How to format an SSD in Windows 10

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Formatting a Solid State Drive (SSD) only takes a few seconds through File Explorer. But how exactly do you do it and which file system should you choose? This is what you need to know.

Format an SSD in File Explorer

There are a few ways to format a Solid State Drive (SSD) in Windows 10. Most of them, like the Disk Management tool, are overkill for your daily needs. The easiest way to format an SSD is through File Explorer.

RELATED: What is a Solid State Drive (SSD) and do I need one?

In most cases, there will be an icon on your desktop called “This PC”. Don’t worry if it’s not there; you can get it back. Meanwhile, open the Start menu, type “File Explorer” in the search bar, and then press Enter or click “Open”.

Alternatively, you can click the “Documents” or “Pictures” icon on the left side of the Start menu.

Look at the left side of File Explorer and click on “This PC”.

This PC will list all storage devices connected to your computer, including internal and external hard drives and SSDs, USB flash drives, CD, DVD, or Blu Ray drives, and some network devices.

Window

You must identify the drive you want to format. Take your time doing it, you don’t want to accidentally format the wrong drive; once you format the drive, the chances of recovering any data are pretty slim.

Make sure there is no important data on the drive, then right click and hit “Format”.

The format screen contains some notable options. Generally, there are only three you need to worry about: “File System”, “Volume Label”, and the “Quick Format” box. You can name the SSD whatever you like by filling in the “Volume Label” box, though something descriptive is always good. Three units named “asdhjkb”, “dhfjshi”, and “quiwehnsd” can cause some confusion later.

RELATED: What is a file system and why are there so many?

The format window with the indicated file system, volume label and quick format.

File system for an internal SSD

You’ll definitely want to choose NTFS as your file system if you’re formatting an internal drive that will only be used in Windows 10. NTFS, or New Technology File System, has been the standard file system used by Windows since Windows 3.1.

Note: If the drive is new, it may not show up under “This PC.” Most likely some drives will need to be initialized before Windows will allow you to use them. Fortunately, initializing a drive is fairly easy.

RELATED: Why Your New Hard Drive Isn’t Showing Up In Windows (And How To Fix It)

File system for an external SSD

If you are formatting an external SSD, you have more file system options. NTFS is a reasonable option if you only plan to use the external drive with Windows or Linux. MacOS can also read from an NTFS drive, but doesn’t natively support writing to them, though may if you are willing to do some work.

Other formats are more universally compatible and are probably better options if you plan to use the external SSD with many different devices. FAT32 and exFAT are supported by all modern operating systems and game consoles, although FAT32 cannot handle files larger than four gigabytes.

RELATED: What is the difference between FAT32, exFAT and NTFS?

If you don’t have any specific use in mind, you should probably choose exFAT. It’s lightweight, widely supported, and has no practical volume or file size restrictions to worry about.

Use format to delete data

Do not use the “Full Format” option for SSD. It is not necessary because Windows will automatically erase deleted files from the SSD if TRIM is enabled and it reduces the life of your SSD. If you want to erase the data, a quick format is perfectly fine.

Note: External USB SSDs do not support TRIM. You’ll want to use Full Format to erase external SSDs before you throw them away or dispose of them. Full format will ensure that your deleted data is not recoverable. This does not apply to internal SSDs, where TRIM will take care of deleting the data.

RELATED: How to check if TRIM is enabled for your SSD (and enable it if it isn’t)

Why you shouldn’t use the full format

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, ten years ago, you needed to use the full format option to make sure all your data was erased from your hard drive. Regular hard drives still need that treatment. Full Format actually writes zeros to every possible location on the hard drive, erasing everything on it. It’s not perfect, and a diligent forensic team probably can restore some of the data, but it’s enough to keep your information safe from the average person who might pick up your discarded hard drive.

RELATED: What is binary and why do computers use it?

Modern solid-state drives still store data as 1s and 0s, but the underlying physical mechanisms are vastly different. Hard drives store those 1s and 0s on a magnetic platter, but solid-state drives store them in “cells” that charge or discharge to represent a 0 or a 1, respectively.

One of the downsides of solid-state storage is that each cell can only be written to a certain number of times before it becomes unusable. A modern SSD can easily survive several hundred gigabytes of data written per day for years before failing, but it’s still best to avoid writing to it unnecessarily, which is why you shouldn’t use the full format option on SSDs.