Some people believe that memory cards really don't need to be formatted, or that formatting actually takes away from the quality of your card in the long run.
I think formatting memory cards can do you wonders. Especially if you're like me, and use the same memory card in lots of different cameras. Based on experience, the simple act of formatting memory cards has saved me from file reading errors — which basically translates to a lot of photographs being saved from oblivion!
As for the issue of formatting adding to the wear and tear of your card, the websites of different memory card manufacturers actually encourage you to format your cards to make sure that they are in perfect working order.
Why does formatting help?
There are many reasons why you should format your memory cards before using them. The simple answer is that formatting sets up your memory card to specifically for the type of camera you are using.
Simply deleting photos from your camera basically just tells your camera that it’s okay to write over the data on your card, without erasing the old information. Think of it like painting over an old wall, instead of stripping it of the old paint. It may seem like you’re creating more space, but technically speaking, memory cards use a FAT formatting system, which means that even if your card says that it has space, there may still be old data in your card that can cause card errors. Formatting rewrites your card to make sure that you don’t have any errors. It’s literally starting from a clean slate.
It’s also a more time-efficient solution than erasing your images one by one.
How do I do it?
First of all, make sure that you have backed up your files to a computer before doing any formatting.
Make sure to format your cards using your camera and not your computer. The main reason for formatting is to make sure it is set specifically to work with your camera, so doing it on your computer will not accomplish this.
Although it varies with each camera system, you can generally find the format option by going to the menu and heading to the settings.
Here are some examples of what the formatting menu will look like:
How often should I format my cards?
It depends. I prefer to format my card every time I start a new shoot simply because when I look at the images in my camera, I only want to see photos that I’ve taken that day.
My general rule of thumb is to format your memory card after you’ve downloaded your photos to the computer and backed them up. This way, both your camera and your memory card will be ready to go the next time you need to use them.