Even though we ARE Nikon lovers,we are NOT affiliated with Nikon Corp. in any way.

English German French

Sign up Login
Home Forums Articles Galleries Recent Photos Contest Help Search News Workshops Shop Upgrade Membership Recommended
members
All members Wiki Contests Vouchers Apps Newsletter THE NIKONIAN™ Magazines Podcasts Fundraising

Why format your memory cards?

guyparker

Rugby, UK
961 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this authorClick to send message via AOL IM
guyparker Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Fri 01-Apr-11 12:33 PM

Recently I've heard professional photographers talk about formatting their memory cards, as though they do it each time they start shooting. I only ever thought you had to fromat your memory card the first time you put it in your camera? In fact I'm sure I don't even need to do that - I've just bought a new one so I'll try it tonight but thinking back I'm sure last time I inserted a new memory card it didn't ask me to format it.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9045 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#1. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Fri 01-Apr-11 11:41 AM

You can format your card in the camera, and that is what most are referring to. We do that as opposed to simply deleting the images from the card, as that tends to eventually corrupt the card.

The only time I would format in the computer is when the card is giving me troubles. Then I would format in the camera afterwords.

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

rutherfordphoto

Vancouver, CA
5099 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#2. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

rutherfordphoto Awarded for his article contributions to the Resources Registered since 26th Aug 2002
Fri 01-Apr-11 11:59 AM

Erasing a memory card simply replaces the file name with "1"'s and "0"'s. Eventually, this can possibly lead to corrupting the file structure on the card. I've seen this happen. It is possible to recover images, but not all the time and not all of the images.

Formatting a card in the camera deletes all the images on the card and resets the card's file structure. This is much safer, and should be done every time. While not impossible to recover any images after formatting this way, I think the chances are next to nil.

Nikon has had a simple (2 button) in camera format feature since the days of the D1, something Canon users have been asking for a long time. Not sure if they have it yet.

~Cheers, Allan~
www.allanschroeder.com

Johnr0836

Princeton Junction, US
55 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#3. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 1

Johnr0836 Basic Member
Fri 01-Apr-11 12:00 PM

The formatting process also checks the card for "bad bytes". The location of the "bad bytes" is recorded in the "FAT" table so that data is not recorded to these locations.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Floridian

Tallahassee, Florida, US
2944 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#4. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

Floridian Silver Member Nikonian since 11th Feb 2007
Fri 01-Apr-11 01:46 PM

This issue has come up from time to time on Nikonians and you will see various opinions on it. I don't believe you need to format your memory cards, ever.

I have a D50 with more than 46,000 shots taken and a D300 with more than 48,000. I have never formatted a memory card, and never lost an image, so from my experience the odds of your losing an image as a result of not formatting would be less than one in 94,000.

I don't think formatting the card checks for bad sectors or deletes the photos. It just rewrites the file allocation table so that your old photos can be overwritten by new ones. Cards can go bad, but I don't see any evidence that formatting your cards will keep you from losing images if a card fails.

Regarding initially using an unformatted card, I recall the same experience you described. I just put the unformatted card in the camera, and the camera automatically formatted it and allowed me to save my photos on it without any initial format. I may be remembering this wrong, because I haven't bought a new card in more than three years, but I don't even recall formatting my new cards before using them.

I see no problem if people want to format their cards, but from my experience you don't need to, and I don't.

Randy

esantos

McAllen, US
13240 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#5. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

esantos Moderator Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Nikonian since 10th Nov 2002
Fri 01-Apr-11 02:07 PM

There are a lot of differing opinions on this issue, and IMHO it all boils down to best practice. Given that many things could go wrong it seems to me that formatting before every shooting session is probably a good idea. Call it Gremlin spray. In my particular case I share cards with my D300 and D700. I have noticed that if there are images from one camera still on the card and I try to use the card on my other camera it won't see the images but it does show a reduced capacity. A quick format gets rid of them and restores the full capacity of the memory. Since I do not reserve certain cards for a given camera it has become part of my camera prep procedures to format each time. It only takes a few seconds anyway.

