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Why don't HDD manufactureres pre-format drives?

Last response: in Storage
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Which system would you choose for your pre-formatted HDD?

Total: 49 votes

  • NTFS
  • 82 %
  • FAT32
  • 7 %
  • Ext/Ext2/Ext3
  • 11 %
  • HFS
  • 3 %
January 9, 2007 7:37:55 AM

Surely it must be possible for the manufacturers to implement a system that pre-formats hard disks? It takes FoReVeR!
January 9, 2007 7:53:22 AM

That would be a stupid idea.

I'd want mine formatted to HFS+. Unless I wanted them formatted to NTFS. Unless I wanted them formatted to HFS. Unless I wanted them formatted to FAT.

Jesus, it only takes PartitionMagic about 15 seconds to format a 250gb SATA drive. Get over it.
January 9, 2007 8:10:12 AM

Quote:
Jesus, it only takes PartitionMagic about 15 seconds to format a 250gb SATA drive. Get over it


Seconded
Related resources
January 9, 2007 8:29:47 AM

Have you ever tried ntfs quick format? 8O
January 9, 2007 8:29:50 AM

I think some of them come preformatted, albeit not without problems.

When I got a WD3200KS, i just quick formatted it to NTFS, and it worked, but, as a dynamic disk. Using win XP disk management tool, I removed the volume and partition, but in vain. The option that would allow me to convert it back to basic did not appear. Had to do a raw reformat.

2 MeseRecifier: What version of PM do you use? I had a bad experience with 8.0. In two separate cases I merged partitions, and both times it screwed up, making me lose data.
January 9, 2007 8:58:54 AM

Quote:
That would be a stupid idea.

I'd want mine formatted to HFS+. Unless I wanted them formatted to NTFS. Unless I wanted them formatted to HFS. Unless I wanted them formatted to FAT.

Jesus, it only takes PartitionMagic about 15 seconds to format a 250gb SATA drive. Get over it.


As stupid an idea as pre-formatted floppy disks was...

And which version of PM does that? It really formats the whole disk in 15 seconds? Or just a quick format? Sounds very odd to me...
January 9, 2007 9:00:13 AM

I'm pretty sure he meant a quickformat. There's no way (mechanically/physically) a drive can format itself RAW in a few seconds.
January 9, 2007 9:06:29 AM

Exactly... So I'm a bit confused as to why he said it's a stupid idea. Let's say you buy a 250gb hard disk preformatted as NTFS, but you need it formatted as EXT2, well... there's no difference for you, as you'd need to fomat it to EXT2 anyway if it came unformatted.

Surely, this isn't a stupid idea. Use a HDD straight out of the box? Especially the new 1TB drives...

Or am I just being far too idealistic?
January 9, 2007 9:43:46 AM

Another question about formatting HDDs...

I have a Seagate USB2 HDD http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=780e913...

These drives come pre-formatted as FAT32. This limits you because you cannot store a single file that is greater than 4GB on it (FAT32 limitation).

Now, is it possible to format it to NTFS? I heard somewhere that the drive will become unusable if i do this...
January 9, 2007 9:49:36 AM

I formatted an external drive a number of times.
Had an old laptop lying around, ripped a 40gb seagate drive out of it, bought an external enclosure (usb 2.0) and now i use it instead of a pendrive. I formatted it using disk management tool in windows, I formatted it using partition magic.

Also, you can convert it to NTFS, instead of formatting. keep all your data.
Not sure of it's gonna work witn an external drive, coz PM does the procedure before logging on to windows. But, there's a way around that too - take the box apart, and inside you will have a standard ide/sata drive. Stick it in your computer, convert to NTFS, then reassemble the enclosure. Voilas.
January 9, 2007 9:58:46 AM

OK, so i can format/convert it without any problems? So then why do they pre-format these drives to FAT32?
a b G Storage
January 9, 2007 9:59:58 AM

It saves them money not partitioning and formatting your drive. Linuxer's would probably protest if they preforamtted the drive with a Windows protocol, etc.
To avoid controversy I guess they leave it up to the consumer.
Most consumers would be happy without having to go through the process and have it preformatted with NTFS.
January 9, 2007 10:06:57 AM

The poll itself is evidence enough that your idea has limited merit. There is no one filesystem everyone uses and it would be a bit selfish to think they should pre-format to whatever you in particular want to use (which is what I suspect started this whole daydream post).

