How to Unformat Thumb Drive on a Windows PC: Free Methods

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reformat thumb drive on windowsDid you recently format your USB, only to realize afterward that you didn’t get a chance to back up the data stored on it? This can all happen within seconds. Once it’s done, you’re left frantically searching for a way to undo the process and get your data back.

If you’re wondering if it’s possible to unformat a thumb drive, we’ll explain the answer in this article, as well as how to get your lost data back.

Can You Unformat a USB Flash Drive?

There is no way to unformat a USB stick in the sense of reversing a format that recently took place. Once a format has taken place, the only way to unformat a USB is to format it again with a new file system or remove the file system entirely. However, it is possible to recover the data that was lost due to the formatting process. This is done using specialized data recovery software.

Before you unformat a flash drive with a new file system, you must recover the data that was lost in the initial format. While that data remains lost, it’s vulnerable to being overwritten by any new data that is written to the USB. Therefore, you don’t want to take any risks by formatting the USB again and then performing recovery.

How to Recover Files From a USB After Formatting

In some cases, formatting is necessary. Typically, Windows will insist that your USB needs to be formatted when it notices something wrong, such as corruption. If you’ve already formatted your USB that contained data, you still have a chance of recovering your lost files, as long as you performed a quick format and not a full format.

To recover the data, we recommend Disk Drill, a data recovery tool that’s designed for cases like this. It’s quick, easy to use, and offers up to 500 MB of free recovery before needing to upgrade.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Connect the formatted USB and select it in the device list. Click Search for lost data.Selecting the USB to scan with Disk Drill.
  3. Click Review found items once the scan is complete. Alternatively, click Recover all… to recover all of the data straight away.Seeing what Disk Drill found.
  4. Mark the files you want to recover. You can make it easier on yourself by using the preview panel and organizing the results with the filter buttons. When ready, click Recover.Recovering data from the USB.
  5. Select an appropriate recovery location. Make sure you’re not restoring the data to the same USB you’re recovering from. To finish recovery, click Next.recover selected files to another location

How to Unformat USB Drive on Windows

Once your data is safe and sound, you may want to unformat the USB by formatting it with a new file system. This may be necessary in cases where you accidentally formatted the USB with the incorrect file system.

We’ll guide you through how to unformat a USB drive so you can start using it again.

  1. Connect the USB.
  2. Right-click Start and click Disk Management.Opening Disk Management on Windows 10.
  3. Right-click the volume of the USB, then click Format.Choosing to format the USB thumb drive.
  4. Give the USB a name and select the file system you want to use. Also, be sure to select Perform a quick format. Click OK.Finish the USB format.
  5. Click OK again to finalize the format.

Following the recent format, the previously unformatted USB flash drive will now be ready to store data once again.

If you’re searching for a way to truly unformat a USB by removing its file system entirely, this can be accomplished using the HDD LLF Low Level Format Tool by HDDGuru. Bear in mind that this will make the USB raw, ready for a new file system.

How to Prevent Formatting Accidents

There are a few things you can do to ensure all future formats go smoothly, without error. Here are some quick tips:

Tip Description
🗃️ Choose the right file system Some devices only accept certain file systems. Typically, only compatible file systems will show as options, but bear this in mind if using third-party tools.
⏩ Always quick format Only in rare instances should you perform a full format. It’s best to go with a quick format because it’s fast and gives you a chance to recover your data if something goes wrong.
⏏️ Don’t remove the drive Never remove the storage device during a format. Doing so can cause the file system to become corrupted, leading to further complications.
💽 Back up the data Most importantly, if you need the data on the USB, back it up. This should go without saying though, as formatting, by design, deletes all of the data on your USB.


There is no way to unformat a USB that has recently been formatted. Instead, the only way to unformat a USB is to format it with a new file system again. However, it is possible to recover data from a recently formatted USB, so long as a quick format was performed and not a full format.

You can recover the data from the formatted USB using Disk Drill. After the data is restored, you can unformat the USB by formatting it with a new file system. This can be done by opening Disk Management and formatting the volume of the USB. Once the format is complete, you can begin writing data to the USB.