Is formatting largely the same idea?
Nope. Formatting generally does not write to much of the drive at all. Benchmarking can, but only if you benchmark with a file or files that essentially write every bit of available space. Filesystems generally don't work well at that point, so it's tough to actually exercise every LBA.
If you're using Ubuntu you have a slew of ways to do it, "dd" over the entire drive is pretty easy for both reading and writing. Format it with your filesystem of choice when you're done.
I have some specific questions. This may be too much detail (TL;SR) for some, so be forewarned.
You suggested DD. This may have been the onset of my troubles! About two months ago, I lost my partition table on that disk, tried to rescue them (using testdisk on Linux CLI and R-Studio in Windows), but found old files instead. So after rescuing files,I tried a wipe format using the command
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda
THis took all night to complete!!! Afterwards, first I ran badblocks (clean), then I partitioned the disk into three partitions and unallocated space. THe first 5GB was unallocated, then I installed Win 10 on sda2, Mint on sda1, and open NTFS space on sda3. For a month or so, it ran just fine. SMART passed, although I did not pay attention to the issue of reallocated secrtors.
One month later, I had that warning. One day later, Win 10 could not start. Was DD the reason?
Is there a better benchmark I can use than the one in DISKS? Perhaps I should set the range in the DISKS dialog page?
Finally, what should I do to monitor the health of the (not yet installed) SDD that is other than the typical advice?
THank you for your help in all this.