How to Fix an Unformattable and Unusable USB Drive

Featured Fix Unformattable Unusable Usb Drive

Do you have an unusable USB stick? If it’s stopped working for some reason, you will probably find one of the following scenarios: either the memory has been used up completely even though there are no files or Windows just won’t let you format the drive. In the worst case scenario, the USB drive name refuses to show up on your computer.

If any of this sounds familiar, you should know it may not be entirely the USB drive’s fault. There are many reasons why you may experience these errors. Sometimes there are partition errors which can suck up the storage space.

Follow the detailed steps in this guide to fix an unformattable and unusable USB drive. The objective is to permanently wipe the old data and gift yourself a new USB drive.

Note: the following steps are done on a Windows computer.

1. Detect a Corrupted  Drive

If your computer is still able to detect your USB drive, you might want to know if it’s been corrupted. Select the “Properties” of the drive folder and check the device status. If it says “This device is working properly,” this USB drive is worth saving.

Detect A Corrupted Pen Drive

There’s no need to worry if you can’t see the USB drive folder. Pay attention to the next few steps as they will help you make the drive usable again.

2. Wipe the USB Drive Clean with Diskpart Command Line Tool

Windows comes with a built-in format disk option to erase everything from a USB flash drive. This is accessible from a simple right-click, but at this stage it probably won’t work.

If you no longer need the data in the removable media, the command-line tool is a better way to help you get to the root of the problem and fix the storage space issues once and for all.

On Windows 10, go to the search button and run the command prompt as an administrator.

Command Prompt As Administrator

Make sure the USB drive has been inserted already. As soon as it starts, enter diskpart as shown here. It will soon load a program called “Diskpart,” which is basically Microsoft’s disk-partitioning utility. It allows you to view, create, delete or modify any disk.

Next to “Diskpart,” enter list disk. This will provide a list of each and every disk connected to your computer. Here you can easily identify your USB drive by its size.

Diskpart Usb Flash Drive In C Prompt

After this, enter select disk#. Instead of #, you have to insert the numerical value of the removable drive as shown in the below screen. Very soon you should see a success status message, “Disk# is now the selected disk.”

Warning: do not accidentally select your computer’s hard drive number – in this case it was “0.” You will regret it.

To wipe your removable media clean, enter clean. This will empty the contents of the USB drive completely. You can again check for freed space using list disk. Now the USB drive is ready for further modifications.

Diskpart Succeeded Cleaning Disk Usb Drive Free Space

3. Reallocate the USB Drive Volume from Disk Management Console

Even after you wipe your USB drive clean, your computer will not be able to view it. Therefore, we will need to open the Disk Management Console, which is easily accessible from the search menu. You can also type “diskmgmt.msc.”

Disk Management Search Button

As soon as the console window is open, you can see the disk number for your USB drive. Right-click on it and select “create simple volume.” It will lead to a “new simple volume wizard” pop-up window.

If your USB drive was identifiable on your computer, you won’t ever see this option. Instead, you will be able to directly format the disk from this menu. There is a reason we had to earlier run “Diskpart” in the command prompt.

Disk Management Removable Media Create Simple Volume

Once you click next, you can specify the volume size for the pen drive. Select the maximum volume, which is shown as a default unit in MB.

Allocate Volume

As soon as you see the next step, select “assign drive letter,” which will help you view your pen drive once again. I chose “F” as shown here.

Assign Letter Usb Drive

Format the partition in the next step. This may be just an extra step because you have already wiped the data clean. But it is always better to be sure.

Format Partition

Click “Finish” to complete the new simple volume wizard which will now be allocated to the USB drive.

Format Simple Volume Wizard

After you reallocate the unallocated USB drive space, you will be able to view the USB drive storage once again.

Usb Volume Recovered After Disk Management New Volume Creation

4. Use Partition Wizard to Keep Your USB Drive in Mint Condition

Although you can now use the removable media once again, you will need a third-party tool to keep the USB drive working and optimize the disk storage space. For this, there is a good freemium tool called “Partition Wizard.” It can help you align SSD partitions, clone disks, and much more.

Download and install the software. It might prompt you to install a third-party anti-virus software, which you can uncheck as you may not need it.

Partition Wizard Installation Free

You can view the removable media drive. Go for a full scan to identify any potential corrupt areas.

Partition Wizard Full Scan

The scanning will restore your USB drive to its full available space. Once done, you can start using it just like when it was in mint condition.

Partition Recovery Wizard Scanning In Progress

Conclusion

If we ever find our USB drives usable and unformattable, our first impulse is to throw them away. But, there is still so much data, you can carry on it as long as it has not been corrupted. Therefore, it’s better to diagnose the problem and find out whether your pen drive is still recoverable. If yes, then you may be able to start using it once again as if nothing really happened. You might also want to know how to format it to a suitable filesystem after it is recovered.

Do you have a flash drive you can’t completely erase the data from? Let us know and we might be able to help you.

Sayak Boral Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over ten years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

12 comments

  1. I have a external hard disk 500GB which when connected though blinks light donot show drive letter to open/format/transfer files.
    Can this also be repaired in any way.

  2. Hello I have an external drive that was once affected by virus and now is working very slow I can’t do anything and once I plug inn on my pc then my pc start to be slow too. Help me

    1. Is it a USB drive? As long as you can see the “this disk is working properly” message (see step 1) you should be able to redeem your removable media. Detailed steps in this guide.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion. This was intended as a generic USB drive recovery tutorial hence the title. Much easier to use Windows Command prompt and disk manager. It was outside the scope to cover Mac and Linux as well because the methods are very dissimilar.

      Please check following links for Linux and Mac tutorials that are similar in intent but the results can’t be directly compared with this one.
      https://www.maketecheasier.com/repair-corrupted-usb-drive-linux/ (Linux)
      https://www.maketecheasier.com/fix-external-hard-drive-not-showing-up-mac/ (for external hard drive in Mac)

  3. Hi there! I have a USB thumb drive(Micro SD USB 2.0) with NO VOLUME, NO MEDIA on it! I try to open the thumb drive from File Explorer, it state “Please insert a disk into USB drive.” Windows and Disk Management did show my USB icon thou. Kindly advice further solutions for my irreparable thumb drive.
    Greatly appreciated!

    1. It’s a removable disk error. There’s nothing much to worry. Please use the command prompt method shown here and reallocate the volume (steps 2 and 3). If the drive is indeed corrupted, you can find that one out in Step 1,.

  4. Hi. I formatted USB on my TV and now I cant use it on my laptop. Nothing shows up and in disk management I cant do anything with it. Do you have any ideas? Thanks

    1. You mean you don’t see anything in DiskPart List Disk? (re: Step 2 of this tutorial). If you do, there’s nothing to worry. Just follow the steps 2 and 3. Otherwise you can fix your problem using a partition manager which works with smart TV file systems such as exFAT and NTFS. Here is one example: https://www.diskpart.com/free-partition-manager.html

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.