Glossary Entry: Format

Quick Definition

You've probably heard that computers think in all 1's or 0's. Lots of 1s and 0s are a random mess unless you know how to make sense of them. The instructions that explain what the 1s and 0s mean are known as "formats".

One of the common uses of the term is to describe how data is stored on hard drives* or other storage media*. In this case, the format is the name of the method used to store the information.

In order to use something in a given format, the software you're using must have been told about how the format works. Otherwise, your software can't tell the information from a pile of gibberish.

Lastly, "format" is also a verb that describes the action of preparing storage media* for use by writing a blank template of a specific file system* format onto it. In other words, formatting a device completely erases any data stored on it.

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