Reformat that SD Card? Think again!

I recently came across a small piece of utility software provided free of charge by the SD Association: the SD Formatter, which is available both for Windows and Mac operating systems. For the Mac, compatibility up to Mountain Lion is listed, I have used it successfully with Mavericks, however.

You may think think that this is some sort of marketing gimmick, but then I read this in a
Wikipedia article (see section “”):

Risks of reformatting
Reformatting an SD card with a different file system, or even with the same one, may make the card slower, or shorten its lifespan. Some cards use wear leveling, in which frequently modified blocks are mapped to different portions of memory at different times, and some wear-leveling algorithms are designed for the access patterns typical of the file allocation table on a FAT12, FAT16 or FAT32 device.[77] In addition, the preformatted file system may use a cluster size that matches the erase region of the physical memory on the card; reformatting may change the cluster size and make writes less efficient.
SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards have a "Protected Area" on the card for the SD standard's security function; a standard formatter may erase it, causing problems if security is used. The SD Association provides free SD Formatter software to overcome these problems.
[78] The SD Formatter does not format the "Protected Area", and the Association recommends the use of appropriate application software or SD-compatible device that provides SD security function to format the "Protected Area" in the memory card.

How many times have I formatted an SD card? Dunno - quite a number of times. I’ve done this on digital cameras directly (though I believe they don’t actually format the card but rather, just erase the contents, since the process is extremely quick) as well as from my Mac.

This is probably something one should keep in mind, especially with highly optimized Class 10 cards used for HD Video, etc. I would think that erasing the card (often called “formatting” on the camera itself is okay, doing so via the formatting program on a PC or Mac likely will cause issues.