Ernesto Santos
esartprints.com Ernesto Santos Photography
Get my new e-Book "Churches of Texas"

gkaiseril

Chicago, US
6739 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#6. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 2

gkaiseril Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2005
Fri 01-Apr-11 03:11 PM

Since it is possible to recover images from a memory card reformatted in the camera with special software, that implies that all the directory entries except for locked images are marked as erased and the file allocation table entries for the erased images are marked as free for use but the recorded data sectors are not rewritten until new images are recorded. No testing of the media is preformed

Professionals should take this action to prevent images from one client getting mixed into images for another client and it is faster and easier than working through the card and deleting images.

A full media checking formatting would requires a low level format, Fdisk in Windows, and then the Format command creating a fat 16 or fat 32 file system, do not use the NTFS directory structure. This would need to be done a computer and then formatting the media in the camera. With the cost of the media, most professionals will buy a new card when a card starts going bad. Also when some sections of the card start to go other sections will quickly follow. And a professional would not want to risk losing and taken shots.

George
My Nikonian Galleries

dm1dave

Lowden, US
13632 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#7. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

dm1dave Administrator Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 12th Sep 2006
Fri 01-Apr-11 03:26 PM

Formatting the card is also the quickest way to delete all of the images at once.

Dave Summers
Nikonians Photo Contest Director
My Nikonians Gallery | Current Nikonians Contests

Click on image to view larger version

ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9045 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#8. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 7

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Fri 01-Apr-11 04:31 PM

>Formatting the card is also the quickest way to delete all of
>the images at once.

Exactly so. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't do it this way. I suppose you could shift click and delete after transfering from a card reader, but the two button format is to quick and simple.

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

mklass

Tacoma, US
7421 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#9. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 8

mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006
Fri 01-Apr-11 05:02 PM | edited Fri 01-Apr-11 05:50 PM by mklass

I've been advised that you should actually format the card twice in a row in the camera beause that is the only way to truly erase everything and start fresh. Has anybody else received that advice?

Mick
www.mickklassphoto.com

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#10. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Fri 01-Apr-11 05:20 PM

Hi Guy,

I'm one of those professional photographers who format my memory cards every time before using the card anew, and do it solely in my camera. Moreover, I never delete a file from the memory card via the camera, or the computer.

My procedure is after off-loading my photographs on to my computer, I place the memory card in the camera and format it. If I've used a number of cards, I'll off-load each, then format each.

Experience has taught me to use this procedure as before I did this I would periodically have corrupted photos (corrupted cards) on my memory cards, and I've only purchased cards from two of the top manufacturers, Lexar and Sandisk.

From what I've learned from the card manufacturers, formatting your memory cards not only deletes all images from it, it totally recreates the file system including new directories and folders where images are saved on the card. Unlike erasing, formatting improves the overall performance of a card by reinvigorating the file system, much the same way that formatting did the same to the old floppy disks. Compared to hard drives, the file system of a memory card is not nearly as robust, but each time you format the card, you reset the original strength of the card's file system.

There is no doubt that many don't agree with me, but perhaps the doubters might take Lexar's word on the subject. I quote below from Lexar's Lexar Memory Card Tips are on the website. (In speaking directly to Lexar engineers, I've been told the exact same thing.)

"Deleting images in the camera is a convenience but at the same time can result in data corruption, especially with large file formats like RAW and TIFF files. Move and save the images to your computer, then utilize the editing software that came with your camera or a third-party software application for more flexibility. Once the files are moved, it is recommended to initialize {format} your Lexar memory card."

I think that's a pretty definitive statement on Lexar's part stating that photographers are better off not deleting images in the camera, so they can avoid photo corruption, and that memory cards should be formatted in the camera before each use of the card.

I do disagree with Lexar in one respect, but I suspect it's semantics. I don't believe that files should be "moved" from memory cards to one's computer, but instead they should be "copied" from memory cards to one's computer. I believe the reason for this is eminently sound. If something happens while you're "moving" the files from the memory card to the computer, such as a power failure, the computer freezing and needing to be restarted in the middle of moving the files, or another glitch, you may lose some of your photos, and they may not be on the memory card at all, or may be corrupted and impossible to recover from the memory card. If you're merely "copying" them from the card to the computer, if something happens, they'll still be on the memory card.

It's a matter of an extra layer of safety, and why not follow that procedure to get an extra safety margin. Later deleting the photos from the card is no big deal anyway, since you're mass deleting via a card format.

