USB Drive Needs to Be Formatted

Case 1: "My USB drive is saying it is not recognized and needs to be formatted. If I format it will erase all of my files. What can I do to recover my files." (from Tom's HARDWARE)

Case 2: "I have a USB flash drive that stopped working and got a USB Flash drive is not formatted error. I've tried on several computers, but they all remind the drive needs to be reformatted. I have not reformatted it or deleted anything on it. It contains several files, including .xls, .pdf, .jpg, and doc files. Is it possible to fix the USB Flash drive not formatted error and open the USB without formatting? Please help!"

Usually, suppose you unplug the removable storage drive directly when you are using it. In that case, you may get a USB flash drive not formatted error or get a message like "Attached storage device is not formatted for use with this product". And except for an abrupt removal, this error can also pop up when the file system is attacked by the virus, damaged by faulty operation, or others. It can come with different error messages like "You need to format the disk before using it. Do you want to format it now?"

Many reasons can cause USB not formatted errors. You can check the following table to learn more:

🗂️Corrupted File System It is possible that Windows cannot recognize the file system because of the file system corruption.
💽Bad Sectors Bad sectors can cause the USB flash drive cannot perform well, and Windows cannot access the data written on the bad sectors.
🦠Virus Issues Some computer viruses and malware can also cause USB not formatted errors and even cause file corruption.
❌Physical Damage If the USB drive is physically damaged, it may start showing errors, including not being able to format.

Recover Files from a Not Formatted USB Flash Drive [First Thing]

When you get such messages, don't format the USB device and find a way to fix the issue if you have important data on it. Then how can you manage it since it is impossible to open a USB without formatting in this case? First, try EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to restore files in advance. You can learn the detailed features in the following and download this safe data recovery product by clicking the download buttons:

EaseUS USB Data Recovery

  • Support USB data recovery and effectively recover deleted files, documents, photos, audio, music, and emails.
  • Working well in RAW drive recovery, and you can easily recover data from RAW USB drives, external hard drives, etc.
  • Recover formatted hard drive. You can quickly regain data from a formatted USB drive with the EaseUS recovery tool.
 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
 Download for Mac Trustpilot Rating 4.7

The functional RAW recovery option of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard allows you to recover data from an inaccessible USB flash drive easily and quickly. Download and bring back data from the not formatted USB drive first.

You can check the following video, and we'll mention how to recover data with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard in this video. You can also download this software after watching this video.

  • 00:14 What to do when lost files from USB drives
  • 00:42 How to download and install EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard
  • 01:10 How to recover files from a USB drive with EaseUS
  • 02:50 How to show hidden files on USB drives

Now, you should follow these steps to recover lost files from your not formatted USB flash drive:

Step 1. Launch EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard on your computer, and select "SD Card Recovery" to find the connected USB drive. All the external storage devices will show up here, including the not formatted USB flash drive.

Step 2. Find your USB drive and click "Scan" to start scanning. All the recoverable files on your not formatted USB drive will appear, and you can select important files to recover. If you want to find a specific type of your file, using the filter option can be very helpful.

Step 3. You can preview the files before recovering them. If you want to confirm the recovery, click "Recover" to start the USB drive data recovery.

USB drive data recovery

If you cannot regain useful data from RAW USB drives with data recovery software, you should try to contact EaseUS data recovery services to fix your problem manually.

Consult with EaseUS Data Recovery Experts for one-on-one manual recovery service. We could offer the following services after FREE diagnosis:

  • Repair corrupted RAID structure, unbootable Windows OS and corrupted virtual disk file (.vmdk, .vhd, .vhdx, etc.)
  • Recover/repair lost partition and re-partitioned drive
  • Unformat hard drive and repair raw drive (BitLocker encrypted drive)
  • Fix disks that become GPT protected partitions

Method 1. Fix USB Not Formatted Error with Disk Management

After you have returned the data, you can start to find the USB needs to be formatted error fix. The first method is straightforward; you just need to assign a new drive letter for the not formatted USB drive. Before that, you can also reconnect the USB drive or check the cable to inspect the USB. How to assign a drive letter:

Step 1. You can right-click the Windows icon to wake up "Disk Management".

open Disk Management on Windows

Step 2. Right-click the USB drive and choose "Change drive letter and path".

change drive letter and path

Now, you can reopen your USB drive to check whether the USB not formatted error is fixed. You can share this simple method on social media to help more users fix USB drive says it needs to be formatted error.


