Formatting a hard drive is a very simple and common task. With it we can quickly erase all the data on a hard drive so that we have all its available space again. Also, during the process, we can even change the file system. However, in addition to normal formatting, which we can easily do from Windows, there is a new level of formatting that allows us to perform a much more complete and exhaustive erasure of the hard drive. This is what is known as Low Level Format, or low level formatting .
As we will already know, formatting a hard disk does not erase the data that is saved on the disk, but rather it deletes the file system and marks all its space as “available” waiting for other data to take its place. In this way, using specific software, this data could be recovered with relative ease.
What is a low-level format
Unlike a normal format, which only erases the file system, what low-level formatting does is erase each and every sector of the hard disk’s surface. In this way, the data that was saved on the hard disk cannot be recovered, since all sectors of the disk have been emptied during the process, filling all sectors of the disk with “0”.
This type of formatting, in addition, not only deletes the data and makes it impossible (or very complicated) to recover, but it can also help us to solve problems on the hard disk, for example, sectors that have been damaged. or corrupt.
A low-level format in the past was the equivalent of leaving the hard drive as fresh from the factory . However, this technique could only be performed by the most advanced manufacturers or technicians. A user cannot perform an LLF to a hard drive just like that. But there are techniques equivalent to low-level formatting that will allow us to fill all the sectors of the hard disk with “0” and erase the data to leave the disk as fresh from the factory.
And the most popular program for it is HDD Low Level Format.
HDD Low Level Format Features
HDD Low Level Format is a free program (although with limitations) that will allow us to clean all the sectors of a hard disk and fill in its information with “0” and other random data. In this way, through a very simple interface and a process free of risks and complications, we will be able to leave our hard drive as close to being as it has just left the factory.
This program is compatible with practically all hard drives that we can find on the market. In addition to working seamlessly with all brands, it supports all types of connections, such as IDE, SATA, SAS, SCSI, and M.2. It works with normal hard drives and with solid state drives (SSD), although due to the large number of writes that this program performs on the unit, it is not recommended to use it on the latter. It can be used on internal and external hard drives, as well as USB sticks and SD cards.
This program can be used for free, although with a speed limitation of 50 MB / s (which is equivalent to formatting 180 GB every hour). If we pay $ 3.30, we can remove this speed limitation and format the disks at full speed.
How to format a hard drive with HDD Low Level Format
When we open the program, the first thing we will see will be a window like the one below.
In it, as we will see, all the hard drives and all the storage units that we have connected to the computer will appear. Then, the only thing left to do is select the disk that we want to format. We must be sure to choose the corresponding disc and not make a mistake. If we make a mistake when selecting the disk, we will be losing all the data.
When we have the unit selected, we will be able to see a new window, with 3 tabs, like the one below. In the first tab we will be able to see a summary of the technical data of the unit. Useful to make sure we have chosen the correct unit.
The “SMART” tab allows us to obtain SMART data from our hard drive, which allows us to know, among other things, its state of health. If we are selecting USB sticks or SD cards, as we do not have SMART, we will not be able to know your health status.
And thirdly, the tab that interests us: Low Level Format . From here is where we are going to launch the formatting process. The only thing that we can highlight in this window is the “quick wipe” box that allows us to quickly format the hard disk by deleting only the MBR, but not overwriting the data. If we leave this box unchecked, then that is when we will perform the low-level formatting.
We click on « Format this device » and the formatting process will begin. This process can take a long time. Even several hours. It depends on the total size of the hard drive and the speed. During the process, all the partitions will be erased and the data that was stored inside the hard disk will be destroyed.
We wait for the process to finish and that’s it. When it reaches 100% we will have our hard drive formatted. Of course, we remember that during the process a complete erasure of the entire disk is carried out, including the partition table. Therefore, before we can use this disk again we will have to create a new partition table (MBR or GPT), and format at least a complete or partial partition.
What to do after low-level formatting
Once the formatting process is finished, before we can use the hard drive, we have to format it. We can do this from Windows itself, since, when connecting the unit, it will show us a message like the following one that will allow us to completely format the unit.
In addition, we can also use other programs, such as MiniTool Partition Wizard, which will allow us to easily format the drive that we just made the LLF.
The case is to format the drive that we just formatted. After doing so, we will have all the space available on it and we can start saving our data in it without problems.
We can download this program for free from the following link . We can choose if we want to download an installable version of the program or if we prefer a portable version. It is worth mentioning that one of the main advantages that this second option presents us is that we can use the program without installing on the PC. At the same time we can always carry it with us on a USB memory. So we will make use of it on any computer where we need it, for example if we are going to fix a friend’s PC.
At the same time, something that we must bear in mind is that this type of program with the passage of time has been gaining in use and therefore in popularity and importance. This is largely due to the fact that we are dealing with a greater amount of our own data on our computers, and they are more delicate than ever. Therefore, the correct treatment of these storage units is more important than ever. This is something that we can carry out both from the first format of the unit, as is the case, to its later use.
If we plan to sell our second-hand computer to a stranger, a low-level formatting will be the best option.