Disk Formatting: Methods and Methods

Table of contents:

Disk Formatting: Methods and Methods
Disk Formatting: Methods and Methods

Formatting a hard drive in Windows systems or similar procedures with removable storage media cause some users not only misunderstanding, but fear of such a process. This is mainly due only to the loss of important information and the seeming impossibility of recovering it. Putting such doubts aside, it can be said that often formatting is a cardinal means of bringing a hard drive or similar external device in order, for example, when errors constantly occur or the presence of virus applets is present. However, let's find out what a process is, why it is needed, what its types are, how to perform the necessary procedures using the example of operating systems of the Windows family. After describing the main issue, let's consider how complex the problems of recovering information afterformatting of any type and using different tools. But first things first.

What is disk formatting in general?

For starters, it's worth a little understanding of the theoretical information and determine for yourself what it is. It is possible, of course, to cite abstruse technical terms for an infinitely long time, which will not say anything to the average user, but it is better to limit ourselves to the simplest explanation. In the most general sense, formatting a hard drive in Windows, in any other operating system, or at the factory is an ordering of the hard drive structure, which is necessary for the OS to recognize both the media itself and the information stored on it in the form of files (note that folders are also files, but only of a special type). As a consequence, the question immediately arises about the types of such procedures in terms of when, which and for what is used.

Formatting types

Organization of the structure of a hard disk or removable storage media involves the use of two main types: low-level formatting of the hard disk and high-level. How are they different?

Low level formatting
Low level formatting

The first type is made as a standard procedure at the production stage. It is responsible for initializing tracks and sectors on a hard disk or any other similar medium, which will later be used to organize the recording of information.

The second type of disk formatting is, if I may say so, somewhat moreintelligent, and is used to organize the file structure (file system, file allocation tables, boot sectors, logical partition structures, etc.). But for high-level formatting, there are two more subcategories: quick and full. Fast in the standard sense is used for the so-called cleaning of the table of contents, when only file tables are rewritten. Full formatting of the disk, which, by the way, ordinary users are so afraid of, before the formation of file tables, provides for a check of sectors, during which problem (damaged) areas are marked as non-working, which excludes further recording in them. Accordingly, all information that could previously be present on such a medium is completely deleted.

What is formatting used for?

Finally, before moving on to a direct consideration of the practical side of the issue of performing formatting of different types and using different tools, it is worth saying a few words about why all this is needed at all.

The main purpose of a process of any type, as is probably already clear, is to create such a structure on a storage medium that could be initialized in a computer system. Quite often, formatting (especially quick formatting) is used to quickly delete files and folders, which in manual mode could take much longer. However, it is no less effective to use, for example, formatting an external hard drive if it contains errors.(only in this case, the full one is applied, and not the fast one, which initially does not fix disk failures). Finally, sometimes it is formatting that can become the only tool that allows you to completely get rid of viruses that cannot be neutralized or removed by any other methods. But these are quite extreme measures.

Formatting the disk with the installation of the operating system

Now let's go directly to the implementation of the basic procedures and first of all consider the installation process of any operating system.

At one of the stages, the installer prompts you to select a partition for installing the OS, which will later become the system partition.

Formatting a Drive When Installing Windows
Formatting a Drive When Installing Windows

Formatting the disk or the selected partition in this case is mandatory, because, for example, if it contains files from the old system, the new one simply will not fit there. In principle, if you do not take into account the creation of additional partitions, formatting will be done automatically, whether you like it or not. If the hard disk is divided into several parts, each of them must also be formatted so that the installed system can recognize them later. As a rule, there are usually no problems with the standard procedure at this stage.

Standard Windows formatting

But let's look at what tools for formatting a data disk are provided in the Windows operating systems themselves.

Choosing Formatting in Windows
Choosing Formatting in Windows

Apparently mostusers know that it is quite elementary to call a standard tool using the right-click context menu on the selected partition.

Standard Formatting
Standard Formatting

In the start disk formatting window, you can check the quick format item, since the default is full.

Formatting from Disk Management
Formatting from Disk Management

Similarly, the process is performed from the disk management section, where the desired item is selected from the RMB menu on one of the sections.

Can I format the system partition?

And this is where some users get confused. Why does Windows say it can't be done when I choose to format the system partition?

Attempt to format the system partition
Attempt to format the system partition

Yes, only because it is really impossible to perform such operations in a running system. Well, the operating system will not give permission for its own destruction? In addition, if all data is destroyed during formatting, how to produce it, if the tool itself is in the form of a program in the system partition? In this case, you will have to apply disk formatting via the command line, but only calling it when booting from removable media (installation, recovery disk or flash drive).

