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Best Way to Format Any SD Memory Card Safely


Formatting SD cards can solve some problems, but there’s a better way now. For most digital camera users, the preferred method to format a memory card is while it’s still in their camera. Though not generally recommended, some users format the cards via a computer. Neither method is foolproof.

SD cards

Introducing SD Formatter

The Secure Digital Association (SDA) is the official organization responsible for the global SD standard. Its free software, SD Card Formatter, is considered one of the best tools to format SD memory cards ensuring they comply fully with their SD File System Specification.
SD Memory Card Formatter 1
SD Formatter is designed specifically for SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The utility differs from the OS format utilities that format a variety of storage media. Due to its higher performance, the SDA strongly recommends SD Formatter over the format option offered by your OS.
For example, the SDA states that “SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards have a special ‘Protected Area’ on the card as part of their standard’s security function. Some utilities may actually format the protected area, however SD Formatter does not.
Using SD Formatter also results in better memory card performance and speed, as well as improving overall longevity.
SD Formatter provides three types of formatting options:
  • QUICK: Fast formatting that only initializes the file system parameters, but not the user data area.
  • FULL (Erase): Initializes the file system parameters and deletes all the user data areas. If there is an item incompatible with this procedure, the process will skip it and operate just like the QUICK erase option.
  • FULL (OverWrite): Initializes the file system parameters in the card and all the user data areas.


We tested SD Formatter and can confirm it works on the following systems and devices:

  • Windows and Mac OS: For users with a SD card slot on their computer, they should ensure it is compatible with SDXC cards with the SDXC driver installed.
  • USB Secure Digital memory card reader.
  • PC Card, CardBus or ExpressCard SD adapter.

For exact system requirements and to download a free copy of the latest SD formatter, visit the official SD Association website.

At the time of writing, we saw user manuals available in the following languages: English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

SD Formatter or in-camera formatting?

The SDA recommends using its own SD Formatter utility to format your SD Cards rather than the formatting utilities provided in SD host devices such as digital cameras or smart phones.

The formatting utilities in SD host devices may not format SD Cards correctly, either causing damage or usage issues.

We similarity’s use  SD card Formatter when preparing SD cards prior to testing new devices and we are happy to support it.

What is flash memory and where is it used?

Flash memory is a compact, widely used electronic storage medium, that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. It can store data for long periods of time without being connected to a power supply (its memory is non-volatile, unlike RAM).

There are two types of flash memory, using the same basic technology with slightly different ways of reading and writing data – NAND and NOR flash memory.

Flash memory cards are commonly used in portable electronic devices, such as digital cameras, mobile phones, laptops, computers, tablets, PDAs, portable media players, video game consoles, etc. Basically, it is hard to go a day without using at least one device that uses a flash memory card nowadays.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of flash memory?

Memory cards are reliable as they have no moving parts and they are not affected by magnetic fields. Their memory is non-volatile, which ensures the stability of the data on the card. They are free of mechanical problems or damage (and for the average user very durable). Just don’t drop a rock on it intentionally. They are small, lightweight and compact, which makes them portable.

They have high storage capacity which makes it easy for the user to achieve increased storage (for example in a smartphone with limited storage space). They have low power requirements (which means no killing your battery), allow immediate access to data (and easy access on PC with a card reader), can be used in different devices easily and are thus easily removable.

Finally, they are offered in all sorts of sizes and reusable/rewritable – the contents of the memory card can be deleted and the card can be used an re-used. And yet all that does not mean that they are flawless.Even though the general design of a memory card makes it resilient to physical damage, it doesn’t ensure complete protection. Memory can be lost, misplaced, crushed and electronically corrupted and thus unreadable.

They tend to be slower than primary memory and they have finite read/write cycles which means they are degrading gradually. They can potentially store data for as long as 10 years without degradation but their lifespan is finite so it is important for the user to keep backups of the data stored on memory cards, to be on the safe side.

The future of flash memory?

The development progress of memory cards goes in parallel with the increasing complexity of the technology of mobile phones, digital cameras and other electronic devices, generally leading to decrease in size and price of cards and an increase in speed (faster read and write speeds) and higher storage capacity the memory cards offer to the users.

Vast improvements in flash memory cards have made significant growth in digital camera sales possible, but let’s not forget the sales of other consumer products – TV’s, cellphones, music players, personal digital assistants, video game consoles, camcorders and other that use flash memory.

In the future, even smaller versions of flash memory cards will routinely be introduced to the market, offering consumers an easy way to transfer their data from one device to another at higher speeds, and in view of its current importance, flash memory will be seen in widespread use for many years to come.

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