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12-06-2011, 01:04 AM   #46
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I do it occasionally, but have had problems just once (in close to ten years of SD card use), and then on a card I formatted in my computer!

12-06-2011, 01:54 AM   #47
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QuoteOriginally posted by pixelsaurus Quote
Every time I put it back in the camera after downloading the images, and I format in the cam.
Ditto.
12-06-2011, 05:11 AM   #48
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Threads on this subject are hilarious (almost as funny as UV filter threads). The amount of superstition surrounding SD cards just blows me away. There is no need to reformat unless you come up against file system problems, but there is little harm in doing so, either. Yes, it adds a bit of unnecessary wear, but modern cards are more resistant to this, so it isn't that important.

Think about it another way for a second. How often do you reformat your hard drive? Your SSD drive (if lucky enough to have one)? Did you reformat floppy disks back in the day, every time you deleted something? What about your Ipod or MP3 player? They use pretty much the same kind of memory as SD cards! Nobody formats them every time they delete some songs. USB thumbdrives? Nobody reformats every time they delete data from them, and a lot of them, if you crack them open, contain a micro SD card.

FAT file systems have been around for ages, but memory cards seem to be the ONLY media, even of other solid state media, that people get religious about the idea of reformatting. I really think it's just one of those things people do because they can, and then base ideas about performance on very anecdotal information. Just because you format every day and haven't had a problem, doesn't mean it prevents problems. Just because you had a problem with an SD card, doesn't mean you need to format it all the time.
12-06-2011, 05:42 AM   #49
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
I've seen it mentioned a couple of times, but formating does not wear the card out. Formating just resets the FAT, it doesn't write zeros to every bit on the card. My understanding is that Formatting is actualy quciker than deleting and results in less write activity to the card.
Quite. Formatting in camera just overwrites a couple of blocks to present a mint, empty filesystem and zeroes out the FAT(s), typically < 1/1000 of card capacity; one can format the card at least 1000 times to cause the same wear as filling it once with files would cause.

An additional point for formatting routinely, in camera, is that the camera then gets to use a mint file system that matches its idea of a correct FAT implementation, which is not a formal standard, but merely a de-facto one that has been tweaked numerous times since the original version used for diskettes. Also, if the card has ever been removed improperly, the camera or computer has crashed etc. it is possible that the file system has gotten into an inconsistent state which might result in loss of data after that (unlikely, but possible).

12-06-2011, 05:56 AM   #50
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QuoteOriginally posted by jolepp Quote
Quite. Formatting in camera just overwrites a couple of blocks to present a mint, empty filesystem and zeroes out the FAT(s), typically < 1/1000 of card capacity...
And deleting individual files only unlinks those particular entries in the FAT, it doesn't touch the data. Why would anyone think that wiping the whole file system uses less writes than wiping individual entries from it?

QuoteOriginally posted by jolepp Quote
one can format the card at least 1000 times to cause the same wear as filling it once with files would cause.
It doesn't work like that. If the FAT is being written to the same physical sectors, it would be equivalent wear to your example to fill the card 1000 times. Wear on SD cards comes from the number of writes to a physical sector, so comparing writes in one specific area to using the rest of the card is a bit silly. Most SD cards use a separate partition for the file system, so constantly overwriting it WILL add wear to the same physical locations on the card.

Last edited by Philoslothical; 12-06-2011 at 06:03 AM.
12-06-2011, 06:07 AM   #51
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QuoteOriginally posted by riff Quote
Deleting a FAT file changes only one byte per deleted file.
But to do that one needs to write out the entire block with that one byte changed and the rest as they were: the smallest unit that can be read or written is a block (on the FAT level of things typically a 'disk' block of 512 bytes, but on the physical flash level the actual blocks tend to be larger).
12-06-2011, 07:33 AM   #52
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I think this formatting fetish is hi-tech superstition. I never format. I use a card reader and move the date stamped folder of photos to my hard drive and put the card back in the camera. I've been following that procedure for 4years and--except for card readers punking out--never had any technical issues*. Operator errors are another matter: the operator of my system is definitely buggy.