Formatting via command line or PowerShell

On Windows systems, there are two tools that can run commands: the command line and the PowerShell console. The second tool has a few morefeatures, but the command line looks easier to use.

When starting from external media, when loading the interface, use the combination Shift + F10, which calls the command line. This method allows you to get rid of transitions through different menus. In the running console, to activate the formatting process, the standard command format N: is used, where N is the letter of the system or logical partition. Usually the command results in a full format. If you want to change the conditions for applying the command, you can use additional attributes (for example, to perform a quick format, select a preferred file system, etc.).

View attributes for a format command
View attributes for a format command

You can view the list of all attributes by calling the help system with the string "format /?" (of course, without quotes).

In principle, this formatting option can also be used in a running system, just call the command line or the PowerShell console only with administrator rights (otherwise formatting may be blocked) and use only logical letters as an input drive letter sections.

As a compound tool, formatting is used in a sequence of commands when partitioning a disk into partitions or even when creating bootable flash drives using Windows.

Third Party Software Products

Now let's look at some third party software products.

HDD Low Level Format Tool
HDD Low Level Format Tool

So, for example, the HDD Low Level Format Tool is very popular and in demand. It is so easy to use that even any unprepared users can use it in practice. No less popular are the MiniTool Partition Wizard class utilities, Format USB Or Flash Drive Software, HP Drive Key Boot Utility and many others. As you can already understand, some programs for formatting disks do not belong exclusively to this direction, but may initially be designed to manage hard disk partitions or removable media, where formatting is only a composite tool used at one of the stages of the main process.

Issues of data recovery after formatting

Finally, it is worth dwelling a bit on the most painful issue that so frightens ordinary users. Of course, these are data recovery problems. It is believed that no matter what program is used to format the hard drive (built into the operating system or from a third-party developer), data can be recovered only if a quick, rather than a complete process is carried out. This can be explained with a simple example. Imagine that you wrote something on the misted glass, and then the glass dried up and the inscription disappeared. However, if you sprinkle the glass with a small amount of liquid, the inscription will appear again. This is a quick format and the simplest principle of data recovery.

In fact, with thisIn this approach, only the first letter in the names of the deleted files is changed (usually to the dollar sign $), after which such objects become unreadable in the system. Programs for formatting disks work in the same way (except that the symbol can change, for example, to "~" in combination with other combinations). Utilities for information recovery look for objects exactly by the first characters, and then restore them if the cells where the original files were stored were not overwritten.

In the case of full formatting, sectors of the hard disk are initially affected, and the information in them is, as it were, reset to zero. That is why it is believed that it is impossible to recover information from an erased sector. If we consider the previous example, it is approximately similar to the fact that after applying the inscription to the glass, it is wiped with a damp cloth. Then no amount of sprinkling can restore the inscription.

But how then to explain what we see in Hollywood action movies, when data is extracted even from burnt hard drives? There are some tricks here. Of course, professional tools that are used by intelligence agencies are not available to ordinary computer users. But in the simplest case, you can use the HDD Regenerator utility and programs like R-Studio or R. Saver in parallel, which are considered the most powerful in terms of recovering information from media of any type and any degree of damage.

R-Studio software
R-Studio software

For example, you can even recover files on a flash drive that had damaged microcontrollers, which made itabsolutely unreadable. Of course, such processes take quite a lot of time (a flash drive with a capacity of only 4 GB can be restored in 10-12 hours), but the result is guaranteed one hundred percent. By the way, these two mentioned programs, even after formatting, find files deleted so long ago that the user does not remember them at all and is surprised that such information could even be present on the media.

Summary of results

If we draw brief conclusions, it can be noted that programs for formatting a hard disk or removable media look simpler in terms of practical application. But the tools of Windows systems, in particular the command line, can also be used when booting from a regular USB flash drive when the OS or a damaged system partition is being restored. To write third-party programs to the media, make it bootable, and even get the ability to run the applications present on it, you will need additional utilities, the use of which in some cases looks completely inappropriate.

As for the format itself, each user must clearly understand that it is intended to organize the structure of fixed disks or removable media with the ability to clearly organize the information stored on them. And do not be afraid of the practical application of such tools, because, as already mentioned, information can be restored, and quite simply (you only need a special program and the user's patience).

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