Reformatting memory cards

Computers & Mobile Photography & Video
Reformatting memory cards

Dale tweets: “Did not know that you should reformat flash memory cards frequently for your camera. More to do.” And points to this New York Times Gadgetwise column:

Reformatting ensures that the data on the card and the file structure are clean, which will help you avoid error messages or missing images. And the longer you go without reformatting a card, the better the chances that it will become corrupted. Another reason to reformat is, over time, your card will hold fewer images if you never reformat. So while it may stow 100 photos today, in a year that number could drop to 90.

Who knew? I’ve never reformatted a memory card in my life. As Dale says: more to do.

Update: From the comments, it sounds like this is bogus information. As Nick Johnson writes:

It is true that filesystems fragment over time as files are deleted. It is true that reformatting a filesystem will reduce fragmentation,

However, reformatting a filesystem also encourages the filesystem to write to the earlier disk blocks more frequently. With flash storage, this is a bad thing.

Although flash memory can be read an effectively unlimited number of times, each block has a finite (and relatively small) number of write cycles before fault. Without reformatting, these writes will be distributed across the device, but with reformatting, these writes will happen more frequently at the beginning of the device.

I would not recommend reformatting frequently.

Camera Memory Card Tip: Reformat Often

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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