* Stay tuned for the follow-up post where I whine about losing a bunch of once-in-a-lifetime shots ;~)
12-06-2011, 07:35 AM - 1 Like   #53
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QuoteOriginally posted by Philoslothical Quote
And deleting individual files only unlinks those particular entries in the FAT, it doesn't touch the data. Why would anyone think that wiping the whole file system uses less writes than wiping individual entries from it?

It doesn't work like that. If the FAT is being written to the same physical sectors, it would be equivalent wear to your example to fill the card 1000 times. Wear on SD cards comes from the number of writes to a physical sector, so comparing writes in one specific area to using the rest of the card is a bit silly. Most SD cards use a separate partition for the file system, so constantly overwriting it WILL add wear to the same physical locations on the card.
I was merely trying to say that the extra wear from (quick) formatting as opposed to deleting all files is insignificant without going in the technical details. However, deleting a file requires modifying the directory entry (=at least 1 block write) in addition to zeroing out the FAT slots that represent the clusters the file occupies. Hence for deleting one file that takes up a fraction of the card capacity there are less writes, but to delete a large number of files taking up all of the card capacity would mean more write operations than a (quick) format. In between of these two extremes there is a break-even point after which (quick) format needs less block writes as it does not need to overwrite directory blocks other than those of the empty root directory it creates.

Decent SD cards employ wear leveling behind the scenes, which means that mapping of nominal 'disk' blocks the FAT implementation deals with to physical flash blocks may be changed behind the scenes by the SD card controller at each 'disk' block write so that the wear from repeated writes to the same nominal 'disk' blocks are spread to different physical flash blocks.

Actually, it is not quite as simple as that. The physical flash blocks are likely to be of different size (larger) than the 'disk' blocks presented at the SD card interface and the SD card controller may (or may not) be able to combine several 'disk' block writes to one flash block write. This depends on the SD controller firmware, but the changes of being able to combine writes during a format (mostly writing zeroes to adjacent 'disk' blocks) are much better than with a 'delete all'.

Actually, it is not quite as simple as that, since a write operation to a block of flash may or may not need the block to be cleared first and the SD card controller may or may not take advantage of this. Also, the controller might (or might not) take advantage of an optimization where it merely marks a zero-filled 'disk' block empty in its internal tables and postpones allocating a physical flash block until something else than zeros is written to the 'disk' block. This would allow the slow flash block clearing operation to be carried out after the write operation for the zero-filled 'disk' block is reported complete via the SD card interface. Since a (quick) format is mostly about writing out zero filled blocks, the end result with this optimization could be very few write operations to actual flash blocks, but as said this depends on the SD controller firmware (how much RAM it has, how fast vs. safe write policy it employs, ...).

Actually, it is not quite simple as that, ...


Last edited by jolepp; 12-07-2011 at 12:27 AM. Reason: typos
12-06-2011, 08:03 AM   #54
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Long story short.. the most efficient way to deal with files is to not let your computer do anything but copy files, then format the card in your camera.

That solves all problems of incompatibility between the way your camera formats and the way your computer formats, and is by far the fastest, requires the least active use of the card. As far as I can tell it's pretty much full proof. I can't believe how many people want to do something way more complicated, and for what? I guess because they do it that way and old habits die hard. But as a recommended practice..I load all my photos into Aperture, and reformat the card when it goes back into the camera. What's easier, or more efficient than that? People are suggesting other methods... but they aren't saying why. If deleting individual files on the card is more efficient than formatting, why does it take so much longer? How would that even be possible?
12-06-2011, 08:22 AM   #55
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QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
I think this formatting fetish is hi-tech superstition. ...
IMO going either way is likely to work just fine with slightly less change of trouble for those who format their cards in the camera on a regular basis. I format mine when I put them back; a part of it is the convenience formatting (speed) vs. 'delete all'. I figure that since I want to do one or the other anyway (*) I might as well do the one that has the advantage of making sure the file system is in a consistent state. Otoh the worst that is likely to happen if you never format the card is some of its space not being available due to the card having been improperly removed, computer/camera crash, (etc) just when a file had been marked deleted but the corresponding FAT slots had not been cleared. Otoh, a file system inconsistency could (**) lead to a corrupted or lost photo down the line.

