Kim Barloso

My flash drive is asking me to format it - how do I save the files?


So, if the operating system asks to format the flash drive - can I ignore this request and open it without formatting? There is no definite answer. In some cases it is possible to fully restore the /files, but there are situations when you still have to agree to formatting. We will consider several scenarios and give you some valuable tips in this regard.

Contents :

  1. The causes of flash errors
  2. Flash drive requires to be formatted: Agree or disagree
  3. Check flash drive/ sd-card for errors
  4. For proper formatting with SDFormatter utility
  5. How to avoid errors in the future
  6. Answers

Every one may encounter the error "Before using the disk in the drive, it must be formatted. A computer or the phone will ask for the formatting of a memory stick when plugged in, for various reasons: from incorrectly removing the stick from the slot, to the natural wear and tear.

In any case, if there is no mechanical damage to the media, it is perfectly possible to open the stick without formatting and/or to recover at least 40% of the information stored on it. The main thing is not to agree to format it, put the stick aside and read this guide very carefully.


What causes an sd-card error

Emergency formatting is needed when the media is mechanically or software damaged. The most frequent cases are when:

  • the USB stick has been dropped,
  • deleted incorrectly,
  • formatted in an old phone/camera,
  • not removed during phone factory reset,
  • has exhausted working capacity,
  • formatted in an incompatible file system.

With mechanical damage and natural wear and tear it is easy: The more the flash drive has been damaged, the less chances to get anything out of it. Although it is certainly worth trying in any case. The remaining problems are solvable in 8 out of 10 cases.

Windows asks you to format the flash drive. Should I agree to format it?

You should only agree to format it when the system leaves you no choice but to format it if you don't need any file from the card. You may recover your information after formatting by using special PC software and mobile apps.

Here you go! There is no guarantee that any format recovery software will allow you to recover 100% of the deleted /files.

When you are not going to part with your data, do not be too quick with formatting. Moreover it is not advisable to format using the standard Windows tools.

The special SD Formatter utility does it better and with guaranteed compatibility to all mobile operating systems. Read more about it below.

What to do first: Check the medium for read errors

The first thing to fix a defective medium file system is to check the medium for read errors. The easiest way to check it is to use the Windows integrated utility ChkDsk.

To check the SD card for read errors you should:

  1. Securely remove the SD card.

  2. Insert the card into the cardreader and connect it to a MS Windows PC.
  3. In the PC open the command line (Start → Run → CMD).
  4. In the command line window enter the command chkdsk drive letter: /f/r, for example: chkdsk M: /f/r.
  5. Finish the test and try to access the card content with the standard method.

The method is helpful in cases where it has failed to read /files because of software glitches, local sector corruption or big file system errors.

How to check the flash drive for errors

If the SD card cannot be opened and in spite of the successful checking by the ChkDsk, you should perform a radical decision: format the stick and afterwards try to recover the /files.

Format flash drive through SDFormatter

The format procedure using SDFormatter is as easy as formatting by the standard means of the operating system. Download SDFormatter, install it. Next you need to connect the USB device to the PC through the cardreader and do the following:

  1. In the main window choose the drive letters of the USB device (you can look through "My Computer";
  2. In the Option you choose the format type;
  3. Click the Format button.

When the formatting is finished it is useful to test the medium on your PC. If the medium can be opened then it is writable also on the mobile device.

The SDFormat utility provides two types of flash memory device formatting: Full OverWrite and Quick. Quick is a surface formatting which only marks documents in the flash memory as accessible for rewriting; Full OverWrite removes the contents of /files with writing over zeros (empties).

Hotkey ! To be able to recover /files from a formatted flash drive using specific applications, you should select "Quick format" mode.

Download SDFormatter

How to prevent this error in the future

The first thing to do to avoid the problem of lost /files in the future is to accustom yourself to making backup copies of the /files. You can store them on a cloud server like Google Drive, Dropbox AND Yandex.Disk, on your computer or in the internal memory of your mobile device.

Safeguard your flash drive against read errors, transfer to RAW format which cannot be read, and prolong the life of your device by following some simple operating rules:

  • Use the secure eject function, in mobile too - before you eject you should disconnect the SD card in settings (Settings → Memory).
  • Do not drop, shock or spill water on the memory card.
  • Frequently, at least once in 1-2 months, copy the contents to another location and perform a preventive formatting, preferably in Full OverWrite mode.
  • Make sure that the applications installed on the smartphone/tablet do not interact too frequently with the external memory, since this dramatically accelerates the memory wear.

