Comprehensive Guide to Formatting USB Drive to exFAT

How to Format 1tb/128gb/256gb Flash Drive to exFAT?

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Oct 16, 2020 • Filed to: USB Recovery • Proven solutions


If you work in an environment where you constantly use a flash drive between a Windows and Mac computer, you may find that you constantly have to format the drive. One way to permanently solve this problem is to format your flash drive to exFAT, a platform-independent file system.

Part 1. Why Format Flash Drives to exFAT?

Before we get into the actual process of formatting a USB to exFAT, we need to understand exFAT and other files systems, specifically, FAT32 and NTFS.

From the above descriptions of the three of the main file systems, it becomes immediately apparent why you would need to format a flash drive to exFAT. The most common reasons include:

Part 2. Why Can't You Format USB Drive to exFAT?

Before we explain how to format a USB drive to exFAT, let's examine some of the reasons a flash drive will not format to exFAT on Windows. Understanding this will save you the unnecessary headache of having to troubleshoot later on.

Depending on the Windows operating system you are using, some of the most common errors you get when you can't format a thumb drive to exFAT include:

launch diskpart

Next, type "list disk" and press enter. This will list all the active disks on the computer. Note the flash drive number then type "select disk" and select your flash drive. Type "attr disk clear readonly" to remove the write-protect settings. You should get a confirmation message stating, "Disk Attributes Cleared Successfully" as shown below. Type "exit" to exit Diskpart.

remove write protect with diskpart

Part 3. How to Format Small Flash Drive on Windows?

As mentioned earlier, the exFAT system is ideal for large files and partitions. If your USB is small, for example, 4GB, it may not make sense to format it to exFAT because you will never be able to store files larger than 4GB. For small USB drives of under 32 GB, you can format the flash drive to either FAT32 or exFAT.

Before you begin formatting a USB drive, always backup your data. There are three main ways to format a small flash drive to exFAT.

Method 1: Using the File Explorer

Step 1: Plug in the USB into the computer and wait for it to be detected.

Step 2: Once it's recognized, open Windows File Explorer and navigate to the disk location. Locate the USB drive under This PC. Right-click and select Format.

exfat format with file explorer

Step 3: Click on File System and select exFAT from the dropdown. Check the Quick Format checkbox if it isn't already ticked.

exfat format with file explorer

Step 4: Click Start to begin the process. You will get a pop-up warning you that, "Formatting will erase ALL data on this disk. To format the disk, click OK. To quit, click CANCEL." Click "OK" and wait for the progress bar to finalize. If the format is successful, you will get prompt as shown below. Click "OK" and begin using the drive or eject it safely.

Exfat format with file explorer

Method 2: Using Disk Management

Disk Management is a Windows utility tool that helps you manage all your drives from one area. It is packed with several features that allow you to format drives, change drive letters and paths, add mirrors, extend, shrink and delete volumes, and much more.

Step 1: Plug in your USB drive and wait for it to be detected. Once detected, type Disk Management in the Windows Search bar and click "Create and format hard disk partitions" to launch the Disk Management Utility.

exfat format with disk management

Step 2: Right-click the flash drive and select the Format option.

exfat format with disk management

Step 3: Type a name in the Volume Label field to help you quickly identify the drive in File Explorer.

Step 4: In the File System drop-down menu, select exFAT, and tick the Perform a quick format option.

exfat format with disk management

Step 5: Click OK and wait for the process to complete. Once complete the drive has been formatted to exFAT. You can now use it or unplug it safely from the PC.

Part 3. How to Format Larger USB Drives?

The process to format larger drives, that is, above 32 GB is more or less the same. You can use both methods outlined above. But, to ensure you don't encounter any errors, the additional two methods below are recommended for larger flash drives.

Method 1: Using the Command Prompt

The Windows Command Prompt takes much longer but is the best way to deal with any problems such as "Windows was unable to complete the format". 

Step 1: As with Method 1, plug in the flash drive and wait for it to be detected.

Step 2: Once detected, type "CMD" in the Windows search bar and launch the Command Prompt.

