How to Format USB Flash Drives

By · Friday, April 16th, 2010

How to Format USB Flash DrivesFormatting a USB Flash drive isn’t something you hear on a daily basis, but is a very useful skill to know how to do if the situation arises. Formatting is useful for many things, including quickly deleting whole flash drives, repairing corrupted drives, as well as many others.

Formatting becomes particularly useful when you need to move very large files. Files over the size of 2GB generally cannot be moved onto USB drives because most drives are formatted in FAT32. To be able to move such a big file, you would need to format your flash drive from FAT32 to NTFS; which allows higher capacity files to be transferred at the cost of potential platform compatibility.

If you want to format your USB Flash Drive, follow these steps:

1. Make sure your computer is turned on, and then proceed to plug in your USB flash drive into an available USB slot anywhere on the computer.

2. At this point, wait till you computer has recognized that you have inserted a removable disc drive; which should happen automatically, before proceeding.

3. Once the drive has been recognized, click on “Start” and then “My Computer”. Once you have done this, right click the removable disk drive you have just inserted and an option menu should appear.Step 1: Click on “Start” & then “My Computer”

4. Click “Format” from this options menu.Step 2: Click “Format” from Options Menu

5. A dialogue box should appear, usually named “Format Removable Disk”.Step 3: A dialogue box named “Format Removable Disk” will appear

6. You should see multiple options including “Capacity”, “File System”, “Allocation Unit Size”, “Volume Label”, and three check boxes under “Format Options”. The capacity simply tells you what capacity drive you inserted. The allocation unit size details how the data will be laid out on the USB drive and the volume label is simply what you want to name the USB drive.

On most USB drives and operating systems, the capacity and allocation unit size Select will be stuck in default; leaving only the file system and volume label editable. Under file system, select an appropriate format (if you are not sure, leave this selection default). Most systems default to “FAT 32″.

*Change format to NTFS if moving files over 2GB and if your flash drive supports it.

7. Once you have selected the appropriate options, click the “Start” button.

8. A pop-up should appear informing you that the format action will erase all the data on the USB flash drive. At this point, double check you have copied all valuable information before proceeding. Click “OK” when you are ready for formatting.Custom Shaped Flash Drives

9. Your computer should reformat the USB drive fairly quickly and upon completion, your Flash drive should have no information and be formatted in the option of your choosing. It is recommended that you use the “Safely Remove Hardware” function that should be in your system tray to prevent any unforeseen complications.Final Step : USB Flash Drive Format Complete

10. Enjoy your newly formatted USB flash drive!


Great details on drive formatting! I like to rename my flash drives using the “Volume Label” when I format drives before I start storing any new project on a drive. It’s helpful so when I put the usb drive back in later the name that comes up with the drive has something to do with what I put on the drive.