(*) to make going trough recent snaps on the camera easier and to help me keep track of what I have uploaded to the computer

(**) as in, I can't convince myself of this not being a possibilty, if you can, please do.

Last edited by jolepp; 12-06-2011 at 08:27 AM.
12-06-2011, 08:56 AM   #56
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A while ago, I had an Optio freak over an SD card that was formated from a computer. I lost about 2 or three days worth of images because the header information on the JPEGs got corrupted in the file transfer. I don't know if it was the Optio, the SD card, or the computer.

Since that time, I format the cards in the camera, and transfer the images off the camera via the USB as my preference, but to save time, I often load the SD card into a reader and then onto the computer.

If I am traveling, I try and keep several copies of the files just in case something happens.
I keep the files on the computer's drive and I put the files on a external hard drive, that way if the computer is destroyed/stolen, I will still have the external hard drive.

I also keep the computer and the external hard drive in different locations.

Once the files are in both devices, then I feel safe to reformat the SD cards - but in the camera.
12-06-2011, 11:56 AM   #57
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Well, again, I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but I've been doing a quick format on my computer every time I transfer a cards contents into LR for probably 7 years. This is just how I make sure a card is empty, quickly. Again, I've never had a card problem, ever, and haven't read anything here that would make me change what I'm doing. I only use SanDisk extremes and I expect them to perform. So far, they have. I don't want to offend or belittle anyone, but this conversation seems to be much ado about nothing, IMO.
12-06-2011, 12:12 PM   #58
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QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
I think this formatting fetish is hi-tech superstition.
Quite so. Almost a cult ritual. Sure, reformat constantly -- and don't forget to carry a rabbit's foot, pray to Ahura Mazda for light, and avoid postal zones containing the numerical sequence 666. (Shall I admit that I live in such a zone?)

Q: Why do you reformat your memory card?
A: To keep the heffalumps at a safe distance.
Q: But, ain't no heffalumps within 1000km, eh?
A: See, it works!

QuoteQuote:
I never format. I use a card reader and move the date stamped folder of photos to my hard drive and put the card back in the camera. I've been following that procedure for 4years and--except for card readers punking out--never had any technical issues*. Operator errors are another matter: the operator of my system is definitely buggy.
Ditto for me, for quite a few more years. BTW I don't use camera-created dated folders because 1) I may not shoot every day -- sometimes I only need one folder for a week's shots; 2) such dating may not accommodate files from my other AV devices; 3) I use my own folder conventions, evolved over a couple decades of importing and torturing media files. I get to say what goes where. I dislike warez that try to control me -- no robot overlords allowed!

Last edited by RioRico; 12-06-2011 at 12:55 PM.
12-06-2011, 12:51 PM   #59
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Sounds like a great thing, and I'm not sure a MAC will do that, but, you're still deleting individual files, you're still writing to your are directory once for each file you delete, it's still not as efficient as doing a format and over-writing the directory once. What you're saying is it might be easier from a user point of view...because it's automated, but the issue was whether or not it stresses your SD card more.. if in fact it stresses it at all, and in that sense, how much work your computer (or camera) does and how much writing is done to the SD card, formatting is still less read/writing.
Shift dragging works just fine on a Mac, you just have to use the Command key instead of Shift. You can also hold Option & Command while dragging to create an Alias.

A long list of modifier key tricks - Mac OS X Hints
12-06-2011, 01:14 PM   #60
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Simple question, but lots of ideas and discussion, great stuff.

What if there is something wrong with the SD card or you change your mind that you need to salvage (recover) the images? Which one is easier?
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