So Guy, what do you think? Doesn't this make sense, especially in light of the statement of one of the foremost camera memory card manufacturers?

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

briantilley

Paignton, UK
30235 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#11. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 10

briantilley Gold Member Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003
Fri 01-Apr-11 05:47 PM

>So Guy, what do you think? Doesn't this make sense...?

...yes, it does to me!

Thanks for bringing some facts to the debate, Ned

Brian
Welsh Nikonian

guyparker

Rugby, UK
961 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this authorClick to send message via AOL IM

#12. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 11

guyparker Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Fri 01-Apr-11 08:01 PM

Wow - I really didn't expect this topic to get so many replies, and the information provided by you all is really interesting. Based on this information I will be formatting all my cards each time from now on. I didn't even know that you can formatting instead of deleting your images either!!!

In fact, all this new information has opened my eyes in lots of ways. For starters, in LR when using 1 of my cards I will get various error messages such as 'some operations were not performed - the files are not photos or videos' etc.

Also, I took some test images on demo camera's at focus and even though I've deleted them on my card in camera they still show up on my computer when I insert my memory card! I'm going to try formatting and see if that solves both of these issues!

Thanks everyone.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9045 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#13. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 10

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Fri 01-Apr-11 08:03 PM

I agree wholeheartedly and embrace the same practices.

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

ajdooley

Waterloo, US
3330 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#14. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 2

ajdooley Gold Member Nikonian since 25th May 2006
Fri 01-Apr-11 10:30 PM

Allan remembers DOS!

Alan
Waterloo, IL, USA
www.proimagingmidamerica.com

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

rutherfordphoto

Vancouver, CA
5099 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#15. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 10

rutherfordphoto Awarded for his article contributions to the Resources Registered since 26th Aug 2002
Sat 02-Apr-11 12:03 AM

I agree 100%. I'm no longer working professionally, but this was my practice each and every time, but with 2 caveats...

1) I will delete an image on the camera if I'm "chimping" and it's definitely not worth keeping, and...

2) I never formatted my cards until they were ready to be used again... just in case. I've had images go missing or accidentally deleted from the computer, but still had them on a card to be recovered.

~Cheers, Allan~
www.allanschroeder.com

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#16. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 15

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Sat 02-Apr-11 01:05 AM

Hi Allan,

I don't delete photos from a card in the camera even if they are black. With a handful of 16GB cards I have the latitude to just leave them even though I take my photos in RAW and they are about 15.5MB in size per photo. I don't do it because it's just not worth it to chance corrupting the card with good photos on it.

Immediately after I upload my photos from the cards to the computer I format the cards so I'm ready for my next shoot. I feel confident that my photos won't go missing as I simultaneously upload each photo to 2 different drives via Photo Mechanic, so I have an immediate backup. Once accomplished, I verify the primary and backup.

I think it's a critical SOP to make a simultaneous backup when you upload your photos to your computer. If one's software doesn't do that, then I believe a photographer should copy all the photos to their primary hard drive, then make an immediate backup. Only after the backup is made should the memory cards be formatted.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

rutherfordphoto

Vancouver, CA
5099 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#17. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 16

rutherfordphoto Awarded for his article contributions to the Resources Registered since 26th Aug 2002
Sat 02-Apr-11 04:19 AM


>I think it's a critical SOP to make a simultaneous backup when
>you upload your photos to your computer. If one's software
>doesn't do that, then I believe a photographer should copy all
>the photos to their primary hard drive, then make an immediate
>backup. Only after the backup is made should the memory cards
>be formatted.
>
>Ned

I back up all the time now after import, but let's just say there was a time when Aperture and I didn't get along

I have a backup system now that would make most people jealous, but that's for a whole different thread.

~Cheers, Allan~
www.allanschroeder.com

xdp2010

US
27 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#18. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 17

xdp2010 Registered since 03rd Apr 2010
Sat 02-Apr-11 12:37 PM

I accidentally reformated some files out in camera once, but fortunately I was able to recover them using a software download for about $45 suggested by a nikonian here. Evidently, files never got deleted in formating process. They only got written over.

