4 Ways to Recover Data from a Formatted USB Flash Drive

This post covers 4 easy methods on how to recover data from a formatted flash drive. Read through it and get back your formatted data easily. The most effective method is using data recovery software.


By Kelsey / Updated on April 2, 2024

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Can I recover my formatted USB for free?


I have a USB flash drive that I use for school. I recently plugged it into my laptop and formatted it by accident, but there were some quite important files on it. How to recover data from a formatted flash drive? Is there any help?

USB flash drive, also known as a pen drive, USB stick, or USB thumb drive, is a plug-and-play portable data storage device that includes flash memory with an integrated USB interface.

However, you may accidentally format your USB drive or in situations requiring formatting, say you need to format the disk before you can use it. Thankfully, formatted flash drive data is not completely irrecoverable. And we will show you 3 methods to recover data from formatted flash drives.

  • virus infection.
  • incorrect removal of USB drive.
  • RAW file system.
  • bad sectors.
  • disk errors like USB not recognized or Please insert a disk into a removable disk.

What happens to a flash drive when it is formatted?

Formatting a USB drive is a process to set a file system, drive letter, disk capacity, etc for your drive and make it usable for data storage. Usually, Windows use the quick format method to delete everything on a flash drive and mark the used space as “free” for new data. In this case, your files are just hidden and recoverable. 


But if you uncheck the quick format option, the format operation will be executed using the full format method. It will write zeros on every sector containing data thereby making data on these spaces overwritten. In this case, your data is not recoverable.

How to recover data from a formatted flash drive

The success rate to recover data from a formatted flash drive depends heavily on if the data is overwritten. So please stop using this drive immediately, especially adding new data to it. Meanwhile, disconnect this drive and keep it in a safe place until you are ready to perform USB drive data recovery.

Way 1. Recover data from formatted USB drive via data recovery tool|Easiest

MyRecover is top-ranked data recovery software that enables you to recover files from formatted USB flash drives, pen drives, SD cards, and other internal and external hard drives.

  • Two advanced scanning methods - Quick Scan and Deep Scan: The scanning methods will run automatically and is able to find out all the deleted or lost files on a formatted drive.
  • 200+ file types: You can use it to recover Word documents, Excel, PPT, pictures, videos, etc without damaging their quality.
  • Selective file recovery: It allows you to recover files from a specific folder by typing file name or use its Filter feature.
  • Multi-system compatibility. It supports Windows 7, 8, 10, 11, etc and Windows Server.

Now download and install this Windows data recovery tool - MyRecover. Then follow the steps below and learn how to recover data from a formatted pen drive in simple steps.

Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 1. Connect the formatted USB drive and run Windows data recovery software - MyRecover. On the main page, hover the mouse over the USB flash drive and click Scan.​

Select The Formatted Partition To Scan

Step 2. This program will scan the flash drive quickly and deeply to find out deleted files and other missing files. You can search or view files displayed in the following.

Scanning Formatted Partition


  • You can filter files through file name or file type, date modified, size and path in the Filter features. It is able to recover files from a specific folder.
  • You can click the Stop or Pause button if you select the wrong disk or something goes wrong.

Step 3. During scanning, you could recover any file you want. Or wait for the final result and select all the files or folders in it. Then, confirm and click "Recover xxx files".​

Select Files To Recover From Formatted Partition

Note: MyRecover displays the number of lost files to be recovered and their full size. You can use this to determine if you have selected all the lost files in this location.

Step 4. Select a new folder to store the deleted or lost files and click Select Folder to confirm it. It will automatically recover files from your flash drive. Don’t save them to original location as it may cause data corruption or permanent data loss.

Select Folder


  • MyRecover allow users to recover deleted or lost files for free, up to 500MB in total. To recover unlimited files, try advanced editions.
  • You still can use it to recover files from formatted hard drive, recover files lost in cut and paste, fix Seagate external hard drive files not showing up. etc.

Way 2. Recover files from formatted flash drive via Windows File Recovery

Windows File Recovery is a free command-line data recovery software from Microsoft for recovering lost files from locally connected devices like local disks, USB flash drives, HDDs, and SSDs. It is more suitable for experienced users since it lacks a graphical user interface. And, any small error in the command line may cause data recovery to fail.

✎Some basic points about using the winfr command line tool:

  • It is only available for Windows 10 version 2004 and later.
  • It supports file systems like NTFS, ReFS, FAT, and exFAT.
  • The common command line to recover data is winfr source-drive: destination-drive: [/mode] [/switches].

Learn how to recover files from formatted USB flash drive free with Windows File Recovery below.