Step 3: All drives on a Windows computer usually have letters assigned to them. For example, the hard disk is almost always C. Any additional drives connected to the computer are allocated subsequent letters. For example, D, F, and so on. E is usually reserved for the optical drive (CD/DVD) if the computer has one. For this example, our flash drive is letter D. You can find out the letter allocated to your USB by navigating to This PC and taking note of the letter in brackets.

identify the drive letter

Step 4: Type "format D: /fs:EXFAT" and press enter. Remember to make sure the letter you type corresponds to the letter allocated to the USB drive plugged into your PC.

exfat format with command prompt

Step 5: Press Enter when ready and the process begins. When complete, you will be asked to enter a Volume Label to identify the drive. Enter a name and press Enter to complete. Begin using the flash drive or eject safely.

exfat format with command prompt

Method 2: Using Windows PowerShell

The Windows PowerShell is similar to the command prompt and is effective at quickly formatting large USB drives to exFAT. It also has an extra feature to force a full format.

Step 1: Plug in your flash drive and ensure it has been detected.

Step 2: Launch Windows PowerShell by typing PowerShell in the Windows search bar. Launch the Windows PowerShell application by clicking on it.

exfat format with powershell

Step 3: To perform a quick format, type in the following command "Format-Volume -DriveLetter DRIVE-LETTER -FileSystem exFAT". Replace "DRIVE-LETTER" with the drive letter allocated to your flash drive by the PC. For this example, the command looks like this, "Format-Volume -DriveLetter D -FileSystem exFAT". To perform a full format, type "Format-Volume -DriveLetter D -FileSystem exFAT -Full -Force". Once again ensure the drive letter corresponds with your system.

exfat format with powershell

Step 4: Press Enter. Once the process is complete begin using the USB or eject safely.

Part 4. Use Wondershare Recoverit to Recover Lost Files from Formatted USB Drives

Finally, we need to address a common problem that you may encounter while formatting a flash drive to USB. You may experience a situation where the format fails, the USB drive is accidentally ejected or there is an unexpected power shutdown. One of the things that may happen is that the disk may become corrupted and you lose your data. You may also format a flash drive and forget to make a backup or, mistakenly assume you have a copy of the files in some other place. The only to recover lost files from formatted USB drives is by using Wondershare Recoverit.

Wondershare Recoverit is a nifty data recovery tool that is compatible with both Windows and Mac. With Wondershare Recoverit, you can recover lost and deleted files in a few minutes from flash drives and all other types of external media, internal hard disks, recycle bins, and even crashed computers.

Step 1: Plug in the Flash Drive

Connect the flash drive that contains the data you want to recover. Ensure that the device is detectable. If Windows offers to scan and repair the device, proceed and do so until the device is detectable.

Step 2: Launch Wondershare Recoverit on Windows

Next, launch the Wondershare Recoverit app on Windows. Click the Desktop icon or type "Wondershare Recoverit" in the Windows Search box, and click Open to launch it.

launch wondershare recoverit

Step 3: Select the USB Drive

Next, select the USB drive from the External Devices section as shown below, and click the Start button to begin recovery.

select usb drive

Step 4: Scan the USB Drive

An all-around scan initiates on the USB drive. Give it a few minutes to complete. You can pause and continue the scan at any point. Once the process terminates, check the button against the files you want to recover. You can also select all files if needed by checking the box adjacent to the Name field.

Scan USB Drive

Step 5: Preview and Recover

You can preview each file before clicking Recover. Once you click the Recover, you have the option of saving the files in another location on your computer.

preview photo

Closing Words

All the methods described above assume you have administrator rights on the PC. If you don't, you will need to log in with an administrator user account or know the administrator password. We hope you learned how to format the flash drive to exFAT and recover any data in case the process doesn't run smoothly for you. Please do not hesitate to send us your comments or questions. 

Related Questions Searched for Frequently

What is the best format for an SD card?

It depends on the file size that the SD card will hold. If your SD card is less than 4GB in size, you don't need to use exFAT. But if it is greater than 4GB then you may need exFAT to store a single file of 4GB or greater.

Can I use exFAT instead of fat32?

Yes, exFAT is the newer version of FAT32. It was created to address the file size limit problems of FAT32 without the bulkiness of NTFS.

Which is better NTFS or exFAT?

exFAT is the best file system for external media. NTFS is best suited for Windows internal hard disks.

Can Wondershare Recoverit recover lost data from USB on Mac?

Yes, Wondershare Recoverit works on both Windows and Mac.


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Theo Lucia

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