Cheers,
Jim

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

micro

walkertown, US
506 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#19. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 18

micro Registered since 30th Mar 2008
Sat 02-Apr-11 04:24 PM

I always format in camera and the BIGGEST reason is that I can delete hundreds of files in seconds and be done.the rest is just good practice.so why not? Troy

there is no problem to big or small that can't be fixed with brute strength and ignorance visit my gallery

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Drbee

Naperville, US
5927 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#20. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

Drbee Silver Member Nikonian since 05th Aug 2004
Sat 02-Apr-11 06:33 PM

Hi Guy,

I know this all now makes perfectly good sense . I've been in the practice of reformatting my cards every time I down load images. Until recently that is.

The D700 allows you to save/reload custom settings to/from the memory card. Reformatting the card deletes this file. While I have my "custom settings" file on a master CF card, I typically modify my "reformatting" procedure to make sure I preserve the contents of the "custom settings" file on my CF cards.

This often requires another step, but I have all the card management features needed to handle these files set at the top of My Menu, so it all goes quite quickly and I can reformat as I wish.

Reformatting is a safe thing to do and especially if you change media between cameras as I sometimes do.

Good question,

Best Regards,
Roger

balzanto

Tinley Park, US
130 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#21. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 20

balzanto Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Sun 03-Apr-11 02:35 AM | edited Sun 03-Apr-11 02:38 AM by balzanto

I read through a lot of these responses and there is a lot of misunderstanding of what happens when a piece of media is formatted. First, I believe that Nikon DSLR cameras do not overwrite all sectors of the media when the card is formatted. I'll have to test this with my D300 and D700 but I've done a decent amount of data recovery from photo cards that people accidentally formatted and got back all the images. The format command is more in line with a "Quick Format" in Windows. There are some cameras that will overwrite the data on the card. They are usually older point and shoots or ones that offer a "low level format" like the Canon G9 (we have a bunch of those where I work and I've had to test that before we put them into service).

What a Quick Format does is simply write out a new FAT1, FAT2 and Root Directory. FAT1 and FAT2 are identical. When a file is deleted from a FAT file system, three changes are made. FAT1 and FAT2 are updated to show that the clusters that occupied the file are now free. The root directory entry is updated with a hexadecimal value of E5 at the first byte of the entry. The rest of the directory entry remains and can be recovered. The data area is not touched until it is overwritten by new data, which is why it can be recovered even if the root directory entry was reused as long as the data was written to a different area.

The best reason you want to reformat your cards instead of just deleting photos is fragmentation. Not all images are the same size and will occupy a different number of sectors on the card. When we add images to a freshly formatted card, the data is used consecutive from beginning to end. But, if you delete a photo here and delete a photo there, eventually your camera will try to reuse that free space. Now, if the photo you deleted occupied 18 sectors but the one you just took needs 20 sectors, it will fill the 18 and then put the data for the remaining 2 somewhere else. This is tracked in FAT1 and 2. Do this with enough photos and you can see where this can begin to be problematic. I've had to rebuild entire FAT chains and found some photos spread across 4 or more data runs on cards under 1GB. People that reformat their cards regularly never seem to have this problem.

If you're curious why I know this, I've been a computer forensic examiner for the past 10 years for law enforcement and private sector. When a card goes south at the department, I have to try to get all the photos back. When the chief's, commander's or other's vacation and family photos can't be found, I'm usually asked to see what I can get back. Last recovery was from a Canon DSLR and I got back all 700+ images. I think I've recovered more photos as favors over the past 10 years than I have for cases.

Sorry if this is long-winded but someone finally brought up a topic I know something about. Unlike photography. I'm a complete noob with that stuff.

MEMcD

US
31313 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#22. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 0

MEMcD Moderator In depth knowledge in various areas Nikonian since 24th Dec 2007
Sun 03-Apr-11 09:07 AM

Hi Guy,

After downloading the images from the cards, I always format the cards in the camera before I put them back into the card case or camera so they are ready to go for the next shoot.
Like Ned, I never delete an image in camera.
Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!

Best Regards,
Marty

gkaiseril

Chicago, US
6739 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#23. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 14

gkaiseril Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2005
Sun 03-Apr-11 09:10 AM | edited Sun 03-Apr-11 09:21 AM by gkaiseril

FAT 32 and FAT 16 are from MS-DOS and there still is a command mode that runs MS-DOS commands. Many of the old MS-DOS commands still exist and the format and piping of the MS-DOS commands comes from the Digital Equipment VAX command structure.

