Format External USB Drive and Recover Data From Formatted Flash Drive

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  • Published on
    August 27th, 2019
  • Updated on
    February 23, 2021
  • Read Time
    6 minutes
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There is a lot of strange things which can take place with the flash drive. It is possible that the file system selected for formatting the disk is not compatible with the target platform. So, you need to look for the target platform that what file system it supports and then you have to format the disk according to that. So let’s see how to format external USB Drive and Recover data from a formatted drive.

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Before starting the method let’s see what file systems are present there to format the drive and how they differ from each other. 

File System in Windows


FAT and FAT32 are the most compatible file systems and they allow to fastly read and write the data. They let you store more data because the file system data is small in size. 


It is the by-default file system for all the recent Windows versions. It is capable enough to store files over 4 GB in size. This file system also lets you set permissions over the individual files and folders. But NTFS is not recommended for the USB drives because a lot of devices don’t support it.


The extended file allocation table can be used for better disk management. It is good to store the files over 4GB size and it also lets the users create a partition more than 32 GB.

How to Format External USB Drive on Windows 10?

Formatting the flash drive is not a big deal. You can perform this action in two simple ways. Refer to the following methods to clear up space of USB drive.

Clear Up USB Drive Space Using Windows Format Function

Follow the below steps to erase all the data from the flash or external media storage:

  1. Insert the USB drive and wait for the detection of the drive.
  2. Right-click on the inerted drive and select the Format.
  3. select the desired file system that you want like FAT, FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT from the dialog box and give the drive a name under the volume label. Also, select the Format option. Then click on the Start button.
  4. This will format thumb drive data and it will be as per the selected file system.

If the system generates an error like Windows was unable to complete the format then go for the below method to erase data in the USB drive.

Format External USB Drive Using cmd

Windows 10 is packed with some great utilities to perform the task easily. One of the utility is diskpart. You can use this utility to erase the data from any disk.

Follow the below steps to perform the removal of the data:

  1. Insert the USB stick to the computer and wait for the detection of media storage.
  2. Press Win+R and type cmd then hit Enter.
  3. On Command Prompt, type diskpart and press Enter.
  4. Type list disk and press Enter key. Determine your disk, for example, it is disk 2.
  5. Again type select disk 2 and press the Enter key.
  6. Now, type clean and hit Enter.
  7. Type create partition primary and press the Enter key.
  8. When the partition is created, type format fs=ntfs and press the Enter. If you want another file system then change the command ntfs to the desired file system as fat, fat32, exfat and whatever you want.
  9. To assign a drive letter to the drive, Type assign.

This process will remove all the data from the external USB stick using the defined file system.

Though removing the data is quite an easy task but the problem occurs when you realize that some essential or important data is deleted and there is no such backup to restore it. In such a case, you can go for the below method.

Recover Data From Formatted Flash Drive

Backup plays an important role in the restoration of data. But, if you haven’t taken a backup of the data prior to format the drive then it becomes a critical issue and there is the need for data recovery. You also need to take some precautions data is deleted accidentally or without backup:

  • Try not to load any data or files on the drive.
  • Don’t mount or unmount the formatted drive for too many times.

To recover the data from a formatted USB Drive, you can use Windows Data Recovery utility. follow the below steps to recover data using this utility:

  • Insert the drive in the USB port and wait for the system to detect it.
  • Download and launch the recovery utility on your Windows system.
  • Select the volume or drive to start the recovery process.
  • Choose the recovery mode and click on the Next button.
  • Soon the scanning process will complete and you will get the preview of the recoverable data.
  • Click on the Save button to save the scanned data.
  • Provide the saving location to save the data and click on the OK button.
  • Soon the data will get saved on the specified location of your system.

All the data will get restored in the previous state and you can use it as you want. It is always recommended to store a backup or copy of the data so that in condition like deletion you can easily restore it.


You can use any of the methods to format external USB drive. If you get an error like Windows was unable to complete the format then it is better to format USB using cmd method. As I’ve recommended taking a backup of the data prior to deletion but if you haven’t taken the backup and deleted the data then using the Windows Data Recovery utility you can easily recover data from the formatted flash drive. The tool supports all FAT16, FAT32, FAT64 (exFAT) and also the NTFS file system. You can recover data from internal and external storage devices. I hope, it helped you out.

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