A last point: never store particularly important stuff on the sd-card, e.g. documents or pictures of the children. The card is not a very reliable version to store information, it may break at any moment, and no recovery program will help.

Frequently asked questions

Samsung Galaxy Tab A, 32gb Sony microsd flash drive stopped working. Inserting it says "corrupted" and asks for formatting, goes up to 20% and exits.

If the Microsd card is not detected on the tablet, should check for errors. This can be done via the computer. If the chkdsk utility has not found the errors, or has not corrected them, you could format the card using the SD Formatter . This utility is likely to help. Formatting on the tablet is not very efficient.

I want to format music on my pc or phone, but the devices do not see the microsd card or ask me to format it.

Sometimes the format request appears when there are read errors on the flash drive. Try to eliminate these errors using the utility programs provided with Windows. One of them is the console utility chkdsk , also includes a friendly graphical shell.

When read errors have been detected you may reconnect the stick to your PC/laptop and check, if you are prompted to format.

My Samsung Galaxy phone does not see the microsd. I have tried another one, it says it is empty and asks for formatting, although it contains /files.

Maybe there are read errors on the sd card. You should verify it by chkdsk and then format it using the sdformatter program. It is of course possible to perform the formatting through the phone, but it would be better to do it on the PC.

The broken phone had a micro sd. When I tried to use it with another smartphone I got the message that the card was unsupported and asked me to format it.

Scan it with the Testdisk or Photorec utility. If you do not know the file system, do not specify it in the scanning settings. You would strongly discourage formatting the medium since you have less chances to recover anything.

The stick cannot be opened, it does not show up as a removable drive in the Device Manager. Acronis Disk Director reports the disk is not initialized.

Go to "Computer Management" (Run > compmgmt.msc). From the context menu select "Initialize". Create new partitions on the drive if needed.

Readers questions

  1. I have a large USB-Stick (mass storage) where you have over 15000 photos and videos. One day I wanted to open the flash drive, I was asked to format it (I didn't click). My mom took it to, and when she brought it to me, she said that everything inside was deleted. Any chance of getting everything back?
  2. The computer asks me to format the flash drive. My phone and tablet says that the flash drive is corrupted, it contains my child's photos from 9 months of his life, and they are very important to me. Please help me to remove /files from usb flash drive, after I will not use it anymore, the most important thing for me is to get the baby photos out of the flash drive.

Answer . You have done the right thing. If the computer insistently asks you to format the USB stick you should not accept the suggestion at once. It is better to think before you click OK and the /files disappear forever.

So insert the usb flash disk into your computer, then download and install the Unformat software. Further steps to recover /files are described in the article at the above link, there is also a video instruction on how to recover deleted /files from the flash drive and how to use the application in general.

Download Unformat

If nothing helps, you have to agree to format

  1. You need help to recover /files on this flash drive. It has a lot of important information. When I insert it into the computer it tells me to format it. All the programmers I know also say that nothing can be recovered. Please provide me with a link to a program if there is one. Is it possible to recover deleted /files from a flash drive?
  2. This Samsung Gakalsi A3 (2015) phone. The flash drive asks for formatting. Inserting the card on the phone, says when installing the sd card that it is empty and asks: format the flash drive or not. What to do? Please advise how to restore photos from flash drive.
  3. Telephone Samsung J7 2016 with Samsung 64GB flash drive - stopped seeing the flash drive after taking photos, writes - WORNED. There are a lot of photos on the flash drive that I would like to get back. The computer is asking me to format the flash drive. Can you tell me what to do or can I get the /files back? If you are asked to format the flash-drive, do not accept the proposal. Install the Unformat program and, after you have read the instructions and the video, try to recover the /files on your flash drive. Your friends may be wrong, because /files on the flash drive may be intact until you try to format the drive or overwrite old /files with new ones, and the chances of getting them back to the flash drive will be greatly reduced.

    If checking for errors does not help and recovering /files is not possible - well, there is nothing else to do, you will have to format the flash drive. To avoid future problems, we recommend that you read our guide where all the steps and nuances of flash file formatting are described:

    We advise you to format your Flash

    The memory card Qumo 16 GB. Bought for Samsung Galaxy Tab s 2. Files are written from the computer, everything is fine. Passes time (1-1,5 hours), /files disappear, the memory card is not read by the tablet. When you connect to the computer card does not open, and asks you to format it immediately. Full formatting helps. After the re-injection of /files in 1-1,5 hours, the same thing happens. What can be the reason, in the memory card or the tablet malfunction? The internal memory of the tablet is fine.