George
My Nikonian Galleries

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#24. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 21

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Sun 03-Apr-11 11:27 AM | edited Mon 04-Apr-11 12:34 AM by Ned_L

I agree Anthony. When you format your Nikon memory card, like most cameras' cards (I don't know if it's always true.) you are only rewriting the card's file allocation table. You aren't actually deleting the photos themselves.

If you would stop then, and not take any photos, it's likely that you could recover all of the photos which were on the card prior to formatting it.

Fragmentation is clearly a problem caused by photo deletion which can and periodically will cause photo corruption. This is one of the reasons companies like Lexar, and Sandisk (Sandisk has told me this when I've spoken with them at photo conventions.) recommend photographers don't delete individual photos or multiple photos from their memory cards when in cameras, or connected to computers, and instead format the card once the photos are copied to a computer.

That being said, it's not the only reason the companies recommend formatting photo memory cards before the are used. Formatting redefines the file structure of the card and refreshes it. From what I've been told by manufacturers, memory cards loose their charge over time which holds the data (photos). This doesn't happen overnight and should normally take a few years, but it does happen.

(I had previous mentioned that a strong magnet could unknowingly affect a camera memory card. I have since found out that any magnet which we might typically have around the house won't affect a CF card or similar solid state memory card. I mention this because it's important to keep our answers factually correct.)

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

chiefmasterjedi

US
313 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#25. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 22

chiefmasterjedi Silver Member Nikonian since 26th Feb 2009
Sun 03-Apr-11 12:04 PM

My CF card has never left the camera, I plug the USB into the camera and import my photos into Lightroom, then I unplug the USB and use the 2 button format on the camera. It just seems easier and quicker!

Visit my Nikonians gallery.
Visit my web site.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

mklass

Tacoma, US
7421 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#26. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 21

mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006
Sun 03-Apr-11 02:01 PM

So, is there any validity to the advice that formating the card twice in a row actually does delete all the data, or is that misinformation?

Mick
www.mickklassphoto.com

balzanto

Tinley Park, US
130 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#27. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 26

balzanto Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Sun 03-Apr-11 04:03 PM

Misinformation. Format is only laying down a new FAT1, FAT2 and root directory. It's not touching the data area. On a FAT system, the areas these are written to are reserved system areas so all you're doing is just writing over the same reserved area over and over and over. You're not doing anything to the area where the data that makes up the photographs is stored.

mklass

Tacoma, US
7421 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#28. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 27

mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006
Sun 03-Apr-11 04:13 PM

So is the only way to truly erase everything on a card to put it in a card reader and do a full format from your computer, then format it again in camera to get the directory structure re-established?

Mick
www.mickklassphoto.com

MEMcD

US
31313 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#29. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 25

MEMcD Moderator In depth knowledge in various areas Nikonian since 24th Dec 2007
Sun 03-Apr-11 04:59 PM

Hi Christian,

I always use a card reader to download the images to the computer.
Less wear and tear on the camera body and less to go wrong.
Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!

Best Regards,
Marty

gkaiseril

Chicago, US
6739 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#30. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 28

gkaiseril Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2005
Sun 03-Apr-11 06:24 PM

You may also need to run a program that rewrites random bits onto the card. Since the card is solid state you would only need to this once. Magnetic media need several passes because of the residual magnetism kept by magnetized surface of the hard or floppy disk.

George
My Nikonian Galleries

guyparker

Rugby, UK
961 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this authorClick to send message via AOL IM

#31. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 29

guyparker Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Sun 03-Apr-11 06:59 PM

Wow, thanks again everyone, especially Balzanto for posting such a knowledgeable an informative answer (even though I don't know what a FAT is - lol! - I still got the gist).