Remember something - there is a reason it takes awhile to format, anyone who could just wish it away with a quick format that didn't check the drive would be askingn for trouble - it is quite prudent to check a medium (at the very least) one time before relying on it for data storage.
January 9, 2007 10:20:51 AM

who knows, maybe you'll want to install windows 98/95 on it. XP/NT/2000 will work on NTFS, but 95/98 will not. maximizing compatibility from the start I suppose.
January 9, 2007 10:26:25 AM

OK, but with regards to my situation, this is a sealed unit from seagate. ie: You cannot remove this drive from its casing.. And since its USB2, you also cannot install any OS on it.

All i want to know is whether its ok to format this drive to NTFS.. It will always be used as a USB2 drive.
January 9, 2007 10:30:38 AM

Go ahead and format, with no fear.

As for "sealed unit" - everything can be unsealed. Inside you always find a usb 2.0 interface, with a short strip of an IDE cable coming out of it and going directly into the drive (as well as a standard molex connector . It's not like the USB interface is soldered to the back of the drive, just so you know.
January 9, 2007 10:34:12 AM

I can't understand the hostility... What a bizarre subject to get hostile about!

The argument about which file system to preformat it with is moot. It should obviously be NTFS as most people run an M$ O/S.

Some have said that they wouldn't want NTFS on it, but another file system instead, as they don't use NTFS.

OK... let me explain a similar situation. 90% of new apartment buyers are happy with their new apartment and its default "egg-shell white" walls. The remaining 10% are not happy, so they paint the walls purple or green or whatever. If the walls were unpainted to start with, what have the 10% minority lost? They still have to paint. And in this scenario, so do the other 90%. It's a big benefit for those 90%. Surely you can't argue with that.
January 9, 2007 10:45:41 AM

LOL, the casing doesnt have any screws, instead it has rivets.. So the only way you can open it is to actually break the drive casing..

Do you know how to do the FAT32 to NTFS conversion? I know you can do it via command line..
January 9, 2007 10:57:38 AM

just type convert /? in the command prompt, and it'll give you directions on how to put together a proper command.

It will look like this:

CONVERT Z: /FS:NTFS /X

where Z is your drive letter.

/X option is to forcefully demount (or is it "unmount' ?) the drive if its being accessed.
January 9, 2007 11:04:10 AM

Shwweeeet! Thanks a million buddy ;) 
Now i wont have any issues with large files anymore.
January 9, 2007 11:16:29 AM

and many people will want a 25 Gb boot partition and the rest for data, and several will use a small,hidden partition at the end to put a recovery system (OEMs), and several will need the drive to build a new RAID array...

Meaning that the number of people that would want a single, primary partition formatted in NTFS on the drive are actually close to 30% - and that would require the 70% other percent of people to reset the MBR, create a new one and do their own partitions before format.

Yes, NTFS does make creating a new partition table strangely hard to do: I often have to wipe out a disk to reformat it when it's been set up as NTFS only.

As such, and considering how long it gets to format a new hard disk (which you should do anyway, because the initial, full format may bring up problems) on a modern system (I won't mention 16-bit, real-mode disk DOS access), I'd say you're whining about the wrong thing. The correct question would be, 'why are HDs not thoroughly tested before they get out of assembly?' or better, 'why is M$ making people reliant on a file system which is impossible to read on something other than their own systems?'

Not to mention that a NTFS drive may not be read by all Windows systems: NTFS has changed since it started, and I personally found several snags and performance degradations using a NT4 partition on a XP system; I had to wipe the whole drive blank, repartition and reformat it.

I'll stick to ext3.
January 9, 2007 11:42:27 AM

Even if everyome was using the same filesystem... Maybe you don't want a single partition for the whole drive.

Manufacturers would have to make further variants of each disc... imagine the mess if we push this idea to the extremes :
"- I want a 320GB SATA drive with 4 partitions : 20GB FAT32, 200GB NTFS, 95GB EXT3, and 5GB Linux swap... It's for multiboot.
- I don't have it anymore, but I have a 320 GB sata with 20GB FAT32, 150GB NTFS, etc..."

So... I don't think pre-formatting is a good idea...
and formatting is not so long, unless you really need a full format.

asking for pre-formatted drives is like asking for the driver's seat, the mirrors, and the wheel to be already set when you buy a new car.
January 9, 2007 11:47:54 AM

That's where software like Partition Magic comes in. If it's already partitioned and formatted, PM lets you alter virtually every aspect of the partitioning without the need to completely reformat.

If I bought a 750GB NTFS pre-formatted HDD, I'd also want to repartition it. Using PM, I just resize the existing, and add another. It's already formatted. It'd take a couple of minutes and I'd be ready to go.

