26, 2006
  6. Toomanyputters

    ASAAR Guest

    I disagreed with the implied assumption that I don't know what I'm
    talking about. Check your writing style. It's a tone you often

    You obviously missed my point. It was to show that if a full
    format was done on a large card (using a computer and a card reader)
    it would take an exceptionally long amount of time. This was to
    show that cameras don't do a full format, since they all format much
    more quickly. Your cameras may do the format in a matter of
    seconds, as some others here have pointed out. My P&S cameras are
    slower, which is why I mentioned some might take a minute or two.
    Mine don't take quite that long, but the number of cameras I've
    tried is probably well below 1% of those on the market. So no
    matter what cameras is used, formatting a gigabyte care should take
    much, much less than 17 minutes. Therefore, cameras don't do full
    formats. No?

    Absolutely not. I know the difference between a low level format
    and a full (high level) format. The latter does a logical format of
    *only* some or all of a particular partition. A full format will
    not see other partitions and volumes used by other incompatible
    operating systems. A low level format wipes out everything, even
    volumes you might not be aware of. This isn't to say that a low
    level formatting utility will actually work if an attempt is made to
    format a flash card. It's up to how "smart" or "stupid" the card's
    controller is. And focusing on this irrelevant point is akin to not
    seeing the forest for the trees.

    Then you're skimming and not reading carefully. Or, less likely,
    not able to understand what I wrote. The utility I described is NOT
    a low level utility. If writes only to files that reside in the
    known disk volume. Nor does it write directory entries or modify
    the FAT. That's done indirectly by DOS/Windows services as files
    are created. It seems that you're arguing a lot based on not being
    clear about what I've written, making faulty assumptions and being
    more interested in proving your points than understanding.
    ASAAR, Feb 26, 2006
  7. You implied that such a thing could happen, and that it would
    mean something. It can't, and means nothing other than whoever
    expects something longer than mere seconds does not know what a
    full format is. That is what I said. If you think that applies
    to you personally, I'm not going to dispute your statement.
    So lets not talk about a "full format" taking 17 minutes simply
    because there is *no such thing* on a CF card.

    Hmmm... seems I already mentioned that.
    Well, take your pick then. If a "full format" is a high level
    format, it doesn't do anything that takes 17 minutes. If a
    "full format" is a low level format, then it doesn't exist on CF
    cards. If you know the difference, stop mixing terms by describing
    it as both.

    And incidentally, I fail to see how you can call a high level
    format a "full format"??? It does not do anything which would
    suggest that term applies.
    The latter (a high level format) applies a filesystem's data
    structures to all or part of a storage device.
    A "full format" does *not* imply a filesystem. And your
    original claim that it would take many minutes and write to
    every byte supports the idea that you intended a "full format"
    to actually mean a real format operation. That is of course a
    "low level" format, which writes entire tracks (not just sector
    data) to the media, and does not exist for CF cards.
    That isn't necessarily true. Each *cylinder*, or track, is
    individually formatted. It is of course possible to format one
    track, or all tracks. It would not wipe out anything not on the
    track formatted. If it does not include the Master Boot Sector,
    it will not destroy primary partitions, though it might destroy
    any filesystem written to them.
    Then use the proper terms correctly.
    What I said was that a *file* written to a filesystem, if it is
    1MB or 2MB in size, is unlikely to accomplish writing to every
    byte. That is absolutely true, as you are now saying. Why are
    you trying to confuse that with a low level utility?

    *Nothing* written through the abstraction of a file system is
    likely to accomplish what you want. It is in fact *only* at the
    raw device level that it can be done, and in that case you need
    intimate details of the physical structure.
    Nobody is clear on what you've written, because you are
    continuing to misuse terms. If you aren't interested in the
    points I'm making then you are not going to understand what the
    significance of this thread is.
    Floyd Davidson, Feb 26, 2006
  8. Toomanyputters

    ASAAR Guest

    As I expected, but even further over the top. A natural troll who
    doesn't realize it, one that would rather argue than understand.. I
    hope you enjoyed this brief respite from your usual battles with
    others over viruses, Windows and linux and assorted other topics.
    ASAAR, Feb 26, 2006
  9. Floyd L. Davidson wrote:
    Whilst not a format command as such, I could imagine there being a use
    when manufacturing for something which writes and reads every "sector" on
    the card to prove functionality. Probably not done on every card, though!
    Not a user function, as you say.

    David J Taylor, Feb 26, 2006
  10. Lacking enough technical knowledge to discuss the topic, you
    have no recourse but gratuitous personal insults, and now are
    down to having nothing else.

    Your technical garble wasn't worth posting to start with, and
    your insults are no better.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Feb 26, 2006
  11. I would guess they do test every single byte as part of the
    manufacturing process. It wouldn't be hard to do. That's
    probably done before the entire package is assembled though.
    Floyd Davidson, Feb 26, 2006
  12. Toomanyputters

    Frank ess Guest

    Flipping through the menus (menu's for the apostr'phe-prone) and
    manual for a Panasonic LX1 I found a command, "Clean up the Card
    [CLEAN UP]". Right next to "Initializing the Card [FORMAT]".

