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Fix 'Can't Format USB Flash Drive' Error on Windows 11/10 [Complete Guide]

Updated by Tracy King on Dec 13, 2021
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Windows Can't Format USB Drive, Help!

"Hi there, do you know why does Windows computer won't allow me to format a USB drive? I have a USB drive which is now inaccessible. I tried to format the USB drive to factory settings so that it would be available for data saving again. However, I failed. 

My computer, installed with Windows 10,  just won't allow me to do so. I don't know why. Do you know how to solve this problem?"

Windows can't format USB.

Why Can't Windows Format USB Drive? Check the Causes

What blocks or prevents you from formatting USB flash drives? Check the list of reasons why Windows can't format USB and see if you are staying with the same problems:

  • Virus Infection
  • Bad Sectors
  • Physical Damage
  • USB Is Locked or Write-Protected (When the USB is write-protected, you turn to format write-protected USB for help.)
  • Incompatible or Unsupported File System

If you are unable to format or can't complete the format process on your USB flash drive, hard drive partition, external hard drive, SD card, etc., don't worry. Follow the guide below, we'll show you how to fix USB format failure errors by using a free format utility, CMD, or other tools successfully.

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As formatting will remove and clean up all saved files on a storage device, therefore, if you have important data saved in your USB, SD card, external hard drive, or Windows hard drive partition, remember to back up your data first. (EaseUS Todo Backup will work for you.)

Quick Fixes for "Can't Format USB Flash Drive" Error

Connect your USB drive or USB flash drive to the computer and follow the next 4 quick fixes first. Then, see if you can format the USB drive and decide if you need to move on with further solutions or now:

#1. Check and Unlock USB Flash Drive: If the USB flash drive has a physical switch, switch the lock from the ON side to the OFF side.

Unlock USB

#2. Check USB and Fix Internal Errors: Right-click USB > Properties > Click CHeck on the the Tools Tab > Scan drive. 

Scan and fix USB drive error

#3. Scan USB Virus: Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > Virus & threat protection > Scan options > Windows Defenter Offline scan > Scan now.

Clean virus on computer and usb

#4. Clear Read-Only State: Open diskpart, type: list disk > select disk 2(number of USB) > attributes disk clear read only and hit Enter each time.

Clear read only or remove write-protection form USB

Quick Format USB Guide: In File Explorer, right-click target USB Drive >"Format" > Tick "Quick Format" and set format as FAT32 (smaller than 32GB) or exFAT/NTFS (larger than 32GB).

  • If the formatting process completes, congratulations. The error gets resolved.
  • If Windows still warns you that it couldn't complete the format, move one and follow the next two solutions to get rid of this error, successfully format USB drive on Windows 11/10 or older OS.

Method 1. Format USB and Restore to Full Size with Free USB Formatter

For a simpler and easier USB formatting tool to fix unable to format USB error, EaseUS Partition Master can be your best shot. This format utility allows you to format the USB drive and restores it to full capacity free within 4 steps.

Free download, install it on your Windows 11/10/8/7 PCs, and learn how to format your USB drive to its full size now:

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Step 1. Select the USB drive to format.

Connect the USB drive or pen drive to your computer. Download and launch EaseUS partition software. Right-click the USB drive you intend to format and choose "Format".

Step 2. Set the drive letter and file system on USB.

Assign a new partition label, file system (NTFS/FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4/exFAT), and cluster size to the selected partition, then click "OK".

Step 3. Check "OK" to confirm formatting USB.

Click "OK" if you see the Warning window. If you have important data on it, back up the data in advance.

Step 4. Apply the changes.

Click the "Execute operation" button first, and then click "Apply" to format the USB drive.

After this, you'll be able to use the USB drive for storing data and back up fancy data and important personal documents now. 

Method 2. Fix "Can't Format USB Flash Drive" Error by CMD

Step 1. Connect the USB drive that you need to format to your PC.

Step 2. Press Win + R to open the "Run" dialog, type: cmd and hit Enter to open Command Prompt.

Step 3. Select "Run as Administrator", type: diskpart, and hit Enter.

Open diskpart.

Step 4. Type: list disk and hit Enter to display all disks on your computer.

Step 5. Type: select disk 2 and hit Enter. (2 is the drive letter of your USB.)

Step 6. Type: clean and hit Enter. 

Clean USB.

Note: The clean command will delete all partitions on your USB drive, and remove all locks. Next, you need to create a new volume and format the USB drive.

Step 7. Type: create partition primary and hit Enter.

Step 8. Type: format fs=fat32 quick or format fs=ntfs quick and hit Enter to reset USB drive to FAT32 or NTFS.

Reformat USB to detectable file system.

Step 10. Type: assign and give your USB drive a new drive letter.

Step 11. Then type: exit to finish the process.

After this, you'll be able to use your USB drive to save and store new data again.

The "Windows Can't Format USB Drive" Error Is Fixable with Correct Methods

On this page, we discussed the causes of why Windows can't format USB error and presented you with several practical solutions for help. Note that the error is fixable as long as you turn to the correct solution for help. 

EaseUS Editors' Suggestion:

  • First, remember to follow the quick fixes to get rid of some errors from the USB drive.
  • Second, turn to File Explorer or USB format utility - EaseUS Partition Master for formatting the drive instantly. 

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Stay calm when you are with this error. Just follow the provided solutions above to get rid of this error on your own now.

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About the Author

Updated by Tracy King

Tracy joined in EaseUS in 2013 and has been working with EaseUS content team for over 7 years. Being enthusiastic in computing and technology, she writes tech how-to articles and share technical solutions about Windows & Mac data recovery, file/system backup and recovery, partition management and iOS/Android data recovery.

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