Formatting a memory card

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Formatting a memory card
Formatting a memory card
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Memory cards are used in all kinds of devices today, and they also work great for transferring files between computers. Before you can use a memory card, however, it must first be formatted to work with the system you want to use it on. Although most cards are sold formatted, formatting the card yourself can give you a small speed gain and is a quick and easy way to clean up old, unused cards. See step 1 below to learn how to format memory cards on any type of system.

Steps

Method 1 of 3: Using the Windows Disk Utility

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Step 1. Back up anything you want to keep

Formatting your memory card will erase all data on it. Make sure that any images or other files still on the memory card have been copied to another location if you want to keep them.

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Step 2. Insert the memory card into a card reader

Many laptops have built-in card readers, but the older desktops do not. You can buy card readers that simply plug into an available USB port. Make sure you put the memory card in the correct slot, as most card readers have different slots for different types of memory cards.

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Step #3. Open your devices

Press ⊞ Win+E to open Windows Explorer. By default, My computer (Windows XP)/Computer (Windows Vista & 7)/This PC (Windows 8) opens, which lists all connected drives. If you don't see this in the window, use the navigation panel on the left or the address bar at the top of the window to get there.

The Windows formatting tool is available in all versions of Windows

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Step 4. Right click on your memory card

You will see your memory card in the overview with the rest of your connected drives. When a memory card is connected, it behaves like an ordinary removable storage device, such as a USB drive or an external hard drive.

Right click on the correct card to avoid formatting the wrong drive and losing all the data on it

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Step 5. Select 'Format'

This will open the 'Format Removable Disk' window. Here you can choose from several options before you start formatting.

  • File System - This is the file system structure of the memory card. If you have a 32GB memory card or smaller, you can use the FAT32 file system to make sure it works on both Windows and Mac. If the memory card is 64GB or larger, you will need to format it as exFAT. Windows Vista and XP do not support exFAT, but it will work if your system is up to date.
  • Volume name - This is the name that will appear when the memory card is connected. Use this to identify the correct memory card.
  • Quick Format – Check this box to speed up formatting. Almost all users will be able to choose this option without any problems.
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Step 6. Start formatting

Click the Start button to start formatting. Depending on the size of the memory card, the formatting process may take some time. Once completed, your card is ready to be used for file storage and exchange.

Method 2 of 3: Using the Mac's Disk Utility

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Step 1. Back up everything you want to keep

Formatting your memory card will erase all data on it. Make sure to copy any images or other files that are still on the memory card to another location if you want to keep them.

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Step 2. Insert the memory card into a card reader

Many laptops have built-in card readers, but the older desktops do not. You can buy USB or FireWire card readers that simply plug into an available USB port. Make sure you put the memory card in the correct slot, as most card readers have different slots for different types of memory cards.

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Step 3. Open the Utilities folder

You can find it in the Applications folder. If Programs is not visible, click the Go menu and select 'Programs'. The Utilities folder is located in that folder.

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Step 4. Launch Disk Utility

This can be found in the Utilities folder. Double click on the icon to start the application.

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Step 5. Select your card

All connected media and drives will be listed on the left side of the Disk Utility window. Select your memory card from the list. Make sure to select the correct card as formatting will erase all files on the card.

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Step 6. Click on the 'Clear' tab

This window allows you to choose from several formatting options before starting the formatting itself.

  • Volume Structure - This is the file system in which the memory card will be formatted. If you want to use the memory card on both Windows and Mac computers, select one of the FAT formats. If you only want to use the memory card on Mac computers, select 'Mac OS X Extended'.
  • Name - This is the name of the memory card. Use this to name the memory card so you can immediately see what its contents are.
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Step 7. Start formatting

Click the Clear… button to start formatting. The memory card will be formatted. This process may take some time depending on the size of the memory card. Once completed, your card is ready to be used for file storage and exchange.

Method 3 of 3: Using your camera

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Step 1. Back up everything you want to keep

Formatting your memory card will erase all data on your card. Make sure your images and files that are still on the memory card are copied to another location, if you want to keep them.

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Step 2. Insert the memory card into your camera

If you use the memory card for a digital camera, it is always recommended to have it formatted by the camera itself and not by your computer. That way you can be sure that you are using most of the storage capacity, because different cameras use slightly different formatting methods.

  • Your camera's documentation will show you the exact steps you need to take to format your card, but these steps will generally work for most cameras.
  • Format the memory card in the camera, even if the memory card was formatted at the time of purchase.
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Step #3. Switch to Playback mode

Use your mobile's buttons or menu system to switch to play mode. This is usually indicated by the universal 'Play' triangle.

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Step 4. Open the menu and go to memory card manager

The structure of the menu will differ per camera, but you look for the option 'Format'. Refer to your camera's documentation for detailed instructions.

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Step 5. Format the memory card

The formatting process may take some time and all data on the card will be erased. After that, the memory card will be ready for use in a camera.

Tips

  • Older cameras and devices may not work if the memory card is formatted as 'FAT32,' in this case, reformat the memory card as 'FAT,' or use the camera or mobile device to format the memory card.
  • For use in a camera, occasional formatting of the memory card is recommended for optimal use.
  • It is recommended that if you are using a memory card with a camera, that you format the memory card in the camera, not the computer.

Warnings

  • Formatting a memory card will erase all data on that device. Don't forget to make a backup before formatting.
  • Make sure to format the drive associated with the memory card.
  • Formatting is an irreversible process, so make sure you know what you want and need to do before starting the steps above.

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