By Emily / Last Updated April 21, 2021

Overview of “Windows can’t format USB”

Generally speaking, Windows can format USB drive very easily; but sometimes they cannot and pop out various error messages. Depending on the operating systems (Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP) you are using now, the message might be different. Here are some typical Windows unable to format USB errors.

◆The operation did not complete because the media is write-protected/ The disk is write-protected.

Disk Write Protected

Windows was unable to complete the format.

Windows Cannot Format Usb

The format did not complete successfully.

The Format Did Not Complete Successfully

Why Windows cannot format USB drive?

As covered above, the formatting errors are different from each other, so the possible causes for that Windows can’t format USB drive varies a lot. We list some main causes for your reference.

▶Virus infection: if you usually plug USB drives into a public computer, there are strong chances that you accidentally download malware onto the USB drive. Then please run anti-virus software to clear virus.

▶USB drives have bad sectors: when your USB devices have the bad sectors, the formatting operation will be disrupted and fail.

▶USB devices suffer physical damage: if your USB drive is suffering physical damaged, the chip or circuit board might not work anymore. Then Windows will not be able to use it, not to mention to format it. Then you need to go to professional repair center to replace the malfunctioned components to make it workable again.

USB drive is read only: sometimes the USB devices might be set into read only mode by accident, thus you need to first remove this write protection attribute, then format it.

How to format USB drive successfully in Windows 10/8/7?

If you cannot format your USB drive (USB flash drive, external hard drive, SD card, pen drive, etc.) through traditional process, then you can try to format that drive with the following two methods.

Before that, please make sure you have backed up important files since all data will be destroyed once the drive is formatted. If this USB drive is not accessible before you decide to back up data, then you had better use professional data recovery software to perform file recovery first of all.

Method 1. Format USB drive via Command Prompt

When Disk Management or File Explorer does not allow you to format USB drive, you can use Command Prompt. Follow steps below to check whether it can format USB drive smoothly.

Step 1. Click “Start” button, input “cmd” in the Search box and press “Enter”, then you will see the pop-out Command Prompt icon, right click it and select “Run as administrator”.

Step 2. Type “diskpart” in the Command Prompt window and press “Enter” to launch diskpart service.

Step 3. Type “list disk” and press “Enter”. Then you can see all partitions and disks on your computers. All listed with numbers.

Step 4.Type “select disk #” and press “Enter”. # is the drive letter of your USB drive. Here we select disk 1.

Step 5. Type “clean” and press “Enter”.

Step 6. Type “create partition primary” and hit “Enter”.

Step 7. Type “format fs=ntfs quick” or “format fs=fat32 quick” and hit “Enter”. This command will format USB drive to NTFS or FAT32.


PS.: if the USB drive is write-protected, you can add command: “attributes disk clear readonly” between step 4 (clean command) and step 5 (create partition primary) to remove the write protection first, then format it.

Method 2. Format USB device via freeware

If the Command-Line does not work as expected, or that method is complicated for you, you can switch to the free partition manager named AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. This freeware works well on all editions of Windows 10/8/7/XP/Vista (32-bit and 64-bit). If the Windows can’t format USB drive because it is write-protected or corrupted because of the damaged file system, then you can try this tool.

Besides, it supports checking bad sectors for local and USB drive as well. Now download the freeware and install it. Then follow the steps to force format USB drive.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 1. Double click the AOMEI Partition Assistant icon to launch it. In its main interface, right click the USB drive to be formatted and select “Format Partition”.

Format exFAT Partition

Step 2. In this window, you can select a desirable file system (ex: FAT32) for the USB drive, and click “OK”.

Format exFAT To FAT32

Step 3. Back to the main interface, click “Apply” and then “Proceed” to initiate the pending formatting operation.


Note: If Windows cannot format USB to FAT32 because it is over 32GB, you can also use this free partition manager, which breaks out the limitation of Windows built-in tools, and is able to format large hard drive to FAT32 easily.


Now you know how to solve it when Windows can’t format USB drive. Diskpart and AOMEI Partition Assistant are great tools for hard drive formatting tasks. Worth to mention that the latter one is more versatile since it can also allow you to resize/merge/move/clone/wipe USB partition.

Moreover, you can enjoy more useful and advanced features after upgrading to Professional, such as migrating OS to SSD, splitting a large partition into several small ones, aligning partitions, restore deleted partition on USB drive, etc.