    Answer . The memory card has to be ejected after turning off the phone, while on the computer you should use the safe eject option (icon in the notification area). The "hot eject" may result in read errors later on. It is unlikely it is the tablet, though it is possible that some applications on the device are using the memory card for their work and you interrupt the process or do not wait until the copy is complete and disconnect the cable or the card reader from the PC.

    I have both micro SD cards, 64gb and 8gb previously working on a Sony phone, when inserted into a new Nokia phone, writes that the memory card is corrupted and needs to be formatted. Although, when connected via a card reader to the TV both cards are normally read. Normal flash drive connected via OTG cable, phone Nokia reads, although it has been used only with the same phone Sony. What could be the reason and is it possible to restore the cards functionality on the phone without formatting?

    I formatted the flash drive 16g on a new phone with android 6.0 and combined memory with the phone and it turned out that the flash drive only sees the phone, after some use, I forgot and put the flash drive in the old phone it did not work of course put it back in the new phone and after power on writes format and does not see the data, need information to restore please help very important /files on this flash drive: photos, music, documents.Thank you in advance.

    smartphone blackview bv8000pro android 7.0 took out the flash card , reset the phone to factory settings , insert the card it says set the card and asks to format it . before was configured as internal memory , and the card has a lot of important information , how to remove it from there?

    "I have a new flash drive, it worked for a month and ... I formatted it as a system flash drive and the following day the phone tells me that the card is corrupted and I need to format it , I format it but the formatting is not possible . A comp does not see it in the media is as if it does not. Help please !"

    I have one year old usb flash drive (16gb), my son took it to listen to some music on his speaker, when he brought it back he said to format it

    I had 32gb USB flash drive. When I opened it the computer swore it could not do so without formatting. I had successfully obtained a part of the /files through a program on the net. I decided to format it like the computer would ask me to. In the end, Windows wrote that it would not format the /files. I tried an article in the internet, where I had to sign in from the admin and write "clean" "/files" and so on. The problem did not help. Now i can't seem to stop crashing, my computer just started formatting. But the slider still won't run forward for half an hour. It is at the very beginning of the path. What to do and is there any way to get the flash drive back using free software? Thank you

    Hello, I have a SAMSUNG J2 phone? is running Android 7.1.1. I have a problem with the flash drive. Says it's not supported, need to format it. When formatting comes out error: Command 10 volume partition disk: 179.64 public failed with 400 Command failed. Formatting it on my computer is not working. Bought a new flash drive, but it's the same. It is not possible to format it. Please advise what to do, how to open the flash drive without formatting it. Thank you.

    I plugged in Ubuntu 14.04 Mate my USB Flash Card 64GB to copy /files.Suddenly usb flash drive disappeared from explorer.In Windows 7 it just disappeared fast in explorer.Attempting to format the drive fails,then pressing Start copied Microsoft Windows,etc repeatedly,then Windows 7 freezes. Probably a virus gives error some RAW file.

    I merged the flash drive with the internal memory. Then the performance of the phone decreased and I wanted to do it all back. I clicked on storage then flash and portable media. It told me to format the flash drive and I did... Then it started writing , the flash drive does not support this media.Click to configure. I clicked , it gave me a choice to make a flash drive to internal memory or portable media . I clicked on one then clicked on next then again formatted it said all done the flash drive type works then I see that the flash drive again says flash drive not supported and so endless to do

    I bought a new microSD-flash drive for my smartphone today. Installed it. Smartphone gives you the ability to set the storage priority between its own memory and the flash. Set the flash priority. Took some photos. The photos copied to the flash drive. Then I viewed the flash drive functionality, where in some section it was proposed to format this flash drive to improve its performance. Since I didn't need the photos, I agreed. After formatting I can not change the priorities, ie, the system writes that the internal memory of the smartphone is used by default. And the flash drive as if does not exist, although the system sees it. Question: how can I recover the flash drive without formatting it? Thank you.


“Hello. My name is Kim. I discovered that technology, when used with a purpose, can be pretty amazing. To share the wonder of tech, I’ve written for blogs like and With over three years of freelance writing experience in the technology and entertainment niche, I can write a storm about a software app, a cool browser extension, a new mobile device and other geek-centric stuf... “

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Kim Barloso