What is the difference between quick format and not quick format?

Disk formatting is the process of preparing a disk drive for initial use. Formatting sets up the logical structures on the drive and checks for defects. There are two main types of disk formatting: quick format and full format.

A quick format simply creates a new file system on the disk drive, while a full format completes additional tasks to prepare the drive. The key difference is that a full format scans the entire drive for bad sectors, while a quick format does not.

What is Disk Formatting?

Disk formatting is the process of preparing a data storage device such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, floppy disk, or USB flash drive for initial use. Formatting configures the disk with a file system so that it can be used to save files and install software 1. It erases existing information on the disk and scans for bad sectors to mark them off. Formatting is required before a new disk can be used, and may be recommended periodically to refresh a disk.

The formatting process divides the disk into logical areas that will hold data. A file system, such as NTFS or FAT32, structures where information is written. Boot records, file tables, and directory structures are created. Low-level formatting fills the disk with zeros and scans for defects, while high-level formatting creates the file system 2. Disk formatting prepares the media for efficient storage and retrieval of data.

Quick Format

A quick format, also known as a high-level format, only deletes the file system index on the disk. It simply removes the table of contents, allowing new data to be written over existing data. The actual contents of the disk are left intact. This means previously deleted files can still be recovered after a quick format using data recovery software.

The advantage of a quick format is that it takes seconds rather than hours. It doesn’t scan the disk for bad sectors or fully erase data. This makes it ideal when you need to quickly erase a disk before reusing it for the same purpose. However, keep in mind the data is not securely erased with a quick format.

According to Microsoft’s website, “A quick format takes much less time than a normal format. It simply erases the file structure and marks the disk space as available for use rather than scanning the disk for bad sectors.” (Source)

Full Format

A full format scans the entire disk surface for errors and attempts to repair any bad sectors detected. This is a more thorough but slower process than a quick format.

During a full format, the disk is prepared to store files by completely erasing any existing file system, such as NTFS or FAT32, and recreating a fresh blank file system. All existing data and files on the disk are completely erased in this process.

A full format also checks the physical integrity of the disk by scanning for bad sectors. If any bad sectors are detected, the operating system marks them so they are no longer used for file storage. This helps prevent future errors and data loss.1

Performing a full format is recommended when setting up a new hard drive or if you need to completely erase and reformat a used disk. The thorough scan helps ensure optimal performance and reliability of the drive going forward.

When to Use Quick Format

Quick format is useful when reformatting a working drive to refresh it without needing to fully erase and scan the entire drive. As the LaCie article explains, quick format simply removes the file table, allowing new data to be written. The existing data remains intact until overwritten. This makes quick format faster than full format.

According to a Reddit discussion, quick format is preferable when reformatting a drive you use regularly. It clears out the file system to reorganize files without spending hours fully erasing the drive.

Quick format is also useful for flash drives or external drives that do not require deep scanning. As the drive is still functional, a quick refresh restores full usable capacity efficiently.

When to Use Full Format

A full format is generally recommended when setting up a new hard drive or SSD. Doing a full format on a brand new drive scans the entire disk surface to map out bad sectors. This helps avoid any potential data corruption issues down the line if bad sectors spread (1).

Full formats are also useful for cleaning corrupted drives. If a drive has bad sectors or file system errors, a full format can wipe the slate clean and rebuild the file system properly. This is often the first step taken when trying to recover data from a failing drive (2).

In comparison, a quick format does not actually check or repair bad sectors on the disk. It simply erases the file system information and resets the directory structure. So quick formats are not effective when trying to repair or diagnose issues with a disk drive (3).


(1) https://www.easeus.com/partition-master/quick-format-vs-full-format.html

(2) https://superuser.com/questions/319595/are-there-any-performance-benefits-to-fully-formatting-a-hard-drive-vs-a-quick

(3) https://www.sysdevlabs.com/articles/operations-with-storages/full-and-quick-format/

Time Comparison

The most noticeable difference between quick format and full format is the amount of time each takes to complete. As the names suggest, a quick format happens very quickly while a full format can take much longer.

A quick format typically takes just a few seconds to complete, even on larger hard drives. It is able to format the drive so quickly because it simply creates a new file table without actually scanning the disk for errors or bad sectors.

A full format, on the other hand, takes much longer – often hours for large capacity hard drives. This is because a full format scans the entire drive for errors, resets all sectors, and fully erases all existing data. This in-depth scanning process is what makes a full format take so much longer. According to LaCie, a full format procedure can take several hours depending on the size of the disk.

So in summary, expect a quick format to take seconds while a full format will take hours for large drives. If time is limited, a quick format may be preferred, but a full format is more thorough.

Data Recovery

One key difference between quick format and full format is the ability to recover data after each process. With a quick format, data recovery is often possible using recovery software like Disk Drill. This is because a quick format simply marks the existing data on the drive as deleted rather than overwriting it. The data remains intact until it is overwritten by new data.

With a full format, recovering data is very difficult and often impossible. This is because the full formatting process completely overwrites the existing data on the drive. All sectors are rewritten with zeros, making the previous data unrecoverable through basic software recovery methods. Essentially, a full format destroys the old data at a low level. This makes full formats more secure in terms of preventing data recovery, but at the cost of losing all your data if you forgot to properly back it up.


When considering security, a full format is more secure than a quick format because it overwrites all the existing data on the drive. A quick format simply marks the existing files on the disk as deleted, but does not actually erase the contents of those files [1]. This means remnants of the old data may still exist on the drive and could potentially be recovered with data recovery software.

A full format, on the other hand, will write zeroes to the entire disk which completely overwrites any existing data. This makes it much more difficult for that old data to be recovered [2]. Therefore, if security is a priority and you need to ensure no trace of old data remains on the disk, a full format is recommended over a quick format.


In summary, quick format is faster and sufficient for formatting working hard drives and external storage devices. It skips disk scanning and bad sector detection making it much faster. Full format takes longer as it scans the entire disk surface for errors. Use full format if you suspect drive issues or problems with bad sectors. Otherwise quick format will be enough for general disk preparation and maintenance.

Quick format is ideal when you need to quickly erase data and reformat a functioning drive. Full format provides more comprehensive scanning and is recommended for external drives that have developed bad sectors. Unless you specifically need the additional surface scanning, quick format will save time and deliver satisfactory results in most cases.