I'm so glad I posted this question - I thought it seemed such a ignorant question to post and that one that I really shouldn't have had to be asking, but I certainly don't feel like that now -can't believe it's had so much interest. It's really opened my eyes to a lot of things and I'll certainly be formatting every time from now on.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

pdekman

Swisher, US
1058 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#32. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 24

pdekman Gold Member Winner in The Nikonians 10th Anniversary Photo Contest Awarded as a regular contributor who offers in-depth knowledge to members who are interested in building efficient work flows. Winner in the Annual Nikonians Best Images Contest 2015 Nikonian since 17th Nov 2005
Sun 03-Apr-11 07:09 PM

Ned - Solid state (NAND Flash) devices typically have write retention ratings of 10 years or so. They do rely on charge holdup to maintain data, but I think read/write (voltage-induced) activity on the device itself is far more likely to cause bit errors than external influences. In particular, I'm skeptical that a typical magnetic field would cause harm like in the days of magnetic storage.

I do format in-camera for all the other reasons stated but am curious if you have any reference to data susceptibility to magnetic fields - because I'm no expert!

Paul
My Nikonians Gallery

wreckdoll

US
71 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#33. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 28

wreckdoll Silver Member Nikonian since 24th Dec 2009
Sun 03-Apr-11 07:49 PM | edited Sun 03-Apr-11 07:49 PM by wreckdoll

there are several apps (acronis makes one)out there that do a secure wipe, writes all zeroes or ones to fill the blocks in the device thus completly erasing the card.

jwgreene

Kamloops, CA
15 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#34. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 9

jwgreene Registered since 03rd Apr 2011
Sun 03-Apr-11 10:07 PM

As has been said already, the format doesn't actually erase any image data, it just resets the file allocation tables. The only way to truly delete the data on the card would be to use a disk utility that writes, multiple times, 0's over each sector on the card.

I am also in the "offload then format the card in the camera" camp. It just makes more sense to wipe them all at once rather than deleting them individually.

Personally, I love that the two button format is modelled on the mid roll rewind on some of the film bodies. I smiled the first time I did it after transitioning from my F80.

ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9045 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#35. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 31

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Sun 03-Apr-11 10:16 PM

>Wow, thanks again everyone, especially Balzanto for posting
>such a knowledgeable an informative answer (even though I
>don't know what a FAT is -

File Allocation Table

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#36. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 28

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Mon 04-Apr-11 12:11 AM

Hi Mick,

Just as a point of information. Why are you interested in an "absolute" deletion of photos from a camera's memory card?

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#37. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 32

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Mon 04-Apr-11 12:27 AM

Hi Paul,

I called up a friend who's an engineer at Seagate this evening. He said I was completely wrong about a magnet disturbing a CF card or similar solid state memory card, or at least a magnet which might be lying around in a house couldn't do it.

He also said that he felt that repeated formating of the cards was important to refresh their file structure as while they should last for many years, many don't, especially the cheap ones. The quality of their circuitry isn't like that of Sandisk or Lexar and other quality manufacturers. He mentioned Kingston too. He did say that for a while there were counterfeit cards and if you got one you wouldn't know it until it was too late, but consistent reformatting he felt helps the cheapos and counterfeits hold on to their data.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

guyparker

Rugby, UK
961 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this authorClick to send message via AOL IM

#38. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 35

guyparker Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Mon 04-Apr-11 06:01 AM

Of course!

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

mklass

Tacoma, US
7421 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#39. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 36

mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006
Mon 04-Apr-11 01:24 PM | edited Mon 04-Apr-11 02:24 PM by mklass

Mostly just a point of interest.

But what if you did want absolute certainty that the data was gone? What if you had an agreement with a client that specified that all copies of the images be turned over to them. Would having a recoverable copy on an memory card consititue violating the agreemnet?

Does having any data on the card create any risk of corrupted files?

Does just rewrting or clearing the FAT solve any problem if there is a corrupted area in the the memory?

Again, maybe this is more theory than something useful in actual practice.

Mick
www.mickklassphoto.com

gkaiseril

Chicago, US
6739 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#40. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 39

gkaiseril Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2005
Mon 04-Apr-11 01:33 PM

>But what if you did want absolute certainty that the data was gone? What if you had an agreement with a client that specified that all copies of the images be turned over to them. Would having a recoverable copy on an memory card consititue violating the agreemnet?

A legal question. If it does not get out, then not a real problem.

>Does having any data on the card create any risk of cruppted files?

Probably not, but it will affect the speed of the card as the firmware needs to adjust for used sectors, you might not even notice it. Unless there are too many deletions.

