If you have ever formatted your USB flash drive by accident or incorrectly formatted it to the wrong file system, then you know the panic that sets in. All of your data is suddenly gone, you have no idea how to get it back, and in the worst case, your drive becomes unusable.
Fortunately, both of these problems can easily be solved by either reformatting the USB flash drive or unformatting it using data recovery software. In this article, we’ll go over how to unformat or reformat your pen drive and recover your data.
Do You Really Need to Unformat a Flash Drive?
In this section, we will talk about some common problems that can occur to your USB and in what conditions it would be best to unformat a USB drive.
Data Loss Reason
I need to recover data from a flash drive after formatting 📋
If you perform data recovery before your data is overwritten, you can easily retrieve it with a high chance of success.
My USB pen drive is showing the wrong size after formatting ⚠️
If you’ve formatted your pen drive and it shows the wrong storage size, reformatting it again using CMD should fix the problem.
I improperly created a bootable flash drive and want to roll it back 💽
An improperly created bootable flash drive might be challenging to format using File Explorer. However, you can roll back the changes by formatting it properly using the CMD.
I accidentally formatted the flash drive to FAT32 and want to unformat it to NTFS, exFAT, and vice versa ☠️
If you’ve formatted your flash drive using the wrong file system, you can reformat it using CMD.
My USB stick is not recognized 🚫
If your USB stick is not showing up in File Explorer and in the device manager, there’s a high chance it has been permanently damaged. If that’s the case, then contacting a professional data recovery service is the best option.
🔎 Pro Tip: While formatting your USB drive, it is important to set a suitable file type for it. If you have a pen drive with 4GB capacity or less, we recommend choosing FAT32. For larger storage drives, you can go for NTFS or exFAT file type.
How to Unformat a Flash Drive Using Data Recovery Tools
If you’ve accidentally formatted your pen drive and lost important data during the process, you can unformat it to recover your data back. And the easiest way of unformatting your flash drive is to use data recovery software like Disk Drill.
Disk Drill is one of the best USB recovery software out there as it can not only recover data from a formatted USB drive but can also perform RAW USB drive recovery and supports over 300 file formats.
Check out our complete Disk Drill review to learn more about its features and capabilities.
Your data recovery chances also depend on the type of formatting option you used while formatting your pen drive. A quick format deletes the files on your pen drive and recreates the file system without altering the files on your pen drive.
However, when you perform a full format of your pen drive, your OS not only deletes your files but also overwrites them with zeroes. This completely removes your files from your pen drive and makes it impossible to recover files without a backup.
Here’s how to recover data from your pen drive using Disk Drill:
- Download Disk Drill from the official website. Once the download is complete, install and launch the program.
- On the home screen, you’ll notice your primary as well as all other storage drives connected to your PC. Select the USB drive you want to perform recovery on and click Search for lost data to scan your storage for lost files.
- Disk Drill will scan the storage for all lost files. You don’t need to wait for the scan to finish, as you can click Review found items at any time and let the scan run in the background. Files will pop up in the list as Disk Drill finds them.👀
To make this job easy, Disk Drill comes packed with a bunch of features that can sort through files and filter them on the basis of type, size, and date of deletion, and you can even directly search for the file by name.
- In the next window, you can sort all the files Disk Drill has found based on type by selecting the file type on the left sidebar.
- You can also use the search bar to filter files by name to find them easily.
- You can also see the probability of a successful recovery next to each file.
- Find and select the files you want to recover. Then, click the Recover button to continue.
- Lastly, select a destination for your recovered files and click OK to finish the data recovery process.
All your files from your unformatted USB flash drive have now been safely stored on your PC in your provided folder.
How To Unformat (Reformat) USB Pen Drive Using CMD (Diskpart)
If you’ve formatted your USB drive to a wrong file system, or if your USB drive has corrupted due to improperly formatting or hindering the formatting process, most likely, it won’t function properly. You might see the drive listed in File Explorer, but when you open it to see its contents, you may get errors like
- The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
- The drive is not accessible.
- Please insert a disk into drive.