    "Use this to speed up you (sic) SD card's transfer speed if it becomes
    noticeably slower. This normally happens after shooting and erasing
    repeatedly. Reduced transfer speed can especially effect (sic) the
    recording of motion pictures, where recording can be interrupted.
    Clean up the card beforehand for best results". (Page 104)

    I tried it on a new 2G Ultra II SD card that had been written to the
    extent of a dozen Raw+JPG pictures, then formatted, once. "Clean Up"
    took nearly four minutes (subjective thumb-twiddle scale). Sounds like
    a lower-level format, or storage-media equivalent, doesn't it?
    Ordinary Formats take three or four thumb-twiddle seconds and seem to
    be excluded as reason to "Clean Up".

    Just a PS: Manual instructions advised a fully-charged battery or the
    AC adapter DMW-AC5(optional). Spare Panasonic batteries are priced at
    $79.95 and were not available from either Panasonic or their referred
    dealers (Ritz) until very recently; the AC adapter DMW-AC5 seems to
    exist (in the Western Hemisphere) as a part number, only. O,
    Panasonic, Where Art Thou?

    Frank ess
    "You know my method, Watson.
    It is founded upon
    the observation of trifles."
    —Sherlock Holmes—
    Frank ess, Feb 26, 2006
  13. Toomanyputters

    Roger Guest

    No it's not and whether you format or delete makes little if any

    Although I use a Nikon I have only formatted the cards a couple of
    times and that was as an experiment...with one exception where I had a
    corrupted file.

    It makes no difference if I format in the reader or in the camera as
    far as either my D70, or older Oly E-20N (which I still use) are
    concerned. I also swap cards between cameras with no problems. Just
    remember if you format any where other than in the camera to set the
    proper format which is *usually* FAT 16 although I understand some of
    the newer ones are going to FAT 32,

    Roger Halstead (K8RI & ARRL life member)
    (N833R, S# CD-2 Worlds oldest Debonair)
    Roger, Feb 27, 2006
  14. Toomanyputters

    Roger Guest

    Roger, Feb 27, 2006
  15. Toomanyputters

    Roger Guest

    Th camera doesn't care, the card doesn't care, the reader doesn't care
    and the computer doesn't care where you do the format. Normally I
    don't format, just <move> the images from the card to the computer.
    OTOH I have experimented at formating in the reader by the computer
    and in the camera. It made no real difference. You do need to remember
    what format to use how ever. Use the wrong format, put it back in the
    reader and reformat using the proper one.

    I even swap cards that have images on them between a Nikon D-70 and an
    Oly E-20N.

    Roger Halstead (K8RI & ARRL life member)
    (N833R, S# CD-2 Worlds oldest Debonair)
    Roger, Feb 27, 2006
  16. Toomanyputters

    Roger Guest

    If you hadn't reformated it in the camera the camera should have
    created the folder the first time you used it.

    Roger Halstead (K8RI & ARRL life member)
    (N833R, S# CD-2 Worlds oldest Debonair)
    Roger, Feb 27, 2006
  17. Toomanyputters

    ASAAR Guest

    In most cases you'd be correct, but people should remember that
    many cameras do care where the card is formatted. They're the ones
    that only understand FAT16, and when a computer is used to format
    cards, unless a really old computer is used, they're likely to end
    up with an incompatible FAT32 file system. You and I may know which
    type of format is needed, but most people don't, and the default
    format they're likely to get will be FAT32. There have been several
    people posting messages in this ng that had problems with their
    cards after formatting them in a card reader, and I wouldn't be
    surprised if most of them first heard about the mysterious "FAT" in
    some of the replies explaining what had happened.

    Same here. I've used some xD cards in my Fuji S5100 and also in
    my Canon Powershot (with the help of an xD -> CF adapter). I was
    surprised to see that the Fuji is not only able to display images it
    hasn't taken, but that it's a design feature, since unlike its own
    photos, 'alien' images also display the name of the folder they are
    contained in.
    ASAAR, Feb 27, 2006
  18. Frank ess wrote:
    Fascinating - does the CLEAN UP destroy existing images on the card, or is
    it more like a defrag? I do know that some cameras have problems with
    card speed caused by having too many files in a single directory. I also
    suspect that using a card which hasn't been simply re-formatted may be a
    problem because of fragmentation - having to do multiple reads to get file
    or directory data will be slower than if you have contiguous files and
    directories. Perhaps it is this latter situation which CLEAN UP is
    designed to address?

    David J Taylor, Feb 27, 2006
  19. Toomanyputters

    Frank ess Guest

    I think you got it: I put eight images on the 2G card and did a "Clean
    Up". When it had done, the images were intact. Sounds defrag to me.

    This time it took five timed minutes. Not "about five minutes". Five
    minutes precisely to the second. Let's try a 1G card, same brand and
    performance label.

    Same effect: images remain; the smaller card took two minutes and 28
    Frank ess, Feb 27, 2006
  20. Toomanyputters

    Prometheus Guest

    This does not make much sense; the camera reported "system error", hence
    I removed the card to try reading the files with a card reader on the
    PC. this I was able to do without recourse to any special tools. Having
    copied all but the last file I used the PC to perform a full format of
    the card; it might have been possible to format it in the camera despite
    the error message, but I was not confident of this and since it was
    connected to a PC which could I used the PC to restore the card to its
    original form. After inserting the PC formatted card into the camera it
    reported "unable to use card" (presumably because it lacked the
    requisite folder structure), hence I reformatted it in the camera to
    make it usable.
    Prometheus, Feb 27, 2006
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