How to Format an SSD

Solid state drives are quickly becoming the accepted storage standard, but if you want your SSD drive to be as accessible as possible, you may want to learn how to format a hard drive. Our guide will show you how to format SSD hard drives and also help you understand why you would want to format an SSD and what sort of precautions you need to take before you start formatting an SSD.

When to Format an SSD

We’ll show you how to format hard drive devices below, but first you should know whether or not you need to format drive devices in the first place. Below, we’ll cover all the primary reasons why you might need to format an SSD.

  • If you’ve just bought an external SSD, you’ll probably need to format it. While some SSDs are designed to be formatted with a specific device (as is often the case with console SSD drives), most arrive unformatted. On the plus side, that means you can get them to work with any operating system. On the negative, you’ll need to format your SSD regardless of what operating system you use.
  • If you have an SSD that already has data on it and you’re trying to clear it completely, formatting an SSD can be the quickest and most sensible route to take. It means that all of your information will be thoroughly wiped. You’ll just want to make sure that there’s nothing you need there, since there’s no coming back once you’ve finished formatting an SSD.
  • One of the great things about making use of multiple SSD devices is that you can install separate operating systems on each. There are a lot of advantages to having a dual boot computer, but whether you’re looking to run Windows or Linux, you’re going to need to format the SSD first. You can then make use of simple migration software to transfer the operating system over.

What Format to Choose

There are a number of different formats you can choose with an SSD, and the one you choose can have a big effect on how efficiently your drive operates and what operating systems it will be compatible with. Here are the most common ones available today.

  • FAT32 has been around since the early days of Windows, and that means it’s compatible with just about anything. While it was initially designed for use with Windows, it’s now compatible with Mac, Linux, and game consoles. Practically anything that has a USB drive present will be compatible with a FAT32 SSD drive. The one disadvantage is also a big one, though. A FAT32 drive can only store files as large as 4 GB in size.
  • ExFAT maintains most of the compatibility of FAT32. You can swap it back and forth between Mac OS and Windows devices seamlessly, and it can also work with Linux with some simple software. The latest consoles can also work natively with ExFAT, but you’re better off using FAT32 if you’re looking for a drive for an older console. The big selling point of ExFAT is that it has no limits on file or partition sizes.
  • AFPS stands for Apple File System, and like most Apple products, it’s fiercely proprietary and won’t work with a Windows or Linux machine. But what it lacks in compatibility, it makes up for in productivity. It offers some of the best encryption around and provides you with more accessible storage space than a comparable SSD drive in other formats.
  • If you just want to use your SSD drive with a Windows PC, the NTFS format may be the way to go. This select format offers many of the modern advantages that aren’t available in FAT32 or ExFAT, but they have limited compatibility with all operating systems other than Windows. That said, any version of Windows should be able to read and write to an NFTS SSD drive with little to no difficulty.

Preparing Your SSD Drive

There are a few steps you need to take before you format your SSD hard drive to ensure everything goes smoothly.

  • Backup any important data. While data that’s lost when you format SSD drives can be recovered by advanced means, it’s not easy. For that reason, you’ll want to carefully scrutinize your hard drive for any files or folders you don’t want to lose.
  • Enable TRIM settings. Not all operating systems or formats support TRIM, but it’s worth implementing if you can. TRIM serves essentially as defragmenting a drive, and it can make sure that you make more efficient use of your hard drive after formatting.
  • Use quick format mode. The lifetime of a hard drive is measured in cycles. That’s not that big of a deal when formatting a more traditional hard drive, but running through a full cycle can have an impact on the overall life of an SSD. When you perform a quick format instead of full format process, it will maintain its lifespan.

Formatting on Windows

Formatting on Windows is handled through the Disk Management menu. You can get to Disk Management from the start menu. While in the Disk Management menu, you’ll be able to choose specific partitions for the drive you want to format. Right click the partition, and then select “Format”. You can determine unit sizes and file types manually through the Disk Management menu, but be sure to click quick format instead of full format or you’ll shorten the life span of the drive you want to format.

Formatting on Mac OS

The process to format SSD drive on Mac is pretty similar to Windows. Go to the “Go” menu in Finder and then to “Utilities” and “Disk Utility”. This is similar to the Disk Management menu in Windows. Simply click on the SSD drive icon and select “Erase”. You’ll have the option to rename the drive when you format SSD drives like you can in the Windows Disk Management menu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need to Format a New SSD?

Most of the time, yes. Since SSD drives are designed to be worked with a number of different operating systems, you may need to format your SSD drive so it’s in a file type that’s compatible with the device you’re using. Most SSD models don’t come formatted, so you’ll need to at least perform a quick format to get it properly mounted.

What is the Best Format for SSD?

That depends on what you’re using it for. FAT32 and exFAT offer compatibility with practically every operating system. NTFS and AFPS are more platform specific, but they offer a range of features you wouldn’t find in FAT formats.

Can You Format an SSD to FAT32?

You can. You can use the directions above to format any SSD to the FAT32 format. We also outline the advantages and disadvantages of FAT32 above.

Wrapping Up

The process of formatting an SSD may sound difficult, but even inexperienced users can complete the process with little difficulty. We’ve covered all the fundamentals above, and if you need help with any other aspects of computer maintenance, be sure to check out our other guides.