Formatting USB stick on Windows PC

Formatting a USB stick prepares the device so that data can be stored on it. Most USB sticks are formatted and ready to use when you buy them, but some need to be formatted before they can be used.

Formatting can also be used to delete all files on the stick and to repair a damaged stick. Here are details in which we completely discussed how to format USB on Window PC.

Formatting the USB stick

IMPORTANT – Before formatting, remember to copy the files you want to keep, as all data on a USB key will be deleted during formatting.

  • Insert your USB stick into the computer
  • Windows Explorer probably opens automatically
  • Otherwise, you can open Explorer with the Win + E keyboard shortcut
  • Find your USB stick in Explorer
  • It probably has the drive designation D or E
  • If you have not changed the name of the device yourself, then it is probably called Kingston, Sandisk or whatever brand your USB is now. In the example, I have renamed the device to the HELP DESK
  • Right-click on the USB and select Format
  • Select File System (as described below)
  • You can possibly change the Disk Device Name on the USB
  • The name you want the USB to appear with in Explorer
  • If your USB is not defective or faulty, then you can use Express Formatting. If you uncheck Express Format, your USB stick will be checked for errors and Windows will try to correct any errors it may find.
  • Click Start
  • After formatting, your USB is ready to transfer new documents, images, etc.

The procedure for formatting a USB stick is the same as that used for other USB devices and flash drives.

If you want to protect the files on your USB key with a password so that unauthorized persons cannot access them, read the article Protect a USB key with a password

Which file system should your USB stick have?

Before starting the formatting, select the file system you want to use on your USB stick. There are different types of files, depending on how you use the stick.

It may seem a bit confusing to choose the right one, but read on and get wiser on the right file system.

In Windows you will be able to choose between the NTFS, FAT, FAT32 and exFAT file systems. However, if your USB stick is larger than 32GB, you will only have to choose between NTFS and exFAT.

NTFS – (New Technology File System) If you only use your USB stick from Windows computers, then NTFS is a good choice. It is possible to store large files (over 4GB). The transfer of files to and from NTFS is a bit slower than FAT32, but hardly something you will notice. MAC computers can read the files on a device formatted with NTFS, but not write to it.

FAT – (File Allocation Table) Old file system originally used for MS-DOS. FAT can be used with most operating systems, but not on drives larger than 4GB.

FAT32 – This is the format your computer probably suggests by default, on USB sticks below 32GB. It can be used on almost any computer, regardless of operating system. However, FAT32 has the limitation that you can not save files larger than 4GB.

exFAT – This formatting works on both Windows and MAC computers and supports large files. A good option if you share your USB stick between multiple operating systems.

The conclusion must be that it is optimal to use NTFS if you only use your USB device on a Windows computer. If you share your USB device between Windows and MAC, use exFAT.

Which file system is the USB key formatted with

It is possible to check which file system a USB stick is formatted with.

  • Insert your USB stick into the computer
  • Open This Computer (can be opened with Win + E)
  • Locate your USB Stick and right-click on it
  • Select Properties
  • Under File system you can see which file system is used
  • Here you can see a selection of different SanDisk USB keys.

Hope so you understood how to format USB in Windows, have you any quires related to content then ask through the comments box.

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