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How to Format a USB Drive in Windows

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Introduction

USB drives are great for carrying or backing up data. Formatting is the process that erases all existing data on a USB drive and sets up the file system it will use. The file system is what tells the drive how to store the data that is to be written to, read or deleted from it. The type of file system that is needed on a USB drive varies depending on the type of device it will be used with.

While most devices will alert you if you connect a USB drive with an incompatible file system that needs to be formatted, refer to your device's documentation to find out what file systems are compatible with your device.

This guide will show you how to format a USB drive using a Windows PC.

Windows 10 Logo.

Types of USB Drives

While the process to format USB drives is the same, they may come in different physical forms:

  • USB flash drives
    USB Thumbdrives.
  • External USB hard drives or solid state drives
    USB external drive.

1 Format a USB Drive with a Windows PC

Any and all data on the USB drive will be destroyed during this process. Make sure the drive is blank, or copy the data to a safe place before proceeding.

  1. Insert a USB drive into your USB port.
  2. Open Windows Explorer.
    Windows Explorer.
  3. In the left-hand pane, locate your USB drive under This PC.
    Explorer left-pane with USB Disk highlighted.
  4. Using your right mouse button, right click on your USB drive. A menu will open up.
    USB Disk Right-Click menu.
  5. Select Format...
    USB Disk Right-Click menu with Format highlighted.
  6. Select the File system you'd like the drive to have and type in a name for the Volume label.
    Format dialog with File system and Volume label highlighted.
  7. Select Start.
    Format dialog with Start button highlighted.
  8. A message will open, reminding you that any and all data will be lost. If you are sure this is okay, select OK.
    Format warning dialog with OK highlighted.
  9. Once the drive is done formatting, a message will open to tell you it is complete. Select OK.
    Format Complete dialog with OK highlighted.

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USB drives are great for carrying or backing up data. Formatting is the process that erases all existing data on a USB drive and sets up the file system it will use. The file system is what tells the drive how to store the data that is to be written to, read or deleted from it. The type of file system that is needed on a USB drive varies depending on the type of device it will be used with.

While most devices will alert you if you connect a USB drive with an incompatible file system that needs to be formatted, refer to your device's documentation to find out what file systems are compatible with your device.

This guide will show you how to format a USB drive using a Windows PC.

Windows 10 Logo.

Types of USB Drives

While the process to format USB drives is the same, they may come in different physical forms:

  • USB flash drives
    USB Thumbdrives.
  • External USB hard drives or solid state drives
    USB external drive.

Any and all data on the USB drive will be destroyed during this process. Make sure the drive is blank, or copy the data to a safe place before proceeding.

  1. Insert a USB drive into your USB port.
  2. Open Windows Explorer.
    Windows Explorer.
  3. In the left-hand pane, locate your USB drive under This PC.
    Explorer left-pane with USB Disk highlighted.
  4. Using your right mouse button, right click on your USB drive. A menu will open up.
    USB Disk Right-Click menu.
  5. Select Format...
    USB Disk Right-Click menu with Format highlighted.
  6. Select the File system you'd like the drive to have and type in a name for the Volume label.
    Format dialog with File system and Volume label highlighted.
  7. Select Start.
    Format dialog with Start button highlighted.
  8. A message will open, reminding you that any and all data will be lost. If you are sure this is okay, select OK.
    Format warning dialog with OK highlighted.
  9. Once the drive is done formatting, a message will open to tell you it is complete. Select OK.
    Format Complete dialog with OK highlighted.