How to Fix USB Cannot Format Error & Recover Data


"Please help me out with my cannot format USB stick! I connect my 4GB USB key to my computer (running with Windows XP). When I attempt to access the key, an automatic message window keeps out saying 'the disk drive is not formatted, would you like to format now' Obviously it won't let me view my files or save any data to the format error USB key. So is there any way to fix the strange problem or at lease recover all my data stored on the USB key?"

Disk is not Formatted USB


Have you also encountered this or similar (see below) problems with your USB flash drive? We call it "USB format error". Keep reading for how to solve the Windows cannot format USB drive problem with step by step instructions. Please note: if this is the first time you meet the issue, do not format the drive immediately!


  • It says "The USB disk is not formatted, do you want to format it now?".
  • Windows refuses to format USB key or to access files in it.
  • Error code "the USB drive is not initialized".
  • USB showing error "There is no disk in drive F. Insert disk and then try again".
  • The USB key is inaccessible.
  • More similar USB formatting issues.

Possible Reasons

There are a lot of causes for this kind of USB not formatted error.

  • Incompatibilities exist between USB drive and Windows.
  • There are some buffers on your Windows that disable external drive services.
  • USB drive is corrupted/crashed due to improper usage such as strong pulling out, unexpected PC shutdown in process of data writing.
  • USB file system error. For example, usually a USB stick is originally formatted with FAT 16 or FAT32. But you format it to NTFS or other filesystem.


Fix Solution - Step by Step


Step 1: If this is the first time you meet this kind of error with your USB flash drive, do not format it. Unplug the drive and have a PC reboot. After that plug in the USB again, see if it will be normal. Sometimes this helps clear some system buffers. Still wouldn't help? Go to next step.


Step 2: Try your USB on another computer (better running with different OS such as Windows Vista/7/8 etc). If you don’t have one, try this on your friend's PC or Mac. Still the error occurs? Go to Step 3.


Step 3: Recover your USB data. If you have very valuable data on the drive, use data recovery software (click the link below to download) to retrieve the files as many as possible.




Step 4: Format the USB drive. Now it's the right time to format the drive. You have two options here to get it done:
**option 1: format it with Windows internal feature. Go to 'My computer' -> 'Management' -> 'Storage' -> 'Disk Management' -> highlight your USB disk here and choose format. If this way won’t help, go to option 2.

**option 2: format it with HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool. It will help for most cases.


Step 5: Again recover data from formatted USB. Re-try the above file recovery program to see if more data can be retrieved. Note: formatting won’t erase all the files because the data are still stored on your USB drive. They will really be wiped until new data overwritten the spaces they originally take.


Step 6: Re-connect the formatted USB drive to your PC. It should be accessed as normally again and all format error messages will be gone from your USB.



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