How to Fix an Unformattable and Unusable USB Drive

Featured Image 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 with a new USB drive.

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

Is Your USB Drive Corrupt/Damaged?

We should be very clear about the differences between an “unformattable, unusable” USB drive and a “corrupt/damaged” one. When the stick is damaged beyond repair, there’s no other option but to replace it. On the contrary, if you just find that you were unable to detect or use the removable media, then it can be repaired using the steps shown in this tutorial.

Let’s take the typical situation where your computer/laptop is able to easily detect the USB drive, and you just want to know whether it’s been corrupted. Select the “Properties” of the drive folder and check the “hardware” status. If it says “This device is working properly,” the USB drive is definitely worth saving.

Fix Unformattable Usb Properties Device Working Properly

You may also use Chkdsk /*Drive Name*/: /f /x in Command prompt or the newly launched Windows Terminal to locate and solve any errors. It mainly comprises the drive letter of your USB after chkdsk entry, which you can find in File Explorer. Next, /f refers to any attempts to fix the errors on the USB drive, and /x will force the USB drive to be dismounted before attempting any scan.

Fix Unformattable Usb Windows Terminal Chkdsk
Chkdsk operation in Command Prompt in Windows Terminal

As shown below, Chkdsk shows there are no errors or bad sectors in the USB drive. This means it’s not corrupt.

Fix Unformattable Usb Bad Sector Errors

In case you’re unable to see the USB drive folder itself, that’s not a reason to worry either. Pay close attention to the next two steps, as they will easily make the drive identifiable and reusable.

1. 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.

Fix Unformattable Usb Cmd 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

Sometimes the disk for USB may show “no media” and 0 bytes, which is normal. As long as Disk 1 shows properly, there is a USB drive in the system.

Fix Unformattable Usb No Media
No Media in USB Disk (Diskpart)

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

2. 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.”

Fix Unformattable Usb Hard Disk Partitions
Disk Management Console

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.

Fix Unformattable Usb Simple Volume Wizard
Simple Volume Wizard in Disk Management

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.

Fix Unformattable Usb Volume Size

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.

Fix Unformattable Usb Volume Assign Letter
Assign Drive Letter

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.

Fix Unformattable Usb Volume Formatting
Volume Formatting

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

Fix Unformattable Usb Volume Complete Setup
Volume Complete Setup

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

Fix Unformattable Usb Drive Recovered
USB Drive Recovered

Optional Methods

If you’ve followed the above steps correctly, then your USB drive is reusable again with its space restored. Although you can now use the removable media, you will need a third-party tool to keep the USB drive working and optimize the disk storage space.

For extra corrective steps and to recover the tinier amounts of lost volume (a few MB usually), you can try one of these methods of data recovery as well.

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

There is another good freemium tool called “Partition Wizard.” It can help you align SSD partitions, clone disks, and much more.

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

Partition Wizard Installation Free
Partition Recovery Wizard Setup Screen

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

Partition Wizard Full Scan
Partition Recovery Wizard “Full” Scan

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

Partition Recovery Wizard Scanning In Progress
Partition Recovery Wizard Results

Wrapping Up

If you ever find your USB drives unusable and unformattable, don’t throw them away. Try the above methods to diagnose the problem and recover it. You may also want to learn how to format it to a suitable filesystem after it is recovered.

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.

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