>Does just rewrting or cleating teh FAT solve any problem if there is a corrupted area in the the memory?

There are some post about problems arising because a large number of images were deleted in the camera. The issue appears to have been solved by reformatting the cards.





George
My Nikonian Galleries

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#41. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 39

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Mon 04-Apr-11 03:49 PM

You've asked interesting questions. Here goes for some answers.

1. But what if you did want absolute certainty that the data was gone? What if you had an agreement with a client that specified that all copies of the images be turned over to them. Would having a recoverable copy on an memory card constitute violating the agreement?

A1. I think this is both a legal and technical argument. I will only speak to the technical and the logical (which is often far different than legal). It's probably impossible to permanently erase one's photos from your memory cards, at least with current technology. Researchers from the University of California at San Diego tried 14 different file sanitizing techniques ranging from the Gutman's 35-pass method to the Schneier 7-pass method on solid state storage devices, which camera memory chips are. They found that every data-erasing technique left at least 10% of recoverable data on the devices. Some techniques, such as overwriting the chip with pseudorandom data or using a British HMG IS5 baseline, left nearly 100% of the data intact.

The only current way to definitely ensure there are no recoverable photos in existence would be to destroy the memory card.

So, if the client would want to purchase the memory card as part of the agreement, that would work. Otherwise, since it's technically not 100% feasible to comply, I would think that making a good faith effort would be enough in that eventually, through use, the photos would over time not be recoverable.

Therefore, logically, I don't see a violation of the agreement, unless you recover the photos and store them where they can be easily retrieved.

By the way, I've personally never had an agreement where a client gets all my copies of my photos, though I'm sure it must come up for some clients.

2. Does having any data on the card create any risk of corrupted files?

A2. I don't see how. The camera uses the cards FAT to store new photos. Since the FAT, after formatting, is unaware of the photo data remaining on the memory card, the camera is also unaware and ignores that photo data.

3. Does just rewriting or cleaning the FAT solve any problem if there is a corrupted area in the the memory?

3A. Formatting the memory card causes the camera to rewrite the FAT. That will solve many types of data corruption on the card, but not necessarily any problems. In the world of technology, such words as "all," "any," and "every," etc. are very "BIG" words.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

mklass

Tacoma, US
7421 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#42. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 41

mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006
Mon 04-Apr-11 04:13 PM

Thanks, Ned.

I gues this would also be a good way to find our if your "new" cars were ever used before!

Mick
www.mickklassphoto.com

ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9045 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#43. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 38

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Mon 04-Apr-11 05:23 PM

LOL

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

guyparker

Rugby, UK
961 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this authorClick to send message via AOL IM

#44. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 43

guyparker Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Tue 05-Apr-11 03:36 PM

One last question on all this. If the photos on a memory card are never truly deleted, how on earth is it possible to keep saving stuff to them??

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

mklass

Tacoma, US
7421 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#45. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 44

mklass Platinum Member As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 08th Dec 2006
Tue 05-Apr-11 04:00 PM

They are not truly deleted, but they are overwritten when the space is needed for a new file. If you completely fill the card after formating, then all of the old data is overwritten.

Mick
www.mickklassphoto.com

TiggerGTO

Apex, US
2258 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#46. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 5

TiggerGTO Gold Member Nikonian since 22nd Feb 2006
Wed 06-Apr-11 05:44 PM

Ernesto,
You can set up your cameras to show all images even if they were taken by a different model. It is somewhere in the setup menus, but I don't have my camera or soft copy user guide with me right now.

Danny
A Nikonian in North Carolina

gkaiseril

Chicago, US
6739 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#47. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 46

gkaiseril Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2005
Wed 06-Apr-11 07:16 PM

From the camera menus you select "Playback", "Playback Folder", and the "ALL" option, see page 263 of the D700 manual.

I believe this is how all Nikon dSLRs work.

The default playback folder option is to show only folders and images created by the camera in which the current card is inserted.

George
My Nikonian Galleries

ScottChapin

Powder Springs/ATL, US
9045 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#48. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 44

ScottChapin Moderator Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, including Aviation and Birds Photography Charter Member
Wed 06-Apr-11 11:33 PM

Think of it like you would audio tape where you can tape over top of old material. Instead of magnetic charges, it's electronic charges and there's a file allocation table to keep track of the file locations.

