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In Windows 7 (Professional) I'm repartitioning some drives and I see there's a checkbox for "quick format" (I assume if you don't check it then it does a not-so-quick format).

With a brand new hard drive, what are the downsides of doing the quick format?

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Maybe Community Wiki... – Nathaniel Jan 6 '10 at 6:24
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You may not want to do a full format on a very large hard drive, it takes ages. a quick format serves the same purpose.

If you're worried about possible bad sectors, i recommend HD Tune for an error check, it is much faster. mind you, unlike thorough formatting, HD Tune will not mark defective sectors as bad. but if you find errors on a new hard drive you don't want to use it with marked bad sectors anyway, you will have it replaced under warranty. :)

Note: neither thorough nor quick format will wipe data on a hard disk drive beyond recovery. if that is your concern, then use DBAN.

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Meh, it takes FOREVER. Took like an hour or so for Windows XP Setup to full format a ~140 GB NTFS partition on my lappy's 160 GB drive. Argness... BTW, while we're on the subject, what happens if you interrupt a full format? Can you fix problems created by an interruption with a quick format? – Nathaniel Jan 6 '10 at 6:24
A quick format rebuilds everything needed to store files on the drive, a full format actually zeroes out every bit. Interrupting it just means you'll have a lot more zeroes than ones - nothing major :P – Phoshi Jan 6 '10 at 9:37
@Nathaniel: yes, you can interrupt a full format and do a quick format instead – Molly7244 Jan 6 '10 at 10:58

The difference between the regular format versus the quick format is whether or not the volume is scanned for bad sectors using the chkdsk command. Both methods remove the files from the volume.

I guess you can rely somewhat on brand new HDDs to be okey, so ...

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Quick Format doesn't actually remove the files, just removes the Main File Table - it's not a secure method of erasure. – Phoshi Jan 6 '10 at 9:32
@Phosi; neither is a slow format, but yes, it's a level better. – RJFalconer Jan 6 '10 at 9:47

I just did a regular format on a virtual 10MB drive with Vista, and it did zero it. The quick format did not; the test data I copied onto it was still visible and recoverable. That could be either good or bad.

For a brand new drive, there is no point in zeroing it. If you want to check it for errors, there are better ways, as Molly suggests. So do the quick format.

Reasonable people may disagree as to the non-tinfoil-hat feasibility of recovering data that has been simply zeroed, as opposed to overwritten 35 times with random patterns first. Surely the latter is not worse security-wise; but the former may be sufficient, and definitely takes much less time.

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With a brand new drive there are no disadvantages. Indeed, I can't recommend a normal format even for a used drive - we have Hard Drives that come close to 2TB of storage space, now. A full format would take... a long time, a quick format would take approximately 9 seconds*. Neither are secure - use DBAN for that.

*According to my testing last time I formatted a large drive (1.5TB external, about 25MB/s transfer speed), a quick format took 8 seconds, a normal format took about 25 minutes until the progress bar had a visible part (I gave up then). Not worth it!

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As an expert in data recovery at I can tell you with 100% accuracy, that no one can recover data from a full regular format using Windows 7 or Vista. It re-writes every sector with zeroes prior to installing a fresh format and index (called the MFT or master file table).

However in previous versions of Windows like XP, a full regular format does not overwrite every sector and only re-initializes the sections of the MFT that deals with meta or system files and tests for bad sectors.

With a quick format in either XP, Vista or Windows7, the data is recoverable (using a simple software recovery program) as again only the small system portion of the MFT is overwritten. User data and file pointers remain intact.

Regards, David

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