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Posts Tagged ‘format’

How To Format a Flash Drive as UDF (Windows 7 & 10 Solution)

When trying to format a flash drive in Windows (7 or 10) you will see the file system options best suited for the device. The proper file systems for a flash drive would be: FAT, FAT32 or exFAT. Windows will also list NTFS for a flash drive, but not the best for a USB stick, as mentioned before. The file system types listed by the Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) will depend on the GB capacity of the flash drive connected.

So why no UDF file system on the list?

First, let me say it IS possible for Windows to format a flash drive as UDF (Universal Disk Format). Microsoft just doesn’t want you to do it; and there are good reasons why.

Before the reasons given for not using UDF as a format on flash drives, let’s clear one thing up: If you think formatting a flash drive as UDF will make the thumb drive appear as an optical drive in the computer – you are mistaken!

From the Wikipedia page about Universal Disk Format, UDF, the specification is governed by the Optical Storage Technology Association and because of that, many believe a UDF anything will work like a disc. It, UDF, is most widely used for DVDs and newer optical disc formats, can be used on flash drives, but does make it operate like one.

If we take out the hope of formatting a USB with a UDF file system, some may feel the Universal Disk Format means the flash drive will work in anything, such as from Windows, to Mac, to Linux, Symbian and/or to proprietary system. The truth here is exFAT will do just the same. Please keep that in mind.

So why not format a USB as UDF in Windows? Here is a list:

  • The lack of fully-functional filesystem check tools.
  • 64GB limit with Windows & Linux, a bug, not a limit of UDF
  • SD and USB mass storage devices are exposed to quick wear-leveling failure
  • UDF is read-only for Windows XP

Without bogging down this post with ultra-technical information, from the above list, the most important to consider is the first, lack of filesystem check tools.

This means if the USB is pulled out while in operation and a bit is affected by the action, there are no tools to check the file system for errors. You are flying the dark as to why the USB no longer works and there are no tools available to help you figure it out. Given the flash drive was specifically designed to be portable and quick access, the above action is most certainly going to happen sooner or later, which makes UDF a high risk file system.

How to format a flash drive as UDF:

Connect the USB to your computer and note the assigned drive letter

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Does Erasing Flash Memory Shorten It’s Life?

Yes. Performing an Erase or “full format” shortens the life of the device. The erase function is also very slow.

Here are some additional questions based on the answer above which we will address in today’s post:

Is “erase” and “format” the same thing?

Erasing flash memory (a.k.a. Setting all bits to 0, also called a “full format” by Windows) does more damage. Flash memory has a limited number of times that it can be written, and the more you write to it, the more it degrades. With an erase function, you’re writing to the entire device.

With a format, all that’s happening is changing a few bits at the front of the device to say the rest of the memory space on the flash drive is available to be overwritten. This saves the life of the flash memory because the old data is not being overwritten, just flagged to do it at a later time.

Why would you need to erase a drive?

Since a format is changing just a few bits at the front of the device, it means all the data is still on the drive. The few bits we are talking about which are changed, is related to the file allocation table. The changed bits in the file allocation table, mean there are no longer instructions about the location of the digital files. Recovery software can scan the memory space and retrieve those files even though the file allocation table isn’t giving instructions on where they are located.

Think of the file allocation table as the table of contents of a book. If you tear out the table of contents of a book, but all the pages of the story are still there, it’s the same concept as formatting a device. Sure you can scan the pages to find chapter 12 with the part about Paul getting a bucket of water, it’s just hard. Same thing with formatting a drive, you can use recovery scanning software to find the files, but it’s hard. Coming back to the original question, why would someone want to erase a USB flash drive? One possible reason could be a security risk of some kind and the operator wants to insure no data is on the drive. For example, you are donating a flash drive and you had financial or medical records on the drive. By performing an erase, that data cannot be recovered.

Why does an erase take longer?

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How To Format Any Size USB Drive as NTFS

If you take a typical USB stick and select the Windows format option, you only get the FAT and FAT32 option for anything under 4GBs.  However, there are times you might want to format as NTFS.  For example, you want to set specific file and folder privileges to the content and you feel NTFS is the best way. Well, there is an easy solution and it’s just a matter of setting the options correctly in Windows for your device. This is how you do it: Start > My Computer > Right click on the drive letter for the USB stick and select Properties.

ntfs for usb

Next click the Hardware tab of the Properties dialogue box and select the device which you’d like to change.  In this case, it’s drive letter F shown as “Simple Flash Disk 2.0 USB Device“  From here you can double-click the device or highlight in blue and click the Properties button. Continue Reading

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