Fix "Can’t Format USB" Error on Windows without Data Loss

"I got a USB flash drive from someone, but she has stuff on it that I need to format. I can access the files but can’t format the drive no matter what I try. Has anyone experienced this? How do I resolve this issue? I know the USB drive is good."

This article will show you solutions to the issue and list some of the most common reasons for the error. Before fixing the “can’t format USB” error, you’d better retrieve your data from the USB drive.

1Restore Files from USB Drive That Can’t Be Formatted with AnyRecover

Fixing can’t format USB” error might end up with losing all your data. However, you can turn to a recovery tool to retrieve your important data before processing to fix the issue. AnyRecover can help you take care of the business.

Are you wary of this tool because you are not familiar with it? You have nothing to worry about, as even the least tech-inclined persons will use this software without running into any difficulties, and to top it all up, AnyRecover is 100% safe and will not keep or share your data with a third party.


1,000,000 + Downloads

What Makes AnyRecover Awesome:

With AnyRecover, you can retrieve files lost due to whatever scenario.

This program has been tested and found to work with more than a thousand file type.

Lost/deleted/corrupted files can be recovered from any storage medium: PC, laptop, mobile phone, digital camera, SD card, USB flash drive, SSD, etc.

Your files will not be overwritten, and will also not be shared with a third party.

The recovery rate is incredible. This tool is successful 98% of the time.

No tech skills are necessary to use this tool.

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How to Recover Data with AnyRecover

Step 1: Launch AnyRecover and select the External Device Recovery mode from the first screen.

external device recovery mode

Step 2: Connect your USB drive to your computer and click Next.

connect to computer

Step 3: Select the disk you just connected as well as the file format of the disk and click the Scan tab.

select disk and file type

Step 4: After the scan is complete, your recovered files will be listed. From here, you can then preview them or recover them by hitting Recover.

preview and recover

Note: If you do not see your files in the previous step, start afresh, but this time use the All Round Recovery mode.

all round recovery

2    Why “Can’t Format USB Drive” Error Occur on Windows?

USB drives are used to save data. Once in a while, you will have to format your USB flash disks to either wipe it or fix errors, etc. Formatting these devices normally go smoothly. However, some times, you get error messages when you attempt to format the drive, and no matter what you try, it just does not work.

Here are some of the primary reasons you may be getting the “can’t format USB drive” error:

  • Your USB disk has a virus infection.

  • There may be some bad sectors on your flash.

  • Sometimes, your computer does not recognize your USB disk because the disk might have sustained physical damage.

  • Your disk is read-only or the current user has insufficient privileges to format the drive.

3    How to Fix “Can’t Format USB Drive” Error on Windows?

1Clear Read-only Attributes with Diskpart Utility

Step 1: Connect your flash to a computer and make sure the computer recognizes it.

Step 2: Press "Windows" + "R"; to open the Run dialog.

Step 3: Enter "diskpart"; in the Run dialog and hit "OK".

Step 4: Diskpart Command Prompt will open. Type "list disk" and hit "Enter".

Step 5: Type "select disk x". Here, x should be the letter of the USB drive. Hit "Enter".

Step 6: Type "attributes disk clear readonly" to change the "read-only" property of your USB drive.

change read only attributes

After this, go back and format the USB drive.

2Fix “Can’t Format USB Drive” Error by CMD

Step 1: Connect the USB drive to your computer.

Step 2: Click "Start" and type "Command Prompt".

Step 3: Right click on "Command Prompt" and select "Run as Administrator".

Step 4: Type "diskpart" into "Command Prompt" and hit "Enter".

type diskpart and hit enter

Step 5: Type "list disk" and hit "Enter".

Step 6: Take note of the number of your USB drive and type "select disk x" and hit "Enter". X in this case represents the drive letter of your USB drive.

Step 7: Type "Clean" and hit "Enter".

type clean and hit enter

Step 8: Type "create partition primary" and hit "Enter".

Step 9: Type " format fs=fat32" or "format fs=ntfs quick" and hit "Enter" to format the USB drive to FAT32 or NTFS.

format usb drive

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

Step 11: Type "exit" to complete the formatting operation.

3Format USB When Windows Says Disk is Write Protected Through Regedit

Step 1: Press "Windows" + "R" to open the Run dialog.

Step 2: Enter "regedit" in the Run dialog and hit "Enter".

Step 3: After that, in the Registry Editor, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control.

navigate to control folder

Step 4: Right-click on the Control folder and select New > Key.

select new key

Step 5: Rename the New Key #1 folder to "StorageDevicePolicies".

change to storagedevicepolicies

Step 6: Right-click on the StorageDevicePolicies folder and select New and QWORD (64-bit) Value, for 64-bit versions or DWORD (32-bit) Value with 32-bit.

select qword 64 bit value

Step 7: Rename the New Value #1 folder to "WriteProtect".

rename new value to writeprotect

double click writeprotect

Step 8: Double-click this "WriteProtect" folder, change the "Value" data: into “0” and "Base" to “Hexadecimal.” Hit "OK".

change value to 0

Step 9: Close the "Registry Editor".

Step 10: Open "This PC" or "My Computer" (the former for Windows 10, and the latter for older operating systems). Refresh it five times without touching your USB drive and then eject the USB disk.

Step 11: Lastly, connect the USB drive to your computer and format it to exFAT rather than FAT32.


Follow these guides to format your USB drive which can’t be formatted by your computer. All the methods on this post work for Windows 10/8/7/XP, and also work with USB drives of all formats. To avoid data loss, it is recommended you use the AnyRecover application to recover important files from your flash drive before fixing the “can’t format USB” error.

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By  Alva Doris , to External Device Recovery

Updated on Dec 16, 2019

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