Method 2. Run CHKDSK to Solve USB Drive Not Formatted Error

When a USB drive says it needs to be formatted, you can run command lines in CMD to resolve the problem. The CHKDSK command is useful and you can following the tutorial below to run CHKDSK command in Windows:

Step 1. Run Command Prompt as an administrator on Windows.

run CMD as an administrator

Step 2. Type in chkdsk /f /r x: in the Command Prompt window. You should replace the X with the right drive letter of your not formatted USB drive.

Image of CHKDSK

You may also be interested in the following passage to fix the type of the file system is RAW while running the CHKDSK command:

the type of the file system is RAW

Fixes for The Type of the File System Is RAW

Getting error message 'The type of file system is RAW. Chkdsk is not available for RAW drives'? Keep reading to fix. Read more >>

Method 3. Format the Not Formatted USB in Disk Management

If the two methods we have mentioned before cannot solve the problem, you have to format the USB drive to solve the problem. Don't worry. You can easily retrieve data from the storage device with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. Now, you can learn how to format a USB drive on Windows:

Step 1. Open Disk Management and find the target USB drive.

Step 2. Right-click the USB drive and choose "Format".

format USB drive

Step 3. Choose the file system and confirm the operation to start formatting. You can also convert FAT32 to exFAT with this method.

Step 4. After formatting the USB drive, reconnect it and recover the data.

unformat USB

Unformat USB | Download USB Unformat Tool 

Can you unformat a USB? Download the best unformat USB drive software to recover files from formatted USB flash drive. Read more >>

Method 4. Format USB Flash Drive to Fix the Not Formatted Error

After you have got back the data, you can format the USB to fix the not formatted error. The easiest way to format your USB is to use EaseUS free partition tool. This free tool can format a USB flash drive like Sandisk, Kingston, Panasonic, Lexar, Samsung, Sony, etc, easily in all complex cases. You can try the following guide to format your USB drive in simple steps. 

Step 1. Select the USB drive to format.

Connect the USB drive or pen drive to your computer. Download and launch EaseUS partition software. Right-click the USB drive you intend to format and choose "Format".

Step 2. Set the drive letter and file system on USB.

Assign a new partition label, file system (NTFS/FAT32/EXT2/EXT3/EXT4/exFAT), and cluster size to the selected partition, then click "OK".

Step 3. Check "Yes" to confirm the formatting USB.

Click "Yes" if you see the Warning window. If you have important data, back it up in advance.

Step 4. Apply the changes.

Click the "Execute 1 Task(s)" button first, and then click "Apply" to format the USB drive.

EaseUS Partition Master


After learning how to fix USB drives that are not formatted, you may resolve the problem. The most effective way to avoid data loss on a USB flash drive is to back up files and folders frequently. It is better to back up the data to another disk or the cloud. Don't forget to download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to regain data from USB drives without backups.

 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
 Download for Mac Trustpilot Rating 4.7

USB Flash Drive Not Formatted FAQs

If you need to learn more about USB flash drive not formatted error, you can keep reading the following questions and answers:

1. How to fix the external hard drive not formatted error?

The unable to format external hard drive error could arise due to a malware assault, unexpected ejection from your computer, or a power outage that corrupted the file system of your USB device. The external hard drive not formatted problem can be resolved by formatting the drive or by using CMD to repair the hard drive.

2. Why is my USB saying I need to format it?

This notice comes when your USB flash drive's file system is so broken or destroyed that your computer can no longer read it. Windows consequently inform the user that the USB must be formatted to be repaired.

3. How do I fix an unreadable flash drive without formatting?

You have three methods to fix an unreadable USB flash drive without formatting:

  1. 1. You can try to plug your USB flash drive into different USB ports.
  2. 2. Using the CMD command to repair the file system of your USB.
  3. 3. Using the TestDisk program to fix a corrupted USB flash drive.

4. How to recover data from a formatted USB drive?

It is possible to recover data from a formatted USB flash drive before your data has been overwritten. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard will be a good helper:

  1. 1. Scan the formatted USB drive with this software.
  2. 2. Select the deleted files and preview them.
  3. 3. Recover the lost files from your formatted USB flash drive.

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Updated by Dany

Dany is an editor of EaseUS who lives and works in Chengdu, China. She focuses on writing articles about data recovery on Mac devices and PCs. She is devoted to improving her writing skills and enriching her professional knowledge. Dany also enjoys reading detective novels in her spare time.

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Approved by Evan Galasso

Evan Galasso is a digital forensics and data recovery engineer with over 10 years of experience in the field. He presents opinions on the current state of storage media, reverse engineering of storage systems and firmware, and electro-mechanical systems of SSDs and HDDs.

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