In general, Windows is a very easy-to-use operating system. The same goes for formatting a flash drive in Windows or any removable media like an external hard drive. Although this guide is specific to Windows 10, it applies to all versions of Windows from XP and higher.
We will use the exFAT file system to format the USB flash drive, but this guide applies to any file system of your choice. We recommend using exFAT as it runs on almost every system including Apple OS X, Linux, and Windows. It also doesn’t have a maximum file size of 4 GB like other file systems.
Warning: Formatting anything deletes all data contained on this drive. So back up your files before doing this!
The steps for formatting a USB flash drive break down quickly
Here is a quick overview of the steps required to reformat a flash drive on Windows XP on Windows 10 or any other version of Windows.
- Plug a USB flash drive into your computer (obviously).
- Open File Explorer.
- In the left pane, right-click the name of your USB drive.
- On the menu, click Format.
- In the file system drop-down list box, select exFAT.
- Click Start to format the drive.
Step1: Open File Explorer
Open File Explorer by clicking the folder icon in the taskbar or by using the Win+E keyboard shortcut. Once opened, locate your USB flash drive or external hard drive that you want to format, in our case drive D:
Step2: Right-click on your drive and select Format
If you open File Explorer, you’ll see a list of devices and locations on the right. Your flash drive should be there. Right-click your USB flash drive and select Format in the dialog box that appears.
You may need to separate other flash drives and removable media to avoid confusion. Please note that we only insert one USB stick.
Step3: Select the appropriate file system and start the format
There are several options in the format dialog. The most important of these is the “File system” option. Most of the time when formatting external media like pen drives and external hard drives, the goal is to migrate to a more modern file system to store files larger than 4GB, which is the problem with FAT32.
We recommend using exFAT as the file system as it doesn’t have the 4GB file limit of FAT32, but it can also run on Apple computers, Linux computers, and of course Windows. However, you can choose any file system you want.
Select the desired file system and click Start. A warning will appear that the files will be deleted from the USB flash drive and only after the files are backed up click OK. Your device will be updated.
Select the file system you want to use, and then click Start.
Remember that formatting erases all data on the storage device, so be careful.