By Ivy / Last update September 17, 2021

Why does my flash drive says it need to be formatted?

Sometimes, your computer will ask you to format the USB flash drive. That's to say, your flash drive may be corrupted or damaged. And you are not able to open USB stick and the data on it.

Then, I will list the common scenario in the following.

  • USB drive holds bad sectors and displays "disk needs to be formatted".

  • USB drive is blank or has an unsupported file system.

  • "Please Insert Disk into Removable Disk".

  • USB drive shows 0 bytes or "folder is empty".

  • The virus has infected the flash drive and corrupted the files in it.

  • "USB Device Not Recognized or Malfunctioned".

  • "You need to format the disk before using it".

When you receive one of the message above, you need to backup files before formatting first, then you have a chance to recover files from corrupted drive. If you directly format USB, all your files will go forever. 

2 solutions to fix a corrupted flash drive without losing data

When flash drive is corrupted, most users may choose to recover data first. Because it may contain their precious memories or work documents that cannot afford loss. Below are 2 useful ways you can try:

Solution 1: Recover data from flash drive using CMD

To recover data using CMD, just see below:

Step 1. Open CMD. You can press Win + R to summon the Run window, then type cmd.exe and click OK.

Step 2. Check if your drive has bad sectors. In the command prompt, type the following command and hit Enter.

chkdsk H: /f (H is the drive letter of USB drive. If your drive has a different drive letter, you can replace it.)


Step 3. Type Y If the drive is in use and hit Enter key to proceed. If the CMD does not prompt, you can see Step 4.

Step 4. Get the deleted files back. You can type the following command and press Enter to run it.

attrib ‚Äďh ‚Äďr ‚Äďs/s /d H: *.*

-h command assigns the Hidden attribute to the selected files.
-r refers to Read-only attribute: files are readable and cannot be changed.
-s assigns System attribute to the selected files.
/s implies to search the specified path including subfolders.
/d command includes process folders.

After all operation finish, you will find that all the recovered files are saved on your USB drive with a newly created folder. By default, the files will be in .chk format. But you still can change the file format and save it at the preferred location.

Solution 2: Recover files from backup image

If you create a file backup before formatting the drive, you can restore files from the backup image. If you have created a system/disk image instead, you still can use "Explore Image" feature to restore files. The best free backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard offers all the backup and restore features you need and all operations are quite simple. Download it right now!

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

To recover files from backup, use the following steps:

Open AOMEI Backupper Standard, click Restore at the initial screen, click Select Task or Select Image File to find the backup image, then select the files or folders you want to restore and decide where to restore the file, click Start Restore. 

Select Task

If you create other backup image, such as, disk backup, partition backup, you can still restore files from the image. AOMEI Backupper offers you a feature called Explore Image that allows you to do selective file restore via virtual partitions.

Explore Image


  • If you want more advanced features, such as, dynamic disk backup, USB plug-in backup, wake the computer to run scheduled task, command-line backup, and dissimilar hardware restore, you can upgrade to¬†AOMEI Backupper Professional.
  • To protect unlimited PC and Servers, you can also use AOMEI Backupper Technician Plus, which even enables you to¬†create a portable version¬†on removable device. With it, you can perform backup and restore on any target machine without installing.

5 solutions to fix a corrupted USB without formatting it

When your USB drive is damaged, you cannot directly format it. Because this operation will lead to data loss forever. Just stop using it and learn how to open USB without formatting in Windows 10, 8, 7 by the given solutions.

Solution 1: Test different USB ports on different computers

USB port can be one of the reasons that your flash drive does not work properly. I recommend you to check all the USB ports on your computer.

Solution 2: Assign a drive letter for USB via Disk Management

Sometimes, the computer cannot assign a drive letter for external USB drive owing some unknown reasons. Thus, you can plug your drive into the computer and manually assign a drive letter for it.

To assign drive letter for corrupted USB in Windows, see steps below:

Step 1. Press Win + R to open the Run windows and type diskmgmt.msc.

Step 2. Right-click your drive, select Change Drive Letter and Paths from the context menu.

Step 3. Click Add, select a drive letter in the drop-down menu and hit OK.

Step 4. See if you can open your drive and access your data.

Note: some users report that they cannot press Change Drive Letter and Path. There are two main reasons for it. First, the file system of USB is not FAT32 or NTFS. Second, the USB is write-protected. Thus, you can turn to a third-party tool like AOMEI Partition Assistant and change drive letter with it.

Solution 3: Fix a corrupted flash drive without formatting using chkdsk

The command chkdsk is used to check the file system and status of system drive, then it will fix the found errors. If the problem still exits, you can try this method.

Step 1. Go to command prompt, type chkdsk H: /r and hit Enter to run it.

Step 2. Wait patiently and type exit to leave this window if there is no problem.

Note: Some users receive the eror message when using this method, saying, "chkdsk is not available for raw drives". If you one of them, you can try method 4.

Solution 4: Fix corrupted USB with disk check utility

How to fix corrupted USB on windows 10, 8,7? You can use built-in disk check utility, which will scan your disk to find system errors, bad sectors and fix it. If there are bigger issues that it can’t fix, it will show you details.

Note: In different Windows, there is a little difference in expression. But, the steps are basically the same and you can follow the steps below.

To fix corrupted USB, follow the steps below:

Step 1. Connect USB drive to PC.

Step 2. Open the property of USB drive. Open Computer or This PC, right-click Removable Disk and open its Properties.

Step 3. Check and recover corrupted USB drive.

Click on Tools, tick the Check Now option and check Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors, then click Start to begin the scan process.

Win7 Properties

Step 4. Click Start to begin the scan process. Wait and click Close once the process complete.

Solution 5: Fix a corrupted USB drive with Device Manager

Step 1. Go to Control Panel and Device Manger. Also, you can directly type device manager in the search box and select it from the result list.

Step 2. Enable USB drive. Expand Disk Drive list and right-click on the USB drive and choose Enable, then wait patiently.

Enable Usb Drive

A little advice - What if you have formatted the USB flash drive?

Usually, when you are asked to format your USB drive, you will choose to format it. But, to be honest, this operation is not recommended, because it can delete all of your data on this drive. 

Don't be panic. Even if you've formatted the USB thumb drive, you still can restore your data. Because every file has its structure, including directory and blocks. When you format the drive, you just remove the directory of it. All your files are marked as unimportant and keep intact here.

You need to pay attention to the following things.

1. Stop using the USB drive.

2. Do not add new items to USB stick.

3. Do not reformat the USB flash drive.

That‚Äôs all about how to fix a corrupted flash drive without formatting it. You can pick one of the seven solutions described above according to your situation. To protect your computer, hard disk, flash drive from losing data, you may use free backup software ‚Äď AOMEI Backupper to back them up.