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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?

  • Check out secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bad_sector - its "permanent damage" e.g. physical.
    – Pricey
    Jul 18, 2011 at 13:10
  • Buy a new one? lol
    – user541686
    Jul 18, 2011 at 13:10
  • My first thought was it is electronic...do they even do a low-level format on them?
    – KCotreau
    Jul 18, 2011 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, 2011 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


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.

  • I thought there was a mechanism for avoiding those sectors when writing data (like a spare track on the HD)
    – soandos
    Jul 18, 2011 at 13:59
  • clonezilla might be a better option than closed-source freeware from a 3rd party website? Clonezilla does require burning it to a bootable media, such as a usb flash drive. But it would have ddrescue: superuser.com/a/1327717/100429 Mar 18, 2019 at 1:36

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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