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What is the best way to completely reformat an USB stick?

How can I low level format a 16GB USB drive?

I've already confirmed it has bad sectors, so I reckon a low level format would bring it back to life.

I've tried to use a tool from HDDGURU which returned errors and couldn't finish (although the testing tool "Flash drive tester" managed to read the device).

Which tools would you recommend to use under Windows 7?

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marked as duplicate by random Jul 18 '11 at 14:13

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Check out secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bad_sector - its "permanent damage" e.g. physical. –  PriceChild Jul 18 '11 at 13:10
    
Buy a new one? lol –  Mehrdad Jul 18 '11 at 13:10
    
My first thought was it is electronic...do they even do a low-level format on them? –  KCotreau Jul 18 '11 at 13:20
    
As I mentioned, they can only be written to for a very limited number of times compared to hard disks. Because of that, they have pretty short lives. If you have used it a lot, the end is nigh. –  Abraxas Jul 18 '11 at 14:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If it has bad sectors, it is finished. There is nothing that can fix bad sectors on a hard drive, and that is perhaps even more true on an electronic drive. They do not behave in any way the same. Files are moved when rewritten so that areas of the memory are not used too often since they can only be written to in the 100's of times. There is no such thing as a "low-level format" for these devices.

The best you can do is the HP USB Formatting Tool. But if you really have bad sectors, toss it.

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I thought there was a mechanism for avoiding those sectors when writing data (like a spare track on the HD) –  soandos Jul 18 '11 at 13:59

You cannot format a USB drive with bad sectors. However you can try to recover from them.

  1. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to Computer.
  2. Right-click the drive in question and select Properties from the drop-down menu.
  3. Go to the Tools tab and click on the button Check Now, under the "Error-checking" section.
  4. Check both "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors".
  5. Initiate the scan. It may take a good while. Be patient.

If those bad sectors are recoverable, they will be properly marked and you can now proceed to format your USB drive, if you so wish. Or recover any data that may be in the drive.

This USB drive is no longer reliable though. And you should replace it.

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