How do I format a flash drive?

Updated: 01/24/2018 by Computer Hope

16GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB Flash DriveBelow are the steps on how you can format a flash drive on a computer. Click either of the links below, depending on where you want to format the drive.

Format a flash drive from Windows

  1. Insert the flash drive into a USB port on a computer. Note that if you haven't used it with this particular computer before, it may need to install as a plug-and-play device.
  2. Once the drive is ready, find the drive letter using My Computer.
  3. Right-click the drive letter icon/name for the device (for instance, it may say something similar to "USB Disk (E:)").
  4. In the context menu, click Format and the Format USB Disk window, similar to the picture below, will be shown.

Format USB flash drive in Windows

Select an available choice for each option shown (these will typically be preset to the best options available for the drive and some may not have any additional choices). The options available are Capacity, File system, Allocation unit size, Volume Label, and Format options.

Click Start to format the flash drive.

Format a flash drive from the Windows command line

format commandTo format a flash drive, you must first identify the drive letter of the flash drive. Typically, when connected to the computer, the flash drive becomes the last drive letter. For example, if your CD-ROM or disc drive was the D: drive and that is the last drive letter, the flash drive would become the E: drive.

To make sure you are formatting the correct drive, we recommend listing and viewing the files on the drive. After verifying it is the correct drive, you can format the drive.

  1. From the command prompt, type the drive letter of the flash drive. For example, if the drive letter was "E", type E: and press Enter.
  2. Once at the E:\> prompt or the letter of your drive, type dir and press Enter to get a directory list.
  3. If you recognize the files as the files being on the flash drive, type c: to get back to the hard drive.
  4. Type format x: (where "x" is the letter of your flash drive) and press Enter.

Tip: If you want to do a quick format, you can use the /q switch with the command (e.g., format x: /q).

  1. Press Enter again when ready to format the drive and wait until it is complete.
  2. Once complete, label the drive and press Enter to finish.
  • See our format command page for further information and other options available with this command.

Additional information

  • See our jump drive definition for further information and related links.