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How to Fix "Windows Can't Format Flash Drive" Error


If USB flash drive cannot be formatted and was informed with a prompt "Window was unable to complete the format" error. These errors indicate that Windows can't format flash drive and the USB flash drive are inaccessible. Just follow and find solutions here to get your problems solved right now.

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USB drives can be connected to a computer easily via USB drive to backup or transfer data. Sometimes, when you want to format it, you may be unable to format your flash drive. For example, it popped up an error saying "Windows was unable to complete the format". Why is this happening?

can't format usb drive

The Main Cause that Windows can't Format USB Drive

This error may happen as a result of the following reasons:

1. Virus infection

If you plug USB flash drives into a public computer, you'll take the risk of damaging the files and even the drive will stop working due to Virus attacks.

2. USB flash device has bad sectors.

As we all know, storage devices consist of sectors. The bad sector means the sector is damaged and can't be read or written. Thus bad sectors can disrupt the formatting operation as well as file recovery. There are quite a few causes of bad sectors, like bad quality, excessive defragmentation, unplug USB flash drive directly while it is working, etc.

3. USB flash drive suffers physical damage

Physical damage is another reason that makes storage device inaccessible. The computer won't be able to format the device if it can't use the device.

4. USB Flash Disk is write-protected

Windows can't format a drive when it is in the write-protected state. As formatting is a kind of writing operation, so you need to remove the write-protection before formatting it.

How to fix windows can’t format the flash drive?

If you are having a similar problem for unable to format or can't complete the format process on your hard drive partition, external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card or other devices, don't worry. Here in the below, we'll show you two effective methods to fix the device format.
Note:  if the flash drive or devices gets badly physical damage, these solutions won't help you.

Important: You should make sure that important data and files of the drive to be formatted have been backed up, as files will be erased once the drive is formatted. If your flash drive is inaccessible before you back up the data, then you need to perform file recovery first before formatting. 

Fix Windows can't format the flash drive

Solution 1: Format via Disk Management

Disk Management is provided by Windows, and it helps to manage partitions and disks for computers. Disk Management is able to create a new volume, extend or shrink partition, change drive letter, delete or format partition, etc. the error flash drives can be repaired with the Disk Management tool. Following the steps below, you can make a USB formatting procedure performed successfully.

Step 1: Open Disk Management. Right-click on My Computer and select item "Manage", and then click Disk Management on the left side. In the center section, you can see local hard drive and partitions and the USB drive, which can be recognized by capacity.

can't format usb drive

Step 2: Right-click the flash drive and select "Format" option and select the file system format to perform a quick format.

can't format usb drive

Step 3: Right-click on the USB flash drive and select "New Simple Volume" item. You'll get the New Simple Volume Wizard which guides you recreate new partition for the flash drive. Operations are following the onscreen instructions, setting options, and click the "Next" button. When the process is done, you'll find the USB drive has been formatted and is properly recognized by the system.

can't format flash drive


Solution 2: Format with Command Prompt

Disk Management is not almighty, and it is not helpful in many cases. Thus, we need to switch to a command line based formatting solution.
Step 1: For Windows 7 users click Start button and type cmd in the search both and press Enter. If UAC is enabled, you need to find Command Prompt from the Start menu and run it as administrator.
Step 2: Type command diskpart on the black window and press Enter key. Then you can see the partition and disk list of the current computer. All drives are listed with numbers, and Disk 4 is the flash drive in question.


can't format flash drive

Step 3: Continue typing disk four, which is the problem drive and clean and press Enter. The drive will be scanned, and its damaged file structure will be erased during scanning. Once the process is done, it reports a confirmation message telling that it has successfully cleaned the drive, and a new partition needs to be created.
Step 4: Type create primary partition and hit Enter; next type in Command prompt format /FS: FAT32 J: (you can copy and paste it.) and press Enter. Here J is the drive letter of the USB drive, and you can change it in line with specific cases. The drive will be formatted to FAT file system, and the formatting is very fast.

Recover the data as soon as possible

Since the USB flash drive cannot be accessed or formatted, you need to perform file recovery as soon as possible. Otherwise, it will be overwritten with new data.
To recover lost data from the USB drive cannot be accessed or formatted, you should try Bitwar Data Recovery software. It is completely free to download which works well for all file types, including audios, videos, pictures, archives, emails, and documents, etc. It can help you easily recover deleted data from the emptied Recycle Bin, digital cameras, memory cards, CF cards, SD cards, USB flash drives, and external hard drives, etc. the program can be applied in various data loss situations. For example, system crash, hard drive formatting, virus attack, partition loss, and other unknown reasons in Windows.
Now you can free download Bitwar Data Recovery here and install it on your computer. Then make sure that your USB drive is connected to this computer very well.

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Steps to recover lost data from the disk

Step 1. Select the partitions or devices. 

Select the disk where you want to recover lost data from, then click "Next".

can't format flash drive

Step 2. Select the scan mode

You can select the "Quick Scan" or "Formatted Recovery" mode due to how data is lost, then click "Next", if files are not overridden by new data, files can be fully recovered.


However, if files are not found with the previous scan, try "Deep Scan". The deep scan can find all the files with a detailed scanning algorithm, but will not display the file names and may take longer time.

Select the scan mode

Step 3. Select the file types

Choose the exact types of files you want to recover. You can select all types if you have no idea about what type of file you want to recover.

Window was unable to complete the format

Step 4. Preview and recover the data

After the scan, filter the file you want then preview them, the program supports to preview the common types of files by double-clicking. It's a powerful preview function that helps you to check the file by playing videos, audios or GIF images, Documents, etc.
Then choose the data you want and click the "Recover" button to restore them back. Here, you'd better save all the recovered files on a different drive or device in case of data recovery failure.

Preview and recover the data

After this, your USB flash drive has working properly and your data on the USB flash drive has been back with Bitwar Data Recovery. Once encountering any other data loss issues, you can also rely on Bitwar Data Recovery.

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