Photo Recovery

Formatting Vs Erasing a Memory Card

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    Summary: Confused about erasing or formatting your memory card? Learn the difference between erasing and formatting and analyze both the options to delete the files.

    Many users still cannot comprehend the difference between erasing vs. formatting the memory card. There are two methods to delete the content of your memory card, i.e., either to erase the contents or format the memory card. Sounds simple, right? Still, the majority of us don’t know the difference between erasing and formatting the memory card.

    Given that, this blog is an in-depth discussion explaining when users should erase or format the memory card. Further, the blog also states how to use photo recovery software to retrieve deleted or lost photos from the memory card.

    Which way to go?


    Figure 1.1 illustrates which option to choose.

    It has always been a point of discussion as to which is a better option: to erase or format the memory card. There is a common misconception that users think that either of the options should suffice. Actually, there is a big difference between erasing and formatting the card, and one should choose either of the options under different circumstances.

    When the memory card runs out of space, then the majority of us either erase or format the memory card, which is fine as long as we have a backup of the files.

    Understanding the difference (Erasing vs. Formatting the memory card)

    Erasing the memory card:

    Erasing the memory card

    Figure 1.1 illustrates the option to erase the memory card

    When you erase the content of the memory card, you then have the option to delete items one by one or select the items which is no longer of any use or simply erase the whole content of the memory card. Suppose you have a memory card and are running out of space, and need to delete only a few items from the memory card, then erasing the memory card may seem the quickest way to clear the memory card. However, the items which have been marked as “protected” will not be erased.

    Formatting the memory card:

    Formatting recreates the file system, including new directories where the files are saved on the memory card. It completely deletes all the content of the memory card, even those which are listed as “protected.”

    Format memory Card

    Figure 1.2 illustrates the option to format the memory card

    Erasing Vs. Formatting the Memory Card.

    Erasing the memory cardFormatting the memory card
    Erasing preserves the filename settings, including directories.Formatting changes the filename settings.
    This option is viable when you want to delete only a chosen item.To delete all the content of the memory card at once, formatting is a good choice.
    Erasing the memory card leaves some traces of the deleted items. Therefore, it not only removes the files; it simply deletes the pointer referring to the file location.Formatting is like using a fresh memory card. It completely wipes out all the content stored on it. However, you can leverage photo recovery software to retrieve your multimedia files.
    No need to rename the memory card.Every time you format the memory card, you need to rename it.
    Erasing deletes the multimedia files stored on the memory card but can be recovered using photo recovery software.Formatting clears the directory of the data stored on the memory card and removes the fragmentation and once it is overwritten with new data, then it is quite difficult to retrieve the previous data.
    Erasing is preferable when there are just a few files.Formatting is a viable option when there are multiple files.

    Back up your files before formatting or erasing the memory card!

    A backup is a must before you format or erase the memory card. For instance, suppose you accidentally format or delete any file stored on the memory card; then how will you recover it? Before formatting or erasing the memory card, ensure that you transfer all the files to a secondary storage media. Further, there is another option available, i.e., to use photo recovery software to recover the lost or deleted data from memory cards.

    Some Important Pointers:

    • To enhance the memory card’s performance, it is advisable to format it occasionally.
    • Formatting comes in handy when the memory card is corrupt or is infected by a virus or malware.
    • Erasing the memory card will suffice as long as you use the same memory card with the same device.
    • Format the memory card when planning to switch from one device to another
    • Avoid using the same memory card in multiple devices as formatting creates different files/folders, which may further corrupt the data stored in it.

    The Final Word!

    Erasing or formatting the memory card depends on the individual’s requirements. Both options are simple and easy; however, if not done the right way, they may corrupt the storage media. This is when photo recovery software comes into the picture.

    Photo Recovery photo recovery mac

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    About The Author

    Sumona Chatterjee linkdin

    Sumona is a tech blogger, avid photographer, & technogeek with vast experience in writing about media file recovery tips and tutorials. She has over 10 years of experience in media file recovery/media file repair technology. She is passionate about Photography, Creative Designing, Music, and Exploring lesser-known destinations.


    1. I was using another phone and used to save my photos, videos and documents to the internal storage that was made up with SD card together now I bought a new phone then I took SD card from the old phone then put it on the new phone I formatted it but no photos appears and on the old phone no photos appears. Why?

      1. Hi Sne,
        It’s possible that your photos, videos, and documents were not actually saved to the SD card, but rather to the internal storage of your old phone. When you inserted the SD card into the new phone and formatted it, all of the data on the card would have been erased, including any data that was previously saved on it. I would suggest trying scanning your SD card with Stellar Photo Recovery software to see if you can find those lost files.

    2. I have an sd memory card but when I enter them in my android it does not show me content like downloaded file, images, mp3 and other types of files. what can I do?

      1. Hi Sagar, Please check your SD memory card into another phone or computer. If SD card recognized but data did not show, you can try our software demo version and see the preview your lost images, mp3, videos. If the SD card still not recognize, please contact the SD card manufacturer. Thanks!

    3. I had a SanDisk SDHC 16 GB memory card and using it with Nikon D5300 camera, whenever I open a camera or try to capture any picture It says cannot create a folder, accidentally I have deleted the DCIM folder from the same memory card Any Help would be appreciated!

      1. Hi Ami, Please try our software demo version and see preview deleted or lost image files and folder. I hope this will work for you!

    4. I can’t format or erased file from my Micro SD card? I already used chksdsk/f command and unplug the SD from my Windows 10. And all files lost. Any help would be appreciated.

      1. Hi, It seems the problem in the SD card slot itself. Don’t panic please scan your card to another system through antivirus and format it, Use our Stellar Photo Recovery software for recover your files. I hope it will works for you.

    5. My Canon Camera unable to format the 64GB ADATA SDHC card. I have tried few SD card in my camera and it says the same things messages show “unable to format remove card”. Any suggestion?

      1. If your camera unable to format the SD card, there may be your canon camera hardware problem. Please Contact Canon Support Service.

    6. Thanks for the tips! Especially the detailed difference about erase and formatting the memory card. I am happy to read. Thank you!

    7. Awesome post! Yes, that’s true formatting or erasing the memory card depends on the individual’s requirements. I like the pointers that you mentioned in the blog. I really appreciated!

    8. I agree with you! Several people advised me to format the SD card, likely being corrupted because my Kingston SD card was corrupted. After finding your blog through google search now I know the difference between format and erase SD card! Thank you very much!

      1. Hello Amber,

        We feel glad that you like our writing.
        Please subscribe our you-tube channel to enjoy informative videos.

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