Ok... so there are people who use other file systems... But look at the poll result. Not many...
January 9, 2007 11:52:47 AM

Quote:


Ok... so there are people who use other file systems... But look at the poll result. Not many...


My God, how scientific! Why isn't this research published?
January 9, 2007 12:04:34 PM

Well, I guess in the world you live in, 50% of people use something other than NTFS? Hmmm.... Well, I just found this:

"According to market researcher OneStat.com, Windows now controls 97.46 percent of the global desktop operating system market, compared to just 1.43 percent for Apple Macintosh and 0.26 percent for Linux. OneStat.com says its figures are derived from real-time global Web site analysis, and are an average of the past two months."

I agree that other people use other systems, and they are more than likely to be enthusiasts so are more likely to buy extra HDDs... But there are far more NTFS users. I know about, oh, I dunno, 50 people who own a computer. 2 of them run Linux and one has a Mac (well, he has 2 Macs). The rest are mostly running XP, with a few 2K/98 systems. (Even a Windows 3.1!!)

So I don't need to scrutinize the figures scientifically... It's pretty obvious.

Another reason so many people on this particular site are so hostile to the idea is that most are enthusiasts who use other systems. If I were to ask an average computer user if they'd want their new HDD pre-formatted or not, they'd probably look at me like this: :?
January 9, 2007 12:05:44 PM

Quote:
That's where software like Partition Magic comes in. If it's already partitioned and formatted, PM lets you alter virtually every aspect of the partitioning without the need to completely reformat.

...


Partition Magic lets you do all that to a BLANK, UNFORMATTED hard drive as well, so what's the point?
January 9, 2007 12:12:01 PM

Quote:


Another reason so many people on this particular site are so hostile to the idea is that most are enthusiasts who use other systems. If I were to ask an average computer user if they'd want their new HDD pre-formatted or not, they'd probably look at me like this: :?


Your Google skills have impressively made this useless thread even longer.
-Cheers
January 9, 2007 12:26:02 PM

How would the manufacturers know that you may wish to divide your hard disk into three partitions two with NTFS and one for linux ? Also how are they going to know how big you want those partitions to be.
January 9, 2007 12:26:03 PM

Quote:
Your Google skills have impressively made this useless thread even longer.
-Cheers


I'll take that as a compliment! :D 
a b G Storage
January 9, 2007 12:48:26 PM

They do format the hard drive for you. What they do is a low-level format.
And that prepares the drive for consumer use.

Besides if you use the hard drive utility that came with your hard drive,
you can even format a 500GB in less than a minute!

if you don't have that utility, your HD's site should have a download section
to let you download it.

Quote:
Low-level formatting of hard disk drives

User instigated low-level formatting of hard disks was common in the 1980s. Typically this involved setting up the MFM pattern on the disk, so that sectors of bytes could be successfully written to it. With the advent of RLL encoding, low-level formatting grew increasingly uncommon, and most modern hard disks are embedded systems, which are low-level formatted at the factory and thus not subject to user intervention.

Early hard disks were quite similar to floppies, but low-level formatting was generally done by the BIOS rather than by the operating system. This was a fairly bizarre process that involved using the MS-DOS debug program to transfer control to a routine hidden at different addresses in different BIOSs.

Starting in the early 1990s, low-level formatting of hard drives became more complex as technology improved to:

* use RLL encoding,
* store a higher number of sectors on the longer outer tracks (traditionally, all tracks had the same number of sectors, as is still the case with floppy disks),
* encode track numbers into the disk surface to simplify hardware, and
* increase the mechanical speeds of the drive.

Rather than face ever-escalating difficulties with BIOS versioning, disk vendors started doing low-level formatting at the factory. Today, an end-user, in most cases, should never perform a low-level formatting of an IDE or ATA hard drive; disk reinitialization of an IDE or ATA hard drive is much more common.
January 9, 2007 12:53:21 PM

Quote:
Well, I guess in the world you live in, 50% of people use something other than NTFS? Hmmm.... Well, I just found this:

"According to market researcher OneStat.com, Windows now controls 97.46 percent of the global desktop operating system market, compared to just 1.43 percent for Apple Macintosh and 0.26 percent for Linux. OneStat.com says its figures are derived from real-time global Web site analysis, and are an average of the past two months."


Flawed research.

Often browsers do not report the correct OS even even browser version as a means of attempting compatibility. I suspect that both Macintosh and Linux have slightly higher shares.

Mind you I suspect that Windows has a 90+% share, but the results are skewed.