Step 1. Install Windows File Recovery on your computer. After installation, type “Windows File Recovery” in the Windows search box and select Run as administrator.​

Windows File Recovery Run As Adminstrator

Step 2. Check the file system of your formatted flash drive. Right-click the USB drive and select Properties. And then, choose a recovery mode based on file system and scenarios.

Check File System

File system




Deleted recently



Deleted for a while



Formatted disk



corrupted disk


FAT and exFAT



Step 3. Check the meaning of winfr.exe switches and type command based on its syntax, recovery mode & switches.

To recover your ZIP files from C: drive to D: drive in a Regular mode, type as follows: winfr C: D: /regular/n *.zip



Supported mode(s)


Filter the scan range: scans for a specific file with its file name/path/type, etc.



Recover specific extension groups.



Recovers system files.

NTFS Segment​​​​​


Recovers undeleted files, for example, from the Recycle Bin.

NTFS Segment

Way 3. Recover data from formatted flash drive with Backup and Restore

Backup and Restore is a free backup software for Windows 7, which is inherited in later versions of Windows 8, 10, 11, etc. If you create a copy of your files with it, you can try to restore files from formatted flash drive using backup image created beforehand.

Step 1. Go to Control Panel > System and Security Restore your files with File History under File History.​

Restore Files with File History

Step 2. Click on the Restore personal files position.​

Restore Personal Files

Step 3. It will display the most recent backup of your files. Check if the data on the formatted flash drive are there. If not, click the left arrow to check the previous backup or the right arrow to back to the recent backup. Finally, click on the Restore button to recover files from a formatted USB flash drive free.​

Restore Deleted File

Way 4. Recover files from a formatted USB drive using CMD

There is a chance that your drive is infected by virus and your files are hidden. Or the flash drive become damaged instead of being formatted. To get your files back, try chkdsk & attrib command to repair USB drive and unhide files on it.

Step 1. Type cmd in the search box and select Run as administrator.

Step 2. Type chkdsk *: /f and press Enter. The * stand for the drive letter of your USB drive.


Note: The chkdsk command only works for recognized drive. If your drive becomes RAW, you may receive the CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives error.

Step 3. You may be asked to run this command at the next system startup if the drive is locked. Type y and press Enter to confirm this.

Step 4. Restart your system and wait for the disk check process to complete. Type the drive letter in CMD and press Enter.

Step 5. Type attrib -h -r -s /s /d *.* and press Enter. All the recovered files will be saved in .chk format. You can change them to the original format and save to a new location.


Further reading: error about “USB drive not formatted”

Sometimes when you plug in your flash drive, you may receive the “USB drive not formatted” error like the disk in drive D: is not formatted or You need to format the disk in drive D: before you can use it. Don’t click Format disk unless you know there is no important data on this disk.

Format Disk in Drive D:

Both of them indicate that your drive has file system errors, such as corrupted, missing, or incompatible file system. Also, this error may occur due to outdated drivers, bad sectors, abrupt eject, power failure, etc.

The simplest method to see if this error happens again is to try a different USB port, USB cable, or machine. If you still get this error, try to update disk drivers, check the file system & disk error, format disk, etc. Note the formatting process will delete all the data on it. If you end up using this method, it’s suggested to recover files from flash drive that needs to be formatted first.


✍ Does formatting a flash drive delete everything?

The answer is yes. All data on the flash drive will be deleted, either temporarily or permanently. By default, Windows use the quick format method to delete files. It only remove file directory and make files hidden. You can easily get back your files unless it’s overwritten.

✍ How to recover formatted files from flash drive without software

If you don’t have any data recovery software installed, try to restore files from backup created previously. Thus, it’s essential to keep a copy of your files. If you don’t have, please backup your files now. As for backup software, AOMEI Backupper Standard is highly recommended.

✍ How to recover data from USB flash drive not formatted with quick format

In general, if you don’t use the quick format option, the data will be overwritten and unless you have available backup images, the data recovery is more difficult. Or try data recovery service. It has specialized equipment and professionals working on+ data recovery all year round.

Final words

How to recover data from a formatted flash drive? The easiest and most efficient way to retrieve formatted data is using data recovery software like MyRecover or Windows File Recovery.

To protect your data on flash drive safely, it’s suggested to backup them with free backup software for Windows - AOMEI Backupper Standard. You can save them to external disks, cloud drives, NAS devices, etc, and set them to run automatically daily, weekly, and monthly.

Kelsey · Editor
Kelsey is an English editor of AOMEI Technology. She is passionate about helping people find effective ways to deal with all problems in computer. She has great insights into data backup and recovery, disk partition and clone, and other data protection measures. She likes learn computer skills to improve herself and enjoy quality time with family and friends.