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Tech Myths B.U.S.T.E.D. Rev. 1.3
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Formatting Your Hard Drive Will Kill It!

This is our personal favourite because it's so stupid, it always knocks our socks off and leaves us dazed for hours.

Most people out there seem intent on spreading the "holy gospel" that formatting your hard drive will cause it to prematurely fail. Why? According to them, formatting stresses the hard drive's components. Therefore, doing it many times will literally kill it!

To be honest, I got better education than the aforementioned reason just by banging my head against a wall repeatedly for 17 and a half hours. It could have been longer, but what's a few hours more or less?

Hard drives are essentially made from platters with a ferromagnetic surface, spinning at a fixed rotation speed. Over the platters are miniature arms holding the read/write heads which do the actual reads and writes.

It doesn't really matter whether you are formatting, reading or writing data off the hard drive. The platters will still spin at the same speed, and the read/write heads will still hover over the platters at the same height. Formatting doesn't make the platters spin any faster or hotter, or cause the head to literally scrawl an image of J. Lo's butt on the platter surface!

Formatting is generally a process of setting out a system for the operating system to write data to the drive. Think of formatting as creating a standard tax form. Without it, you wouldn't know where and what to fill. Creating that standard form allows you to fill in your information in a defined manner, with the size and location based on the criteria of formatting.

Just like creating that tax form, formatting defines the boundaries, locations, unit sizes and such for the hard drive. Generally, all it does is write to the hard drive, the same way it writes data.

But if you were to ask us which was more stressful, we would have to say that a normal random, non-contiguous write sequence is actually more stressful than the formatting process which is actually a contiguous writing process.

During the format sequence, the drive slowly steps from the innermost sector to the outermost sector in a continuous process. This is unlike a normal read or write sequence where the heads swish back and forth on the platter.

Now that we have killed off this stupid myth, please let it stay dead. Hopefully, that will not stop anyone from formatting their hard drive. Note that we aren't encouraging you to format your hard drive. We just think you shouldn't be paralyzed with fear of formatting your hard drive.


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