Different Types of Formatting: Full and Quick Format

Whenever you format your disks or pen drive or memory card, the computer prompts for a quick format or a full format. Most of the times, the users ignore the difference between them and go for any one of them. Mostly they prefer going for a quick format option. So what could possibly be the difference between quick format and a full format? Let’s discuss this in detail.

You might have seen this option while formatting any pen drive or any local drive of your computer. This creates a quite significant difference in the way your memory unit is formatted and the files reside in it. This option arises in from if a user many times such as installing a new operating system or trying to just open it. Some of the most important factors that differentiate the two is the recovering of files after quick format and full format.


The formatting of a hard disk is done on two levels, a low level, and a high level. The low-level formatting refers to the dividing of a disk into smaller memory units and blocks. These units are easily accessible to the operating system. The computers in recent days do not have the access to low-level formatting. If you are a user, you are not allowed access to a low-level formatting on recent versions of windows.

The high-level formatting is another kind of formatting you can perform on your hard drive. This is allowed for the user and can be done manually.

The high-level formatting refers to the writing of file system structure on the hard drive of your computer. The operating system writes a boot sector to the hard drive of your computer. It is done with the help of a FAT file system structure on the drive. As soon as the boot sector is written, the operating system then clears out the rest of the section. This is called emptying of the drive due to the fact that the all the attributes with entries are marked as unused.

The high-level formatting is basically scanning of the complete hard drive and all of its sectors. It also includes writing of zeros on all the sectors of your hard drive. So while you format a disk on your computer, the operating system performs a high-level format and write a file system structure on the hard drive of your computer.

As far as the time is concerned with both the procedures, there is a huge difference between the time taken for quick format and time taken for a full format of your hard drive.

When to Perform Quick and Full Format

There are certain cases when you want to perform a quick and full format of your hard drive. Your selection of nature of format decides the integrity of your data and also your hard drive.

If you have a drive that is creating a problem for you and giving you a hard time due to corruption or virus, you might want to opt for a full scan as there are roots of corrupt files that need to be destroyed.

In case you want to give away or sell your computer and have a lot of important files that you have backed up already, there you want to perform a full format. A quick format can be harmful to the integrity of your personal files as recovering files after quick format is possible and very easy. This can leave your personal file, photos, e-mails etc. open to anyone.

Sometimes you might want to just format your content because they have accumulated over your drive. This gives you a chance to perform a quick scan and start using a fresh drive in a few minutes.

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John Harris

Senior Editor, Content Analyst and a fan of exceptional customer service. John develops and publishes instructional and informational content regarding partition management, Windows hot-fixes, data management and computer troubleshooting.

As a tenured data recovery specialist, John shares exceptional insights and blog posts about data loss and data recovery across any storage device. With 8+ years’ experience in writing for Data Recovery for both Mac OS and Windows OS computers, he is an avid learner who always wants to polish and simplify the data recovery process. John passes his free time playing Chess and reading Science Fiction novels.

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