How to Force Format USB When Windows was Unable to Complete the Format

Windows cannot format usb drive

Previously, we showed you how to properly format a USB drive. The process is very straightforward and shouldn’t take more than a minute to complete. After formatting, you are supposed to get this success message:

But, there may be times when Windows can not format your pen drive. For example, you plug your drive into the port of a computer, you right-click on the disk icon and select “Format”, but it popped up an error:

“Windows was unable to complete the format”

So, what’s wrong? Does that mean your USB drive is broken? Not really!

In this article, we are going to show you how to fix this weird Windows formatting error and how to force format a USB drive. All you need to do is follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Typical Errors When Windows Can’t Format USB

Depending on the operating system (Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP) you are using, the error messages may vary from case to case. Here are the common ones:

  • Windows was unable to complete the format.
  • The disk is write protected.
  • The USB disk is not formatted, do you want to format it now?
  • The USB drive is not initialized.
  • The operation did not complete because the media is write protected.
  • There is no disk in the drive. Insert the disk and then try again.
  • Windows refuses to format your USB key or access files.
  • Other force format error messages.

Possible causes for those formatting errors also vary. For example, the flash drive is corrupted due to improper ejection or an unexpected PC shutdown. There might also be compatibility issues between your flash drive and the PC.

Another common reason is a file system error. For example, normally a new flash drive is initiated with FAT-32. It’s possible that you (or the person who uses it) might have reformatted it into NTFS or another file system.

Why Do File System Matter?

I want to use an analogy a reader shared with us earlier.

A flash drive is essentially like a book, the data is the words in the book, the format is the paper that the words are printed on – different book publishers use different kinds of paper.

Now you understand. Let’s go back to the topic.

Before Formatting Your USB Drive

Make sure that you’ve already backed up the data stored on your flash drive.

Also, if you happen to have access to another computer, try inserting the USB drive into that PC and then see if the drive can be accessed or formatted successfully. Sometimes this helps clear the compatibility or buffer issues.

If that doesn’t help, follow the guide below.

Fixing “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format”

Simply put, you need to go to Disk Management and re-format the drive. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Insert your flash drive into a PC.
  2. Move the cursor to the bottom left corner. Right-click on the Windows icon.
  3. Select Disk Management.
  4. Highlight the disk your flash drive represents, right click and choose New Simple Volume.
  5. Now select the formatting options, make sure under File System you choose FAT-32 or exFAT.
  6. Click “Next” to complete the rest procedure.

If this doesn’t work out, use the command line to initiate the drive. This video has more:

How to Force Format USB When Windows Says Disk is Write Protected

Note: our PC is running Windows 10 thus all the screenshots below are taken based on Windows 10. If you’re on Windows 11, they will look slightly different.

Step 1: In the search bar, type “Regedit” and click the regedit app icon to run it.

Step 2: In Registry Editor, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control.

Step 3: Right-click Control folder, select New > Key.

Step 4: Now rename the New Key #1 folder into StorageDevicePolicies.

Step 5: Right-click on StorageDevicePolicies folder, select New, and QWORD (64-bit) Value if your PC is running with a 64-bit version, or DWORD (32-bit) Value if it’s with 32-bit.

Hint: see this Microsoft article to check whether your computer is running a 32-bit version or 64-bit version.

Step 6: Now rename the New Value #1 folder into WriteProtect.

Step 7: Double click the WriteProtect folder, change the Value data: into “0” and Base to “Hexadecimal”, click “OK.”

Step 8: Close RegEdit by clicking the “X” icon.

Step 9: Open “This PC” (Windows 10) or “My Computer” (Windows Vista/XP), refresh it 5 times without doing anything to your USB drive, and properly eject the flash drive.

Step 10: Now plug your USB drive again into your computer and format it to exFAT instead of FAT32.


Still Didn’t Work?

It’s time to use a third-party utility. We recommend this one called HP USB Disk Format Tool.

First off, you need to download the utility from CNET. Then, install the utility on your Windows PC. Run the program and follow the tutorial in this video:

Note: Using the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool will restore your flash drive to the original capacity and every bit of data will be erased permanently.

Final Words

So that’s all we wanted to share in this article. How do you like this troubleshooting guide? Have you managed to fix the Windows unable to complete the format error on your USB?

Let us know which formatting method worked for you, or which step you are stuck in. Leave a comment below.

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    Only the HP USB Disk Format Tool worked for me, so YaY ! However it also failed me for one of my flash drives, so Booo ! 50/50 is better than I started with ????????????

