How to Format a Removable Disk

By Lita McLeary

Removable disks are very versatile because you can use them to transfer and save data files much quicker. You can also easily delete data when there is a need to clear some space. Removable disks include USB flash drives and various memory cards that are used in other portable devices. Like ordinary hard disk drives, removable disks can get infected by viruses. This leads to the need to format the removable disk to ensure that the infection is removed. Formatting a removable disk may also be necessary to clear the entire space of the drive removing hidden files and fixing errors in the process.

Things You'll Need

  • System running any Windows operating system

Step 1

Fire up "My Computer" (or "Computer" in Vista/7) and then find the removable drive that you wish to format. Ensure that it is the correct drive by taking a peek at the contents to avoid accidentally formatting other drives. Right-click on the drive and click format to bring up the format dialog.

Step 2

Ensure that the "File system" is FAT32 to ensure compatibility amongst other devices. You may set a "Volume label" as well to uniquely identify the device. Leaving the "Quick Format" unchecked is recommended (See Tips).

Step 3

Click the "Start" button and confirm the message box to begin the format process. The formatting is complete after the progress meter fills up.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can format a removable disk by using the command prompt. To access the command prompt, click the Start Menu and select "Run". Key-in "cmd" if you are using Windows 2000, NT, XP and Vista or "command" if you are using Windows Me, 95 and 98. Type "format X:" (do not include quotes) in the command prompt window, where X: is to be replaced by the drive of the removable disk and then setting the volume label.The "Quick Format" option can be used to greatly speed up the formatting process. Only use this option if you are certain that your removable disk has no errors.
  • Formatting any removable disk removes all the contents inside the disk. Make sure you have copies of any important files on the disk before beginning the formatting process.Do not remove the drive during the formatting process as it may permanently damage the drive. Power interruptions and abrupt system shutdowns during formatting can also damage the drive.It is also possible to format the drive using the exFAT or NTFS file system. Before finalizing your decision, understand the advantages and disadvantages of each file system (see Resources).