Recover Files from Flash Drive That Needs to Be Formatted (Guide)

Need to recover files from flash drive that needs to be formatted? This detailed guide will teach you how to recover USB files before formatting. Check it out.


By Hester / Updated on May 27, 2024

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Why does my flash drive say it needs to be formatted?

Flash drives store and transfer users’ data conveniently and efficiently. Most users are willing to save files like work documents, photos taken on travel, videos, etc., on their USB flash drives and take them anywhere they like.

However, maybe after an unexpected shutdown, a dropping, or an improper ejection, your USB says, “You need to format the disk before you can use it” when plugged in.




An error message says my flash drive needs to be formatted. Why it happens, and how to fix this error? I don't want to lose any data; how to recover files from a flash drive that needs to be formatted free?

- Question from a user

In addition, the flash drive will be shown as RAW in Disk Management.


And this is not a rare issue. Many users urgently need to recover files from flash drive that needs to be formatted. If you are one of them, this page is what you are looking for.

Before the solutions, it is necessary to figure out why this issue occurs.

Causes of “flash drive needs to be formatted” issue

Many reasons are to blame for this issue.

  • File system loss/corruption. Devices will force you to format it to generate a new file system if the original one gets corrupted/deleted/missing.
  • Improper ejection. Without clicking “Safe to Remove Hardware”, your flash drive can be corrupted, and errors occur, damaging the file system.
  • Virus removal. Viruses may also destroy the file system, partition table, and other essential parts of the flash drives.
  • Physical damage. Jolting, dropping, collisions, etc., can break the thumb drives severely.
  • Interruption during reading & writing. Unexpected shutdown or force ejection can interrupt the data read-and-write process, causing file system corruption.

When trying to eject the connected flash drives, if a data read-and-write process is running, the system will warn you, “This device is currently in use”. But if you plug out the USB forcibly, damage may occur.

With the reasons clear, we can move on to the solution part. Check out how to recover USB files before formatting in the following section.

How to recover files from flash drive that needs to be formatted?

If you wonder “how to recover files from flash drive that needs to be formatted”, indeed, this is not an unreasonable worry. However, everything on it will be lost after formatting if you did not back up flash drive before.

So please do not format/reformat the USB and stop using it for the time being; we recommend you try the following instructions to extract data from it first.

In this case, the professional data recovery tool MyRecover can be your firm helper to recover data from the RAW flash drives.

Powerful Flash Drive Recovery Software
  • Offers several remedies for various data loss situations: deletion, disk formatting, virus attack, system crash, etc.
  • Provide 2 advanced scanning methods Quick Scan and Deep Scan.
  • Support data recovery from various flash devices, SanDisk, PNY, Samsung, etc. 
  • Recover 200 different types of data, including images, videos, documents, emails, compressed files, etc., within 3 steps.
  • You can filter, search, and preview deleted files during the recovery process.
  • Provide a clear graphical user interface and simple operating steps.
  • Compatible with Windows 11/10/8/7/Server, NTFS/FAT/FAT32/ReFS, etc.

Step 1. Launch the app and plug your flash drive into the computer. Hover the mouse over the drive, and click Scan.


Step 2. Your flash drive will be quickly and automatically searched. Files on a flash drive saying it needs to be formatted are fragmented. Deep Scan will help you locate them. While scanning, you could quickly sort/preview the detected files to target the wanted data.

At this step, you can use different filters to locate your recovered files quickly.

  • Name: Enter the relevant filename of your desired files to quickly locate them.
  • Date modified: Set the date (today, yesterday, last 7/30 days, etc.)
  • Size: Set file size (<128KB, 128KB~1MB, 1MB~512MB, etc.)


Step 3. Go to Other missing files > choose the specific type you need, e.g., Images > click Recover x files after selecting every file you want to recover. Pick a new location to keep the files to avoid data overwriting.



How to fix the flash drive that needs to be formatted?

Besides retrieving data from the RAW flash drive, fixing it and bringing it back to normal is essential. Generally, we can use Windows inbuilt tools.

Way 1. Recover flash drive through Disk Check

To repair a flash drive that says it needs to be formatted, you need to search for particular faults on your flash drive first.

If Windows is unable to repair drive, check the tutorial to troubleshoot.

Step 1. On your computer, first, open This PC or My Computer, and then right-click on your drive.


Step 2. Select Properties, and then click Tools > Check.

properties tools check

Step 3. Choose Scan drive.

scan drive

Once the scanning process is complete, the flash drive or any potential faults will be identified. It will report if your drive has any faulty sectors or clusters.

Way 2. Repair the flash drive using the CHKDSK command

Using Windows built-in CHKDSK tool can help you fix a corrupted flash drive without formatting. It checks and fixes the possible logical/physical errors on the hard drives when used with proper parameters.

Step 1. Type Command Prompt into the search box and select Run as administrator to launch it.

run as administrator

Step 2. Type in “chkdsk” and press Enter.

input chkdsk

Step 3. Perform the chkdsk x:/f command (replace x with the drive letter of your corrupted flash drive)

For example, if you want to fix D: drive, then you should input chkdsk d: /f

start the scanning process

Step 4. After the procedure is finished, please restart the computer to apply it.

Way 3. Format the flash drive

If the CHKDSK and Disk Check tools cannot help, disk formatting might be unavoidable if you want to bring the flash drive that needs to be formatted back to life.

With a quick format, a new file system will be generated; therefore, the flash drive will be healthy again. Both File Explorer and Disk Management can help you format storage devices. Now learn how to format a thumb drive safely.

Make sure you have recovered the files or you have backed up the flash drive before performing disk formatting.

Step 1. Open This PC on your computer. Right-click on your flash drive and then select Format.

Step 2. Choose the File system you want, check Quick Format, and then click Start.

format usb

How to protect your flash drive better

Since you can take some actions to fix the flash drive error and recover data from it, it is necessary for you to learn some tips to protect it better.

  • Unplug safely.
  • Choose a suitable location to keep it.
  • Turn on antivirus software.

Closing words

If your flash drive becomes corrupt, don't worry, this post introduces how to recover files from flash drive that needs to be formatted. MyRecover can recover your lost data safely and quickly.

Also, to bring the flash drive back to normal, we advise backing up your data first and then trying to repair it using proper tools like CHKDSK/Disk Check/formatting.


How do I recover a USB drive that is not formatted?
You can choose to use the CHKDSK command line to recover the flash drive that is not formatted. However, it is not easy for you if you are not familiar with IT. Thus, MyRecover can be a great assistant for you to recover files from it as well.
How to recover files from USB that need formatting for free?
MyRecover can help you to recover files from a USB flash drive for free, up to 30MB. You can try any feature in it without paying.
Why does my flash drive suddenly says it needs to be formatted?
When you receive such a message, it means the file system of the flash drive partition is corrupted, and Windows cannot recognize the damaged file system.
Hester · Editor
Hester, a great editor, is dedicated to offering effective data recovery solutions for Windows and iOS users.