  • Jeevan panigrahi

    thank you so much article is very much helpful

  • Mushahid

    I tried everything, but nothing worked. My pen drive is readable in my laptop but I am unable to cut paste anything into and from it. Also, I am unable to format it on my laptop, however it works perfectly on other pc. Need help

  • naeem

    No solution working

  • mohammad

    man, thank you a lot. that worked for me! i was hopeless with all third party and pubs about selling products. this worked and i’m really thankfull.

  • Maggie

    Thank you so much, I was able to format my USB Drive. But after formatting it, it was unable to copy files to it. It says the device is accessible,please help me with that too.

    Thank you.

    • Maggie

      I mean it is not accessible.

  • zwakele

    thank you for stright forward answers,excellent skills

  • Fabiano

    It worked. Thanks a lot. Had almost given up tried over a dozen different methods.!!

  • Jeevan Pranav

    thanks done super

  • Voren

    Hi, I have lg 32gb otg flashdrive, I forgot it inserted on my vivo phone overnight on the next day, ist not working anymore. I tried to format my otg flashdrive many times still not working, I did the same to my phine yet its still not working. My otg flashdrivs is recognize by computers it has 7gb used space yet the drive is empty. Can you help me how to fix it?

  • Carl Hawkings

    Tried your 10 steps, and other 3rd party and other methods and still it says the USB is write protected. I have tried on 3 separate computers so it is nothing to do with the USB Port. Patriot 256GB, hispec. Just became unreadable after a year of problem free use. It was encrypted. Don’t need to recover the data just want to format it and start using it again. Any thoughts?

  • vic

    great article. it just worked for me. thanks to this team…am in Kenya!

  • Chriss

    My flash shows disk is write protect

    I cant even open it, it only shows in my laptop but not open

  • Ahmad Said

    The hpusbdisk didn’t wotk for me. My usb is 128gb. I tried formatting it in ubuntu which didn’t work also. Please help. And thanks in advance

  • Muhammad Iqbal

    Hy Jessica Carrell
    I am Muhammad Iqbal from Lahore Pakistan and request you to please guide me that some of my USBs creating problem i.e. “Not Formatting” or “Write Protector”. I have used all ways of your but in vain.
    Please guide me as soon as possible
    Thanks a lot
    May Allah Bless on You

  • Bob Shepherd

    No luck. Followed regedit procedure and still got
    device (NEXXTECH 64GB thumb drive) is write protected. Then downloaded HPUSBDisk.exe and ran it. No change. Still get same message when I format. Drive has 10 files which I no longer need and want to reuse the drive. Files 2 -10 seem to be readable but 1st file seems corrupted. Because of write protect I can’t delete it or remove by reformatting the drive.

  • George Moskov

    HP USB Disk Format Tool is working for me.

  • JB

    well, easiest solution: buy a new flashdisk. end of story

  • James

    I’ve tried all of the above and none work and it says it cannot do it because it’s write-protected.

  • Andy

    It didn work (windows 8.1) but it was a a noble effort anyway, thank you. Will try the Asus thing.

  • usman

    right click and open onkingston USB gives following error
    please insert a disk into removable disk z
    formatting a usb gives the following error
    there is no disk in drive z
    insert a disk, and then try again.

    running command prompt in administrator mode(in Normal and Safe mode)
    entering diskpart
    then enter list disk
    then enter select disk
    then enter make partition primary
    then enter clean gives the following error message
    virtual disk error
    there is no media in the device.

    is it possible to solve this problem?

  • Karan

    Thank you bro PC show me can’t format pen drive but after watching your helpful video I Slove this problem and pen drive working perfectly?

  • Dovydas

    i did everything step by step and i still get error: unable to write data to disk. tried to clean it up, then it says is write protected…

  • Kofi

    Great tips thanks just recovered my drive i had asked my younger brother to do and was giving me the run around.

  • dr moti

    look me the process work with windows but not windows10 laptop

  • mad

    Formating to ExFat helps me 🙂

  • Renee

    This was very helpful, thank you

  • Yamil Domenech

    I tried everything you said and it starts to work , but then it says there is no volume and therefore no partition, at least it shows up on CMD prompt and it allows me to see the USB drive but there are no Volumes or partition in it how can I fix this in cmd prompt . I downloeaded the tool but it does not see any media in the selected usb drive any ideas how can I create a partition and volume for it ? Just in case I have Win 7 on a Dell Laptop!

