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Format vs. Reformat: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss || Updated on May 20, 2024
Format refers to arranging or organizing data in a specific way, while reformat means changing the existing arrangement or organization of data.

Key Differences

Format involves arranging or structuring data, documents, or devices in a particular way to ensure they follow a specified layout or design. For example, formatting a document includes setting margins, fonts, and headings. Reformat, on the other hand, means altering or restructuring the already formatted data or device, often to improve organization or prepare it for a new use. For instance, reformatting a hard drive erases its current data and sets it up anew for storing different data.
Formatting is essential for creating documents, presentations, and digital content that are visually appealing and easy to understand. It involves initial organization and structuring. Reformatting, however, is a subsequent process that modifies the existing format. This might be done to correct errors, update the style, or make the content compatible with different systems or devices.
When formatting a document, you apply a set of predefined styles and rules to ensure consistency and readability. Reformatting that document would involve making significant changes to those styles and rules, such as changing the font type, size, or page layout.
Formatting a device, such as a hard drive or a USB stick, prepares it for use by setting up the file system structure. Reformatting the device erases all existing data and sets up a new file system structure, often required when switching between different operating systems or preparing the device for new data.
In software development, formatting code involves organizing the code following specific guidelines to enhance readability and maintainability. Reformatting code may involve restructuring the code to comply with updated guidelines or to optimize performance.

Comparison Chart


Arranging or organizing data in a specific layout.
Changing the existing arrangement or organization.

Initial/Secondary Use

Used for initial organization and presentation.
Used to alter or improve existing organization.

Data Preservation

Does not necessarily erase existing data.
Often involves erasing existing data.

Common Applications

Document creation, digital content layout.
Device preparation, error correction, system updates.


Performed when creating new content.
Performed when updating or fixing existing content.

Format and Reformat Definitions


To set the layout or design of a document.
The editor formatted the book for publication.


To change the arrangement or organization of existing data.
She had to reformat the document to meet the new guidelines.


To structure data to meet a particular standard or requirement.
The data was formatted to comply with the database schema.


To erase and set up a storage device again.
He reformatted the hard drive to fix the corrupted files.


To configure text or data in a specific style or structure.
The programmer formatted the code for better readability.


To alter the layout or design of an already formatted item.
The manuscript was reformatted to improve readability.


A plan for the organization and arrangement of a specified production.


To update or adjust the format of existing content.
The website was reformatted to enhance user experience.


The material form or layout of a publication.


To modify the structure of data for compatibility.
The spreadsheet was reformatted to be compatible with the software.


The arrangement of data for storage or display.


To format anew or again, generally erasing a previous format.
We had to reformat the computer's hard disk to get rid of the virus.
Let's reformat that text to make it easier to read.


A method for achieving such an arrangement.


To plan or arrange in a specified form
They formatted the conference so that each speaker had less than 15 minutes to deliver a paper.


To divide (a disk) into marked sectors to allow for the storage of data.


To determine the arrangement of (data) for storage or display.


The layout of a publication or document.


(hence) The form of presentation of something.


(radio) The type of programming that a radio station broadcasts; such as a certain genre of music, news, sports, talk, etc.


(computing) A file type.


To create or edit the layout of a document.


Change a document so it will fit onto a different type of page.


(computing) To prepare a mass storage medium for initial use, erasing any existing data in the process.


The shape and size of a book or other printed publication; hence, its external form.
The older manuscripts had been written in a much larger format than that found convenient for university work.
One might, indeed, protest that the format is a little too luxurious.


The arrangement of the parts of a printed page, such as text and graphics; as, text flowing around an illustration provides a more pleasing format; multiple columns are a more common format for large pages.


The pattern of organization of information in an electronic storage medium, such as the number and size of records, or the size, spacing, or separation symbols for fields in a record. A computer file, for example, may be in fixed-length format, in which each field or record occupies the same number of bytes, or in variable-length format, in which the lengths of fields or records varies. The number of formats are unlimited, being specifiable at will by programmers or in some cases by the users of programs.


The general organization, form, or plan for anything, such as an organized social, political, or entertainment event.


To set into a specific format; - of printed matter or data recorded on a data soorage medium.


The organization of information according to preset specifications (usually for computer processing)


The general appearance of a publication


Set (printed matter) into a specific format;
Format this letter so it can be printed out


Determine the arrangement of (data) for storage and display (in computer science)


Divide (a disk) into marked sectors so that it may store data;
Please format this disk before entering data!


To arrange or organize data in a specific way.
She formatted her essay according to the APA guidelines.


To prepare a storage device for use by setting up a file system.
He formatted the USB drive before saving the files.


What is formatting?

Formatting involves organizing or structuring data, documents, or devices according to specific guidelines or styles.

When should I format a document?

Format a document when you are creating it for the first time to ensure it follows a consistent layout and style.

Does formatting erase data?

Formatting does not necessarily erase data unless it's a storage device being formatted for the first time.

Why would I need to reformat a hard drive?

Reformatting a hard drive is necessary to erase existing data and prepare it for a new file system or to resolve errors.

Is reformatting reversible?

Reformatting is generally not reversible as it involves erasing data.

Can I reformat a document without losing content?

Yes, reformatting a document typically changes its layout without losing the actual content.

What does reformatting mean?

Reformatting means changing the existing arrangement or organization of data, often erasing current data and setting up anew.

How often should I reformat my computer?

Reformat your computer if you encounter significant performance issues or need to clear all data and start fresh.

Is it necessary to reformat new storage devices?

New storage devices often come preformatted, but you may reformat them for a different file system if needed.

Does reformatting always erase data?

Yes, reformatting typically erases all existing data on a storage device.

Can I format a USB drive?

Yes, you can format a USB drive to prepare it for storing new data or to change its file system.

What tools are used for formatting documents?

Tools like word processors (e.g., Microsoft Word) are used for formatting documents.

Why is formatting important in document creation?

Formatting is important to ensure the document is readable, professional, and follows specific guidelines.

Is reformatting required when switching operating systems?

Reformatting is often required when switching between different operating systems to ensure compatibility.

What is the difference between formatting and reformatting a device?

Formatting prepares a device for use, while reformatting alters its existing setup and usually involves data erasure.

What does it mean to format code?

Formatting code means organizing it according to specific guidelines to enhance readability and maintainability.

Can reformatting fix a corrupted file system?

Yes, reformatting can fix a corrupted file system by setting up a new, clean file system.

Why might a formatted document need reformatting?

A formatted document might need reformatting to correct errors, update the style, or improve compatibility.

Can reformatting improve device performance?

Yes, reformatting can improve device performance by removing clutter and setting up a clean file system.

What precautions should I take before reformatting?

Always back up important data before reformatting to avoid data loss.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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