But as others have said, there is little or no point.
I put a new 160gb HDD in my laptop and installed XP the other day.
The format took all of 10-15seconds at MAX so there is no pain on the user end.

As far as the manufacturer you have .....
1) Added Cost
2) Drive Translation differences between old/new Bioses
3) (Customers now can call support of formating is not working)
4) Concerns over lost formatting as drives sit on shelves for perhaps years. (Not common, but it will happen)
January 9, 2007 12:54:01 PM

should we have 3 trials and a control group of subjects? ))).

Of course its not scientific. But I guess you can compare the validity to that of the exit polls. It gives you a more or less clear picture.
Hell, I haven't heard of HFS ))
January 9, 2007 1:01:40 PM

Quote:
Exactly... So I'm a bit confused as to why he said it's a stupid idea. Let's say you buy a 250gb hard disk preformatted as NTFS, but you need it formatted as EXT2, well... there's no difference for you, as you'd need to fomat it to EXT2 anyway if it came unformatted.

Surely, this isn't a stupid idea. Use a HDD straight out of the box? Especially the new 1TB drives...

Or am I just being far too idealistic?


its a stupid iadea becuase even if they do format it to the RAW format you would still have to format the drive to a filesystem your OS can use. What would happen if a MAC user had a drive that is pre-formatted. most likely it would not be fomatted for a MAC so they would have to format it anyway thus eliminateing the convenience of buying a drive that is pre-formatted.
January 9, 2007 1:04:28 PM

well said.

I'd like to add: not everybody owns a licence for Partition Magic; some may use a Linux liveCD (with, say, QtParted or Gparted) to prepare a hard disk (from 'blank' to partitioned, formatted and boot bit set in 45 seconds); but then, what's the use of a NTFS preformat?

Please also consider: most HDs are sold to OEMs, who will ghost a partition image on the disk anyway, and who would then find the existing partition cumbersome. When a HD is bought on the side, it will often be formatted in something other than NTFS, or partitioned (which requires a partition wipeout, and PM is overkill for empty partition splitting/resizing).

As such, a low-level format is more than enough. Preformatting the drive is useless and would be, for most customers, annoying (the n00b who buys a 500 Gb disk and formats it as a single partition to install his system on it is REALLY a n00b) - not even considering file system incompatibilities.

fat32 isn't dealt with graciously by winXP once over 32 Gb (no defrag, no reformat, ntfs is too restrictive - that leaves, no win32-supported format being eligible by default.

So there, win32 sucks: it recognizes a very limited array of partitions (fat12, fat16, fat32, NTFS, ISO-9660) compared with any other modern OS which recognize the same array plus a ton of others.
January 9, 2007 1:15:48 PM

Quote:
Surely it must be possible for the manufacturers to implement a system that pre-formats hard disks? It takes FoReVeR!


they don't preformat drives because:
(1)They don't know how many partitions each person wants
(2)They don't know the size of each partition
(3)They don't know what file system to put on each partion

Think before you post - Try common sense....
January 9, 2007 1:50:45 PM

I've been in the IT business for 10 years, have used computers for 20, and have lost count of the number of times I've had for sit through a loooooong format that takes a couple hours. Forgive me for asking what most here seem to think is a stupid question with an obvious answer. (<rant>In my eyes, the only stupid question with an obvious answer is "Who is the most despised U.S. President in history?"</rant>)

I never knew it was possible to take a 'blank' HDD and quick-format it... Well, I knew it was possible, I just thought you'd get a garbage partition that can't be used, hence the reason I've never done it.

It appears that I stand corrected. Which is good, 'cos I'm just about to upgrade and get a new HDD :) 

(Damn... just think if I really did ask a stupid question!)
January 9, 2007 2:17:09 PM

you didn't ask a stupid question, you just didn't think about the implications of what you said.

I've built systems for more than 15 years; quick formatting a blank HDD is not a good idea; the first format should be a complete one, if only to ensure that shipping didn't damage the drive: in which case, pre-formatting gets useless, you'd have to do one anyway.

Always format a drive fully the first time you use it, and better, when you move it around. I'd recommend a zero-fill once in a while too for very abused drives.
January 9, 2007 2:31:28 PM

Quote:
And which version of PM does that? It really formats the whole disk in 15 seconds? Or just a quick format? Sounds very odd to me...


Yeah it's PM 8.0 I'm pretty sure. I dunno if it's 'quick format' or what - the last two drives I threw in the system (WD 250 & 320 SATA) I just opened up PM and had them partitioned and formatted within a few seconds just using right click -> format.

