How to Format an SDHC Card for a Computer

Connect an SDHC card to your computer using a memory card adapter.
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Secure Digital High Capacity memory cards store between 2GB and 32GB of data, including a protected area responsible for maintaining security. Because they can store up to 32GB, the optimal file system with which to format an SDHC card is FAT32, which provides high-performance data transfer for disks this size. While Windows and other operating systems include disk-formatting options, the SD Association recommends using SD Formatter, a tool specifically designed to format SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

Insert your SDHC card into a memory card adapter and connect the adapter to a USB port on your computer. The disk is listed in the Computer section of File Explorer.

Visit the SD Association site to download the latest version of SD Formatter (link in Resources). While other disk-formatting tools exist, such as HDD Low-Level Format Tool and HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool (links in Resources), SD Formatter is the only one designed for SD cards and recommended by the SD Association, a group of companies that sets SD industry standards.

Launch SD Formatter and select your drive from the Drive menu. If your drive isn't listed, click “Refresh” to repopulate the list. Type a drive name in the Volume Label field if you would like to name the drive.

Click “Option” in the Format Option section. The Option Setting window opens, displaying menus for format type and size adjustment. From the Format Type menu, select “Quick” or “Full.” The Quick option formats the drive without erasing its contents, while the Full option completely erases every byte on the drive, taking considerably longer for a 32GB drive.

Click the “Format Size Adjustment” menu and select “Off.” This option can reduce your drive's capacity slightly by making it a perfect multiple of the size in bytes of a single drive cylinder. Windows and Mac users have no need to adjust the drive capacity this way.

Click “OK” and select “Format” to format the drive. The process can take a few seconds to several minutes, depending on the drive's size and format type.

David Wayne has been writing since 2010, with technology columns appearing in several regional newspapers in Texas. Wayne graduated from the University of Houston in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.