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How To Format A SSD In Windows 7

written by: •edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/24/2010

As SSDs become more and more commonplace, knowing how to format and reformat them becomes increasingly important. This article discusses formatting SSDs in the context of the Windows 7 OS.

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    Why Format?

    Formatting is useful, for a number of reasons. As you use a computer over time, inevitably files will corrupt, viruses accumulate, and useless programs amass. The computer will run slower and slower to the point of frustration. A reformat is essentially a fresh start for your SSD, wiping it clean. After a fresh format, your computer will run far faster. Many people choose to format their hard drives on a regular basis for precisely this reason.

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    SSDs and Windows 7

    Windows 7 particularly is said to perform well with SSDs., which was a conscious design effort on the part of Microsoft engineers to take advantage of the promising technology. Indeed, one could argue that Windows 7 is optimized for SSD use in a way no other OS currently out on the market is. This entry from the Microsoft Engineering Blog discusses a lot of these efforts, whereas this detailed article from ComputerWorld casts a somewhat more critical eye over their claims.

    With regards to formatting, one of the changes that Windows 7 introduces for SSDs is a more efficient process that reduces redundant read/write cycles, thus expanding the lifetime of SSDs which otherwise may slow down over time.

    As far as the actual formatting is concerned, Windows 7 makes it particularly easy. While SSDs and traditional spinning disk hard drives are very different technologies, your steps as a user to format them are the same for both types.

    Also, if you run either Vista or XP, the steps for formatting a hard drive were left largely unchanged for Windows 7, so these directions should apply to those older operating systems as well.

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    Step By Step Guide To Formatting SSDs

    Before you begin, shut down all applications and files that are currently utilizing that hard drive. Otherwise, you will not be able to proceed with the formatting. Keep in mind that formatting a solid state hard drive will wipe everything on it, and that it is a difficult and time consuming process to attempt to retrieve anything off of it. Make sure to back up any files you want to keep on another hard drive!

    First, go to “My Computers". Right click the SSD that you wish to format. Then, simply press “format".

    You'll have two options from here: the Fat 32 format, or NTFS. NTFS is newer, faster, and more common, and generally considered to be the better of the two, but Fat 32 is still a respectable option if you are going to be using the SSD to interact with older computers that may not be compatible with NTFS. Here is an article discussing why you may want to consider using the NTFS format over the Fat32 format.

    You'll also have the choice of whether to do a “quick" or “full" format. The primary difference between the two is that a full format will look for bad sectors on the drive, which is an issue for traditional spinning disk drives and not for SSDs. Therefore, the quick format should suffice, though a full format would do no harm either.

    Select your options, and then sit back and watch your SSD format. That's it! Once the format is complete, feel free to begin using it. Don't forget to transfer any files you backed up previous to the format to the newly reformatted drive!