Does Formatting a USB Delete Everything? (What Really Happened)

What happens when you format a USB flash drive or memory stick? Will everything be removed from your USB flash drive? You can get your answers here and restore files after format your USB drive. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can restore files after deleting and formating.

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"I have been tasked with recovering data from a drive that says that Windows needs to format it to use it. If I do the quick format, will it delete or damage any files? I'm trying to recover the files, but it still says I must format first..." (from Superuser)

Does formatting delete everything on your USB

How to Recover Files from a USB Flash Drive After Formatting

Most of us would be faced with this kind of problem. The USB flash drive or memory stick asks you to format it while you want to keep the data. When you format a USB drive, the data inside it gets deleted. But the data can be recovered using data recovery software.

Therefore, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is what you need. This professional data recovery software works well in any situation. For example, you can retrieve data after formatting your storage devices; restore files after accidental deletion; get back files after a system crash.

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To recover lost documents, pictures, or videos after formatting the USB, follow the below steps.

Step 1. Select the formatted USB and click "Scan".

select the usb drive and click scan

Step 2. During the scan process, data will appear in the results area.

When the scan is completed, you can click "Filter" to find specific types of files and look for your lost data in the "Other Lost Files" or "Files Lost Original Name" folders shown in the left pane.

select wanted files

Step 3. Preview the files by double-clicking them one by one. Select the wanted files and click "Recover".

recover files from the formatted usb

What Really Happens When You Format a USB Flash Drive

Will formatting a USB drive delete everything? Yes. The act of formatting a pen drive or memory stick removes all data being stored on the device.

The Basics

But there comes a time when a hard drive or other storage device needs to be formatted so that it can be reused, sold, or donated. Formatting the drive permanently removes all data from the drive. There are two main options in Windows for erasing data: Quick Format and Full Format.

A Quick Format takes less time. To make the formatting process quick, bad sectors will not be checked. Anyone looking at the hard drive or storage device would not see any data and assume the drive is erased. Actually, the files are still there and the volume could be re-built, to gain access to the files again. If you are planning to reuse the drive and it's working, a quick format is adequate since you are still the owner.

A Full Format takes a longer time than a Quick Format. It runs an additional step to check the storage disk for any bad sectors. This check is what makes the Full Format so much longer than a Quick Format. Unfortunately, like the Quick Format, the files still exist and the volume could be re-built to gain access. If the drive has problems, a full format is a good option to make sure no issues exist on the drive.

To sum up, no matter you have run a Quick Format or a Full Format, you can always recover data with the best file recovery software.

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The Process

The process of formatting a USB flash drive or a memory stick is quite simple. Open This PC and you can see a list of all drives connected to the computer. Find and right-click on the USB flash drive, select "Format". Then, reset the file system to NTFS or FAT32, click "Start" and click "OK" to confirm.

how to format a USB flash drive in Windows 11/10/8/7

File Systems

As you can see, you will be asked to select the file system during the formatting process. There are three options FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT. FAT32 is mainly used on older computers due to its size limitations. NTFS is used on modern computers. If you still don't know how to choose FAT32 or NTFS for USB, you can read the additional help from EaseUS.

related articles

Best Answer: Format USB Drive to FAT32 or NTFS

Do you know what is the best file system for a USB drive? Should you choose FAT32 or NTFS while formatting the USB flash drive? Here we will explain reasons and give answers.

format USB drive to FAT32 or NTFS

How to Protect Your Data Before Formatting

To reduce the risk of data loss after formatting, you are advised to make a backup plan to protect your data. As you can see, formatting a USB removes everything. You can manually back up wanted files or make an automatic backup with EaseUS backup and recovery software. Follow the steps below to make a backup plan.

Step 1. You may have a large amount of vital data to be protected as time goes on, such as documents, pictures, music, and videos, etc. It is always a good habit to have a backup on a regular basis. File Backup is one of the best choices for you to get over unexpected data loss disasters.

Open EaseUS Todo Backup and select the "File" backup mode to start backup specific files and folders.

click file backup to back up files

Step 2. Select the files and folders that you want to back up. 

select the file type to back up

Step 3. After choosing the desired items on your computer, click "Browse" to select a backup destination to save your backup of the selected files. There you can save the backups to the EaseUS cloud drive, a local drive, a removable drive, an external USB flash drive, HDD or a NAS device if you have one.

sign in the easeus cloud to save your backups

The most secure and convenient way to keep your backup files is on the EaseUS cloud drive. The first time you use the cloud drive, you need to sign up with a valid email address and a password.

sign in the easeus cloud to save your backups

Next, the advanced backup settings are useful when you want to create a flexible and automatic backup plan. 

information about advanced settings

The schedule is to create an automatic backup plan.

what is schedule backup

Backup options are to edit the advanced parameters. 

backup options

The Image-reserve strategy is to reserve the limited image as per image retention rule.

image-reserve strategy

Advanced backup settings are for reference only but not a prerequisite for backup.

Step 4. Click "Proceed" to execute your operation.


Although formatting a USB flash drive deletes everything, there's no need to worry about it. If you've got a backup, you can retrieve lost data from the backup. Otherwise, you need to use data recovery software to restore lost data after formatting.

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Updated by Daisy

Daisy is the Senior editor of the writing team for EaseUS. She has been working in EaseUS for over ten years, starting from a technical writer to a team leader of the content group. As a professional author for over 10 years, she writes a lot to help people overcome their tech troubles.

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Written by Brithny

Brithny is a technology enthusiast, aiming to make readers' tech life easy and enjoyable. She loves exploring new technologies and writing technical how-to tips. On her spare time, she loves sharing things about her favorite singer - Taylor Swift on her Facebook or Twitter.

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