The worst part is that you might not be able to format the drive again using the traditional Windows formatting utility. Luckily, there are other ways to undo the improper formatting and also reformat the drive correctly using the Diskpart command in Command Prompt.
Here’s how to reformat your pen drive using CMD:
- Connect your USB flash drive to your PC.
- Go to your Windows Explorer search bar and type “cmd,” and run the tool as administrator.
- Now, type “diskpart” on the cmd interface.
- Type “list disk” and hit Enter.
- Then, enter “Select disk X” (where “X” represents the volume number your USB has been assigned).
- Command Prompt will print a message saying, “Disk X now the selected disk.“
- Now, type “Clean” and hit enter.
- Next, you need to repartition it by typing “create partition primary.”
- Finally, end the process by typing “format fs=fat32” and hitting Enter. You can choose any supported system file type other than fat32 if you want.👀
It can take up to a few minutes to format your drive using CMD.
- You have successfully formatted your USB drive.
Can Formatting End Up Damaging My Flash Drive?
Ideally, formatting your flash drive should not damage it. Most pen drives can be erased and rewritten between 10,000 and 100,000 times. However, it’s also not uncommon to run into errors while formatting your thumb drive and accidentally end up damaging it.
For example, if you cancel the formatting process midway, or your PC unexpectedly shuts down while you’re formatting your drive, you’re most likely going to end up with a corrupt pen drive. Not to mention, messing around with the command prompt can also damage your pen drive if you make the slightest mistake.
In most cases, these damaged pen drives either throw up an error saying, “You need to format USB drive X before using it” or “USB X:/ is not accessible.” Worst of all, your pen drive is not recognized on your computer when you plug it in.
Luckily, there are data recovery software like Disk Drill that can not only recover data from a corrupt pen drive but can also recover data from a physically damaged pen drive that does not even show up in the file explorer.
However, if the pen drive is severely damaged, either logically or physically, your best option is to send it to a data recovery service. That’s because they use advanced machines and tools to recover data that is beyond the scope of being recovered by a data recovery freeware. Naturally, you have a higher chance of getting your important data back.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take a look at a few commonly asked questions related to unformating a pen drive:
Yes, once you have formatted your USB storage device, it is possible to retrieve your data back using data recovery tools like Disk Drill. However, it is only possible to recover your deleted data if the USB has not been overwritten by new data.
Here’s how you can unformat your USB drive for free:
- Download and install Disk Drill on your computer.
- Connect the USB drive you need to unformat to your PC.
- Launch Disk Drill and scan the USB.
- Select the files you want to recover.
- Click Recover and select the desired destination path.
You can use Disk Drill for Mac to recover data from a formatted USB drive.
- Download and Install Disk Drill on your Mac.
- Connect your USB to your Mac.
- Launch Disk Drill and scan the USB.
- Select the files you want to recover.
- Click Recover and save your files.
If you’re looking for software to perform USB format recovery, there’s no better choice than Disk Drill. It is capable of recovering data from a corrupt pen drive and also performs broken flash drive recovery even if they don’t show up in the File Explorer or are inaccessible. It’s jam-packed with a ton of features and is compatible with Windows 10, 11, 8, 7, XP or Vista, and even macOS.
If your USB drive is not working properly or if it’s corrupt, formatting it can fix the problem. And you can format your USB drive without losing data if you create a byte-to-byte backup of your USB drive before formatting it. You can also directly restore your data from the USB drive by plugging it into your computer and using data recovery software that can recover data from a damaged Pen drive like Disk Drill.
In this article, we learned that it is possible to recover data from a formatted USB and went over the safe methods of formatting it. If none of these methods help you perform RAW USB drive recovery, you need to first make sure that your pen drive isn’t damaged. Although Disk Drill can retrieve data successfully up to some extent from faulty pen drives as well, in case of severe physical damage to the pen drive, it is best to seek help from a professional data recovery service.
Ojash started his tech journalism journey six years ago after quitting his job as an SEO analyst. Fueled by his passion for technology (and coffee), he writes how-to guides that help people solve problems with their computers and smartphones. When not writing, you can find him in his garage working on his electric cars or a new Arduino project.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.