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When formatting a drive as ntfs for a windows XP install, you have an option to choose between a "quick" format and complete format.

What is the difference between the two (aside from how long it takes to complete)?

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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Basically, quick format doesn't do a scan of the disk to check for bad sectors.

Here's a MS article on the topic.

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So, assuming the disk has to check for bad sectors on any read/write anyway, you're not going to lose any system performance by doing a quick format? –  Joel Coel May 22 '09 at 13:34
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Inasmuch as the term "format" has been badly misused in modern times, a "quick" format simply creates an empty directory structure which renders the disk "empty" for all intents and purposes. Linux has the more appropriately named mkfs (make file system) command for the same purpose.

The "complete" format erases every sector on the disk and checks for bad blocks in the process. Hence, the long run time.

Modern disks have firmware that checks for bad blocks and relocates them automatically. This makes it unlikely that the old-style "scan for bad blocks" will ever turn up anything.

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