Scott Chapin
Powder Springs, GA, USA

Nikonians Team Member

balzanto

Tinley Park, US
130 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#49. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 39

balzanto Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Fri 08-Apr-11 10:30 PM

Doing a full format (not a quick format) in Windows Vista or 7 will overwrite all the sectors of the drive. See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/941961 for the information straight from Microsoft. Doing a quick format will write out a new file system but not alter the data area.

So, if you want to completely zero the memory card, uncheck the Quick box when you format. It will take a lot longer but it will completely overwrite the data.

Modern, magnetic hard disk drives only need a one-pass wipe to completely overwrite the data. Guttman's work was done on much older media and he has publicly stated that magnetic force microscopy will not work on modern hard drives. See the epilogue in his paper at http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/%7Epgut001/pubs/secure_del.html#Epilogue

Ned_L

Philadelphia, US
8049 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#50. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 49

Ned_L Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, especially Travel Photography Charter Member
Fri 08-Apr-11 10:55 PM

The problem is camera memory cards are electronic solid state devices, not magnetic devices.

Even high end sanitizing programs don't fully erase solid state devices.

According to researchers at the University of California at San Diego users and businesses must be aware how they handle SSDs because it's extremely tough to erase data from them. "Our results show that naïvely applying techniques designed for sanitizing hard drives on SSDs, such as overwriting (Vista style formatting) and using built-in secure erase commands is unreliable and sometimes results in all the data remaining intact." the researchers said. "Furthermore, our results also show that sanitizing single files on an SSD is much more difficult than on a traditional hard drive."

It's just not as easy to delete the photos from the memory card as most people think, and formatting doesn't do it.

Ned
A Nikonians Team Member

-----------------------------
Visit my Travel Photography Blog and my Galleries.

pdekman

Swisher, US
1058 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#51. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 50

pdekman Gold Member Winner in The Nikonians 10th Anniversary Photo Contest Awarded as a regular contributor who offers in-depth knowledge to members who are interested in building efficient work flows. Winner in the Annual Nikonians Best Images Contest 2015 Nikonian since 17th Nov 2005
Sat 09-Apr-11 08:24 PM

I suspect the reason for this is that these devices have internal controllers that 'wear-level' the memory cells. Since there is a finite number of times you can write to any particular cell, the memory controller is continually selecting new cell areas to write to in order to ensure the device wears out on-average rather than in particular spots. Since application code cannot control the internal mechanisms, it's pretty difficult to erase the device and guarantee that previous data has been overwritten.

Paul
My Nikonians Gallery

sulkyrob

Doreen, AU
668 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#52. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 48

sulkyrob Gold Member Nikonian since 07th Jan 2007
Sun 10-Apr-11 11:16 PM

Have followed this thread with interest. The last couple of posts encourages me to just mention the occasion when I was doing a cut and paste from a 4GB card to a PC (Yes I know that was dumb and have learnt from the experience!!) and the PC froze. I thought I had lost a cardful of photos. My local techo expert not only recovered all 4GB of that batch of photos but also about 7GB of previously taken photos (some up to a year old). To say I was surprised to find a 4GB card had enough capacity to actually have around 11GB of photos is an understatement.

Rob Wyatt
A Nikonian from Ballarat, Australia

D300, Nikon 17-55, Nikon 70-200, and Nikon 200-400, SB600

My Website My Nikonians Gallery

balzanto

Tinley Park, US
130 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author

#53. "RE: Why format your memory cards?" | In response to Reply # 51

balzanto Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Dec 2005
Mon 11-Apr-11 01:19 AM

Yes, wear leveling is an issue buzzing around the digital forensics community right now as it has direct implications to the acquisition of the data, and the ability to recover data from unallocated clusters and slack areas. However, as pdeckman indicated, this is applicable where the device has some type of drive controller regulating this function.

We're really splitting hairs here. I have yet to see any data recovered from a SD/CF media card that has had a one pass wipe run over it. I think I'll add a hash value comparison of a memory card to my list of future tests to run. Kind of interested if wear leveling applies to a 4 or 8GB card. So far I've only read of tests done on SSD hard drives. I haven't seen anything published regarding removable media.

G