By Emily / Last Updated October 24, 2019

Typical signs when Windows can’t format USB

Generally speaking, Windows can format USB drive very easily; but sometimes they cannot and pop out various error messages. Depending on the operating systems (Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP) you are mainly using, the message might be different. Here are some typical and most common errors.

> The operation did not complete because the media is write protected/ The disk is write protected.

Disk Write Protected

> Windows was unable to complete the format.

> The format did not complete successfully.

> Other force format error messages.

Why Windows cannot format USB drive?

As covered above, the formatting errors are different from each other, so the possible causes for that Windows can’t format USB drive varies a lot. We list some main causes for your reference.

> Virus infection: if you plug USB drives into a public computer, or accidentally download malware onto the computer, your USB drives might get infected with virus and stop working normally. Then please run anti-virus software to clear virus.

> USB drives have bad sectors: when some USB devices’ sectors are damaged and cannot be read or written, the formatting operation will be disrupted. So you need to check hard drive for errors and repair bad sectors.

> USB devices suffer physical damage: physical damage not only occurs onto USB drive, but also to local disks. When their chip or circuit board cannot work anymore, Windows will not be able to use it, not to mention format it. In such case, you need to go to professional repair center to replace the malfunctioned components to make it workable again.

> USB drive is read only: sometimes the USB devices might be set into read only mode by accident, thus you need to first remove this write protection attribute, then format it.

How to solve it when Windows fails to format USB?

If you cannot format your USB drive (USB flash drive, external hard drive, SD card, pen drive, etc.) through traditional process, then you can try to format that drive with the following two methods.

Before that, please make sure you have backed up important files since all data will be destroyed once the drive is formatted. If this USB drive is not accessible before you decide to back up data, then you had better use professional data recovery software to perform file recovery first of all.

Method 1. Format via Command Prompt

When Disk Management or File Explorer does not allow you to format USB drive, you can use Command Prompt. Follow steps below to check whether it can format USB drive smoothly.

Step 1. Click “Start” button, input “cmd” in the Search box and press “Enter”, then you will see the pop-out Command Prompt icon, right click it and select “Run as administrator”.

Step 2. Type “diskpart” in the Command Prompt window and press “Enter” to launch diskpart service.

Step 3. Type “list disk” and press “Enter”. Then you can see all partitions and disks on your computers. All listed with numbers.

Step 4.Type “select disk #” and press “Enter”. # is the drive letter of your USB drive. Here we select disk 1.

Step 5. Type “clean” and press “Enter”.

Step 6. Type “create partition primary” and hit “Enter”.

Step 7. Type “format fs=ntfs quick” or “format fs=fat32 quick” and hit “Enter”. This command will format USB drive to NTFS or FAT32.


PS.: if the USB drive is write-protected, you can add command: “attributes disk clear readonly” between step 4 and step 5 to remove the write protection first, then format it.

Method 2. Format via AOMEI Partition Assistant

If the Command Line does not work as expected, or that method is complicated for you, you can switch to AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. It is a powerful disk formatting freeware for Windows 10/8/7/XP/Vista. It can format write-protected disk, format large hard drive to FAT32, format corrupted SD card and more.

Besides, it supports checking bad sectors for local and USB drive as well. Now download the freeware and install it. Then follow the steps to force format USB drive.

Step 1. Double click the AOMEI Partition Assistant icon to launch it. In its main interface, right click the USB drive to be formatted and select “Format Partition”.

Format exFAT Partition

Step 2. In this window, you can select a desirable file system (ex: FAT32) for the USB drive, and click “OK”.

Format exFAT To FAT32

Step 3. Back to the main interface, click “Apply” and then “Proceed” to initiate the pending formatting operation.


Final Words

Now you know how to solve it when Windows can’t format USB drive. Diskpart and AOMEI Partition Assistant are great tools for formatting tasks. Worth to mention that the latter one is more versatile since it can also allow you to resize/merge/move/copy/wipe USB partition.

Moreover, you can enjoy more useful and advanced features after upgrading to Professional version, such as migrating OS to SSD, splitting a large partition into several small ones, aligning partitions, recovering deleted partitions, etc.