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Definition: structure of a data file, or a storage device or medium containing information, and particularly the command to prepare such media for holding information. Because issuing a format command generally results in the loss of ability to retrieve files previously stored, it is generally felt that the format command is an effective means of erasure of data. In fact, in many situations (particularly under Microsoft Windows), the format command does not erase data at all. On other platforms (such as UNIX), the format command may take other options, some of which may support functions such as overwriting delete.
Source: Slade, Rob. Dictionary of Information Security. Rockland, MA, USA: Syngress Publishing, 2006. p 117.