How to Format Flash Drive and Unformat Flash Drive

Best Ways to Format and Unformat Flash Drive

In this article, we will help you how to format USB Pendrive with ease. Follow our excellent and informative guides on how to format a flash drive to become a pro!

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Sep 18, 2020 • Filed to: USB Recovery • Proven solutions


Many businesses uses cheap flash drives as a marketing medium – they are used to store marketing material for customers to keep and as "premium" items as a way to reward loyal customers. It is a shame to toss them out, even if they have small storage capacity. You can easily format a USB flash drive and reuse them.

Do take note that reformatting your flash drive is the last resort for any situation. This is because it is not reversible and once the flash drive is reformatted, all data will be wiped off from storage. Therefore, make sure you have back-up data if you decide to start this process.

Part 1: Reasons Why You Format USB

There is quite an extensive list of reasons why a USB format may be required. Before getting into them, let’s have a look at what formatting is!

Definition Of Formatting A USB Drive

We hear a lot about formatting and why it's important not just to keep your data safe, but also for maintaining good health of the USB flash drive.

Formatting is the process where the data on the USB drive is completely erased and a new file format system is written on the device. The user can choose the file format system to be used before formatting. The most common file system used by Windows computers is NTFS. You can also use FAT32 or ExFAT if you want the USB drive to work on Mac systems too.

Another option you might have seen in the format window is the option to do a quick format. The difference between normal formatting and quick formatting is that normal formatting automatically checks for bad sectors. In a quick format, no such scan is performed. Doing a scan on bad sectors is good for prolonging the life of a USB drive.

Why Format A USB Flash Drive or A Pen Drive?

Why do people format when they can just delete all the files and call it a day? The answer can be just summed up in one sentence. There are multiple reasons why you would want to choose format over just deleting the files from a USB drive. Let us review some of them!

  • Virus or Malware: Since flash drives are often connected to many computers, the chances of it getting affected with a virus is quite high. And when it is indeed affected by virus or malware, the best option you can do to wipe out all the viruses is by formatting the USB drive.
  • Checking and fixing bad sectors: Like we discussed before, having bad sectors on your USB flash drive can reduce its storage as well as life span. When you format a USB flash drive without enabling quick format, the computer scans for bad sectors on the flash drive and fixes them. This is a great way to ensure your USB drive is working in its best shape.
  • File deletion: Formatting is also a mass delete option that will erase all the data present on the USB drive. If you have lots of redundant files on the USB drive, then all you have to do is format the drive and all the data will be wiped out.
  • File format change: There are a handful of file formats that are available for USB drives, but they are not compatible with every operating system out there. For example, if you were to format the flash drive with NTFS file format, then you cannot write any data into the drive when it is plugged into a mac system. Likewise, if you format the flash drive with the APFS file format used by macOS, it won't be readable by Windows computers. The safe bet when it comes to compatibility between the two platforms, choose ExFAT.
  • Selling or lending flash drive: When you are selling or lending your flash drive to another person, it is critical that they cant recover any files from your flash drive. Formatting your flash drive will help you delete all files within the flash drive. Changing the file system while formatting is also a great way to ensure that no data can be recovered.

Part 2: How to Format a Flash Drive

While it sounds extremely scary (it is not!), there are no fancy flash drive format tools other than what is already existed on your computer. Formatting your flash drive is a fairly simple process that should not take more than 3 steps. However, you will need to care that the process is done uninterrupted to ensure that it is a success.

Take note that you should not use third-party software to execute this task. While it will probably format USB flash drive, it will also make the device vulnerable to data theft with a Trojan-like malware. You could be a victim of data and privacy leaks as this type of malware could transfer documents located in the flash drive across the internet.

Formatting the USB flash drive is easy with the built-in feature. Here is how:

    1. Start the format USB flash drive by establishing a connection between the flash drive and your computer.
    2. Go to My Computer. Once your machine detects the flash drive, it should appear in the list of available drives.
    3. Right-click on your flash drive and click on Format.

click format

    1. The Format window will pop up. In the File system area, toggle between FAT32 and NTFS. Click on Start.

format usb

Part 3: How to Unformat a Flash Drive

Unformat USB Drive Software

While we did say that formatting is irreversible, there is still a way to unformat the flash drive. Recoverit Data Recovery unformat software can help you unformat flash drive and recover data back. Supports to recover data for formatting, sudden deletion, lost partition, virus attack, system crash under different situations.

Video: How to Unformat Flash Drive and Recover Data Back

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Steps on how to unformat flash drive:

    1. Make sure your formatted flash drive has connected to the computer and detected. Select it and click the "Start" button to process.


    1. Recoverit will start a quick scan to search for data, you can preview some recoverable data after the first scan.


  1. After the scan, you can preview recoverable files and recover the formatted flash drive device.


Unformat Using Command Line

If you are comfortable with using the command line, then you can try this solution right away. You can unformat a USB drive using the Windows tools. The following guide will help you understand how to unformat a USB drive.

Step 1: Press Windows Key + R to open the Run box.

Step 2: Type cmd and press Enter.


Step 3: In the command box, enter the code ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D H:*.* where you must replace H with the drive letter of the USB device which you lost data.


Now all the hidden and lost files will be saved to a new folder on your USB drive. The process is fairly simple and you can do it easily by yourself.

Part 4: What to Do Before Format/Unformat a Flash Drive

Prior to the process to format USB flash drive, there are several things you should do – this means checking the health of the drive. This simply means that you will need to find the cause of the faulty flash drive or check if it is infected by malware or virus. If it is the second, formatting the USB flash drive is the best corrective move.

In the case of unformatting a flash drive, just make sure that there is no important document stored in the flash drive. While it is possible to recover data from a newly formatted USB flash drive, it is advisable to not format and unformat flash drive too frequently.

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Sue Wayne

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