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Fix Windows Can't Format USB Drive Error


If your USB drive cannot be formatted and is informed with a prompt "Window was unable to complete the format" error, it indicates that windows can't format USB drive, and the USB flash drive is inaccessible. This post will give a solution to this issue.

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USB drives are very portable, and they can be connected to a computer easily via USB drive to backup or transfer data, which have become an essential component in various digital products such as digital cameras, cell phones, MP3 players, etc. Since they are often carried by users and might be used on various computers, USB drives are more likely to get many problems.

windows can't format usb

For example, you plugged your USB drive into the port of a PC, right-click the disk icon and select "Format", but it popped up an error saying "Windows was unable to complete the format". So, does that mean your USB drive is broken?
NO! This error may happen as a result of the following reasons:

The Main Cause that Windows can't Format USB Drive

Cause 1: Virus infection
If you plug USB 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.
Cause 2: USB 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 drive directly while it is working, etc.
Cause 3: USB 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.
Cause 4: USB 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 couldn't complete format" on the USB drive

If you are not capable of formatting your USB drive (USB flash drive, external hard drive, SD card, pen drive, etc.) in the usual process, then try to format that drive with the following methods. Please connect the USB drive to the computer and follow the guide below to fix the error:
Note:  if the USB drive 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 the USB drive is inaccessible before you back up the data, then you need to perform file recovery first before formatting.

Steps of file recovery from a damaged USB drive will be talked in the next section of this post.

Fix Windows Couldn't Complete Format on USB 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 can 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.

  Disk Management  

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


Step 3: Right-click on the USB drive and select "New Simple Volume" item. You'll get the New Simple Volume Wizard which guides you to 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.

New Simple Volume


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.

windows can't format usb

Step 3: Continue typing disk 4, 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.

The need to recover data promptly

Since the USB 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 the best file recovery software since it is compatible with any devices such as digital cameras, hard drives, SD cards, Memory cards, phones, media players and portable drives. From these devices, you can recover audios, videos, pictures, archives, emails, and documents. Whether you deleted these files or lost them due to the virus, or due to the disk inaccessible, or formatting you can still have them back using this software. Moreover, this program lets you preview files that have been recovered.
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.

How to recover lost data from the disk

Step 1. Select the disk where you want to recover lost data from, then click Next.

Step 3. You can select the "Quick Scan" or "Formatted Recovery" mode 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.

Quick Scan    

Step 4. 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.

Choose the exact types of files you want

Step 5. After the scan, filter the file you want with the file name, file type, path, and time. Then you can 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. Here, you'd better save all the recovered files on a different drive or device in case of data recovery failure.

preview and recover

Congratulations to you. With the solutions and the recovery steps, your USB drive has been formatted, and your data on it is all back. After this, you'll be able to use the USB drive for storing data and backup fancy data and important personal documents now. If you are experiencing data loss again, please use Bitwar Data Recovery to recover files in time.

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