This thread sucks.
a b G Storage
January 9, 2007 3:01:13 PM

Quote:
This thread sucks.


This sums this entire topic up nicely.
January 9, 2007 3:37:50 PM

Quote:
This thread sucks.


Obviously it doesn't suck enough for you to ignore it and move on to the next thread like most people would.
January 9, 2007 3:58:44 PM

Quick format is fine if you don't need every bit zero'd on the platters. If, for security reasons, you need all data completely erased on the drive, then you should do a low-level format. Which takes forever. But for a new drive, quick format essentially gives you the same result as a low-level format.

The reason they don't pre-format drives is because some operating systems don't know how to handle a certain filesystem format and the drive would appear dead to the OS. Just about every operating system out there knows how to take an unformatted drive and prepare it for use, so by default, unformatted should work for everyone.

I once received a SCSI drive formatted for OS/2 and I couldn't do a thing with it on my unix system (this was some years ago).
a b G Storage
January 9, 2007 4:05:00 PM

Also, how people partition HDD's depend on the user. I have a 120GB Seagate partition as followed:

47GB NTFS
47GB EXT3
18GB FAT32

The fact it would have came partitioned as NTFS would been a problem for me. I would had to run Gparted on it just to get it where I needed it to be. I'm glad they leave HDD's unpartition.
January 9, 2007 4:17:21 PM

How much extra would you be willing to pay? Given the choice of Drive X unformatted or Drive Y formatted but $10 more would you pay the $10? I wouldn't as I cna start the format and walk away and come back not exactly a task I'd pay a premium for.

It would cost the drive makers money (increasing with disk size) which we would pay... I'll take mine unformatted. Plus the quick NTFS format takes 15-30 seconds (most common) not exactly all that long now is it?
January 9, 2007 4:17:27 PM

Quote:
This thread sucks.


Obviously it doesn't suck enough for you to ignore it and move on to the next thread like most people would.....and have :lol: 
January 9, 2007 4:47:38 PM

It's possible but then they would have to offer multiple types of file systems to avoid antitrust & favoritism BS. Then te trouble of you buying, your mistake or theirs, the wrong format & you either have to format it anyway or exchange it making more hassle. It's just easier to format it to what file sys you need & they use fat32 as almost everything will read that. Use a wuick format since the drive its new anyway, not like you want to wipe out all your stuff before tossing the drive or giving it to someone else
January 9, 2007 5:12:01 PM

Quote:
I've been in the IT business for 10 years, have used computers for 20, and have lost count of the number of times I've had for sit through a loooooong format that takes a couple hours. Forgive me for asking what most here seem to think is a stupid question with an obvious answer. (<rant>In my eyes, the only stupid question with an obvious answer is "Who is the most despised U.S. President in history?"</rant>)

I never knew it was possible to take a 'blank' HDD and quick-format it... Well, I knew it was possible, I just thought you'd get a garbage partition that can't be used, hence the reason I've never done it.

It appears that I stand corrected. Which is good, 'cos I'm just about to upgrade and get a new HDD :) 

(Damn... just think if I really did ask a stupid question!)


This is bullshit. You don't ever have to "sit through" a format, there is no user intervention necessary.

If you go to a stylish to get your hair cut, do you whine that it wasn't done the moment your head entered the airspace inside the salon?

You need to get a grip, learn some patience, and accept that whining to try to get what suits you, just looks bad. The argument that you "think" most people will want the same as you is irrelevant.

Pay attention! You are a fool if you don't check a drive before using it. That's what a format does. All you want is to skip responsible measures then to blame someone else if things go wrong from your negligence.

There is nothing you can write that changes this, you are severely irresponsible if you don't even check a drive (same as formatting time requirement) before putting faith in it for data storage, even if non-critical data.
January 9, 2007 7:00:53 PM

Wow. Get a grip? Learn some patience? Whining? Get what I want that suits me? Irrelevant argument? Pay attention, no less!!

Quite where all that came from I don't know. I haven't whined about anything. I posed a question. At no point have I been arrogant or dismissive (besides the indirect reference to Dubbya). I've 'stuck-to-my-guns', so to speak, at least until enough new information presented itself to allow me to make a more informed revised judgement of the OP. In fact, I've taken on board everyone's opinion and can see that there really are no benefits in a pre-formatted HDD.

The main purpose of me starting this thread was to get input from the various different users on the forum. For me, at least, the thread has served its purpose. I didn't start it with the intention of offending people.

It's apparent that I offended you, and others. For this I apologise, unreservedly.
!