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The process of high level formatting a disk causes a blank filesystem to be layed out on the disk, usually a previously blank disk. (You can't do much with a blank disk until it gets a high level format.)

You would want to high level format a disk between unwrapping it from the manufacturer's packing and using it, or right before (i.e., while) installing an operating system on the disk for the first time, or right after partitioning it. Also, high level formatting a disk is frequently the fastest way to delete all the files on it at once.

You would want to high level format a floppy immediately after low level formatting it. (You might also want to high level format it to erase it or to fix major filesystem corruption.)

The quick (/q) option to the format command in msdos operating systems tells it to only do the high level format, and to skip the low level format on floppies, and to skip checking for bad blocks on hard disks. The actual high level format only takes a few seconds; the rest of the time is either spent in the low level format or in checking every block on the disk. This is the same as the quick checkbox in the windows format utility. Also, when high level formatting a hard drive in NT, you get the choice of which of its two filesystems you want on the disk.

The unix command for high level formatting a disk tends to vary by filesytem, but is usually newfs or mkfs or a varient of such.

 

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