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How to format your SSD

Did you recently upgrade to a new SSD? Or are you looking to sell or repurpose an old laptop? Either way, you may want to learn how to format a solid-state drive. This article will guide you through the steps to format your SSD and help you understand why it’s important to do so.

When should I format my SSD?

  • If you’ve recently purchased an SSD, you will likely need to format the drive so that it can be used with your operating system. When installing an operating system, there will be an option to select your new drive and format.
  • If you plan on reusing an existing SSD, you should remember to format the drive before reinstalling the operating system. Note that clearing the drive partitions will erase the data, so be sure to back up your drive contents before proceeding.
  • If you’re looking to sell or give away your SSD, you should consider securely erasing the drive using Kingston’s SSD Manager application, or 3rd party utilities that support secure erase or NVMe format. Note that this will permanently delete all data present on the drive.

File system options

It is important to choose a file format that will be compatible with your operating system. The most commonly used file systems are:

  • FAT32: a common option due to its compatibility with Mac®, Windows® and Linux® operating systems, plus gaming consoles and other devices with a USB port. However, the main disadvantage is it offers no security and caps files at 4GB in size.
  • exFAT: a common option that eliminates the 4GB file size limit and is compatible with most Windows and Mac operating systems. However, older operating systems might require an update to properly read and write to a drive with an exFAT file system.
  • NTFS: a format used by default during the installation of Microsoft Windows. It has a much larger max file size but is read-only on macOS® X (unless you install a third-party NTFS read/write utility).
  • APFS: the native solution for Mac users starting with MacOS 10.13. Only use this option if the drive will only be used in macOS. Windows will not detect this file system without a third-party utility.
  • Ext4 (fourth extended file system): is a journaling file system Linux uses by default and was developed as the successor to ext3.

Preparing your SSD for formatting

  • First things first, back up your data! Whether on an external drive or in the cloud, make sure any important data is backed up before your format the drive. Once the drive has been reformatted, it’s almost impossible to recover any data.
  • Ensure TRIM is enabled on a supporting operating system to maintain SSD performance.
  • To completely wipe the drive of all previous content, secure erase or NVMe format the device.

How to format in Windows

In Windows, formatting is usually done from the Disk Management tool or File Explorer. You can get to both options by right-clicking the Windows Start button. Right-click the partition you want to format, and then select ‘Format’. Select your File System and Allocation Unit Size. Select ‘Quick Format’. There are more details in our guide on how to format USB flash drives, which are essentially the same as SSDs when it comes to the formatting process.

How to format on a Mac

The easiest way to format an SSD on a Mac is using Disk Utility which can be searched in Finder. Select your SSD from the list on the left and click ‘Erase’. Type in a ‘Name’ for the drive, then select a ‘Format’ (file system). Select ‘Erase’. There are more details in our guide on how to format USB flash drives, which are essentially the same as SSDs when it comes to the formatting process. Learn more about disk formats for Time Machine.

Is my data really gone?

Although formatting a drive will remove your data, there is no guarantee that all your data has been securely wiped. If you have stored very private and sensitive information on the SSD, we recommend that you encrypt your data before erasing it. Alternatively, you can perform a secure erase using your BIOS or an SSD management software like the Kingston SSD Manager.


Formatting an SSD is a quick and simple process that anyone should be able to do. If you face any problems when formatting your SSD, don’t hesitate to contact Kingston Support.


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