  • kiran

    when ever i tried formatting my usb it says “windows was not able to complete the action”. And if i tried formatting using cmd then it gets ejected automatically.
    i’m using win 8.1 please help me.

  • kay

    is it possible to make a usb device reusable after device has been disabled by someone on accident?

  • Jacko1102

    sorry guys any of those methods worked for me, still the device tell me that is write protected, and appears in the administration windows with RAW format

  • Earth Green

    Thank you very much it worked really well and really quickly. Genius software. Great article and well written!! Thanks again!

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      You are welcome! Glad that it worked for you.

  • patrick louw

    i cannot format my usb dvice windows shows that it was unable to format it so what should i do next please could your help me because there are very important work on it

  • Prasad

    Nothing was working…. but HP USB Disk storage format worked …thnx

  • Eugene

    Hello. I followed each step exactly as you stated, including having to use the third -arty formatting. Still get that, “Windows could not complete format, USB drive is write protected”. Help!. I have a 29GB USB and a 16GB USB having the same problem.

  • Toni Panelo

    It worked for meee! Thank you so much and may God bless you more!

  • Jim

    Failed at the first hurdle, I’m afraid. There was no Disk Management option when I right clicked the windows icon.

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Which Windows version is your PC running?

  • Iqtidar Ali shah

    Write protect did work for me Thank you very much

  • sketch

    Hi jess. Can I still follow the instructions if my USB is slightly broken at the tip?

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Well, I think that would be hard. The solution only works when your Windows PC can detect the drive.

  • Rebirth

    I recently purchased a USB flashdrive, I formatted it and stored files on it. Problem now is, it’s asking I re-format. I have tried all methods; disk management, it doesn’t see any volumes, command; when its time to clean disk, it doesnt recognise the drive; on EaseUS, it keeps indicating ‘unallocated’
    What should I do?

  • Maria Alejandra

    It did not work for me, :c
    it just says “the device is write protected”
    but that is not true because that USB memory does not have that function

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      We have updated the article. See the 10-step guide section for how to fix that write-protected error.

  • Dami

    You are a genius, thanks so much for your help

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      No problem!

  • Emmanuel Banda

    I wanted to do the step 4 but i did not manage to find new simple volume after right clicking on the driver i wanted to open. Would you help please. I am using windows 10 computer.

  • ajaz ahmad

    I am not able to format my USB pendrive in any method using cmd,diskpart,and third party apps also what to do now

    • susilo

      Windows was unable to complete the format , how to solve it

  • Nur

    Hello, Ihave tried all of your explanations, before I read this site. But still no result,, Okey, here is my usb case,, Its not detect on win7, end the winows massage is “There is an i/o error “, And I have tried to fix it wiyh diskpart command but it doesnt work for me.?? My flashdisk is not detectn and the volume is LBA 0, Can anyone tell me how to recover data from that broken flashdisk.??.Thank you..guys.

    • jeremy

      so that means that the actual usb slot in your pc is broken. you gotta take it to a repair shop or buy a new pc.

  • Cijo Cyril

    Finally it worked with HP Format Tool but failed while trying with user mode. Boot pc to safe mode & try. Thanks

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      Good to know.

  • richard

    many thanks worked a treat

  • Thelma

    Hi Jessica, I have a Toshiba laptop. I can’t seem to get into my computer. I can’t remember my password and it won’t let me reset my password. A message that says: No Drive this feature requires removable media, such as a USB Flash Drive. please connect a USB Flash Drive, and then try again. I have never used a flash drive to this computer. Did someone use a flash drive and did not take it out properly. How do I fix this problem?

    P.S thank you, for listening can you help me or is better to buy a new computer?

  • Bolham

    G’day Jess!
    No joy with any of the above alas.
    I had to to re-format a Lexar16gb USB-drive from FAT32 to NTSF to accommodate a large video file and play on TV. Now my Alienware WIN7 Pro laptop will not recognise the USB apart from displaying it in My Computer, Device Manager, Computer Management lists as Removable Disk (G:).
    I have tried checking n re-formating this USB in another Win7 PC. I have tried checking n re-formating this USB in another Win7 PC, XP Pro laptop n MacBook Pro laptop with no success.

  • fernando peres

    I tried all procedures herein publicated but nothing worked up. when USB is plugin the icon is shown for a while then disappear. Al time there is no volume to work with.

  • Bongani

    Thank you u really helped me I managed to fix my USB drive thanks a lot wooow

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      You are welcome. Glad that you fixed it!