How to format a USB drive in Windows 10

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How to format a USB drive in Windows 10

In Windows 10, the ability to format a USB drive can be useful in many scenarios. For example, sometimes you may need to reformat a removable storage device to make sure that it does not contain any malicious code or when the USB drive cannot be accessed due to data corruption. You have received a USB flash drive using a file system which is found to be incompatible with your system configuration. Or you are planning to get rid of the storage device and want to make sure you don’t leave any personal information behind.

Whatever the reason, Windows 10 includes several tools to format all types of storage (such as USB flash drives) using File Explorer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, and from PowerShell.

In this guide, we will walk you through the various ways to format a USB drive to quickly erase its contents or resolve issues when the device is not recognized.

Warning: the instructions in this guide will erase everything on the selected drive. If you have important files, you should back them up before continuing.

How to format a USB flash drive with File Explorer

To format a USB drive using File Explorer in Windows 10, do the following:

  • Open theFile Explorer.
  • Click on This PC in the left pane.
  • In the “Devices and drives” section, right-click on the flash drive and select the option Format.

File Explorer in Windows 10

  • Use the “File system” drop-down menu and select the option NTFS.

Quick tip: If you plan to use removable storage on Windows 10 as well as macOS systems, you can select the option exFAT for compatibility. However, if you plan to use the device on a Linux machine, FAT32 is the best option, although you will be limited to 4 GB file sizes.

  • In the “Allocation unit size” drop-down menu, use the default selection.
  • In the “Volume name” field, confirm a drive name that will appear in File Explorer. For example, workFlash.
  • In the “Format options” section, select the Formatting option fast.

format a USB stick

Quick Note: “Quick Format” option only deletes the file system table and root folder, but the data may still be recoverable. If you do not check this option, a full format operation will be performed, and it will perform a bad sector scan and write zeros to all sectors deleting the data. Therefore, this process may take some time, depending on the size of the drive.

  • Click on the button Start.
  • Click on the button Yes.

Once the steps are completed, the flash drive will be ready to store documents, pictures, videos and other files on the removable drive.

How to format a USB flash drive with Disk Management

The disk management tool offers at least two routes for formatting a USB drive. You can format the storage to rebuild the file system table and erase the contents, or you can delete the partition which is useful for troubleshooting storage issues.

Format the USB stick

To use Disk Management to format a USB flash drive, follow these steps:

  • Open Start.
  • Search Create and format hard drive partitions and click on the top result to open the disk management.
  • Right click on the removable drive and select the option Format.

Disk management tool

  • In the “Volume Label” field, confirm a name to identify the storage in File Explorer.
  • Use the “File system” drop-down menu and select the option NTFS . (You can also select the option FAT32 or exFAT).
  • In the “Size of allocation unit” drop-down menu, use the option By default.
  • Check the option Perform a quick format.

Perform a quick format

  • (Optional) Check the option Enable file and folder compression.
  • Click on the button okay.

After completing the steps, the drive will be erased and reformatted to store the data again.

Clean and format the USB drive

If you have any errors or other issues, you can clean the USB drive and start over with a new partition and file system with Disk Management.

To clean and format a USB flash drive, proceed as follows:

  • Open Start.
  • Search Create and format hard drive partitions and click on the top result to open the disk management.
  • Right click on removable storage and select the option Remove volume.

Clean and format a USB drive

  • Click on the button Yes.
  • Right-click on the “Unallocated” space and choose the option New single volume.

How to format a USB drive

  • Click on the button following.
  • Click the button again following to use all available space.
  • Select option Assign the following drive letter.
  • Use the drop-down menu to select one of the available letters.

Assign the following drive letter

Trick: if you assign a letter manually, it is better to select a letter in reverse order (Z, Y, X, etc.).

  • Click on the button following.
  • Select option Format this volume with the following settings.
  • Use the drop-down menu File system and select the option NTFS.

Quick Note: using this method, you can only use “NTFS” or “FAT32”. If you need to format the drive using “exFAT”, you will need to use Command Prompt or PowerShell.

  • In the “Size of allocation unit” drop-down menu, use the option By default.
  • In the “Volume Label” field, enter a label to quickly identify the flash drive in File Explorer.
  • Check the option Perform a quick format. (If you disable the option, a full format will take place which may take some time depending on the storage size.)

Format a USB drive in Windows 10

  • (Optional) Check the option Enable compression of files and folders.
  • Click on the button following.
  • Click on the button Finish.

After completing the steps, the process will create a new partition and configure the file system, fixing common issues with the USB drive including data corruption.

Conclusion

In this comprehensive guide, you have learned how to format a USB flash drive in Windows 10. If you are unable to format, the removable drive is probably damaged. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know in the comments. Also, if you want to know how to turn off notifications on Windows 10, you can check out this guide.



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