How do I reset a corrupted flash drive?

Dealing with a corrupted flash drive can be frustrating, but resetting the drive is often an effective way to get it working again. Resetting will clear all data on the drive and restore it to factory settings, which should resolve many software-related corruption issues. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly reset a corrupted flash drive.

What Causes a Flash Drive to Become Corrupted?

Before looking at solutions, it helps to understand what causes flash drive corruption in the first place. Some common culprits include:

  • Improperly ejecting the flash drive – This can lead to data loss or file system damage.
  • Physical damage – Dropping the drive, getting it wet, etc can physically damage the drive and cause corruption.
  • Malware or viruses – Malicious software can sometimes infect the drive and corrupt data.
  • Bad sectors – Over time, bad sectors can develop on the drive and cause corruption.
  • Power failure or sudden reboot – An unexpected loss of power while writing data can corrupt a flash drive.
  • Too many files – Having too many files fragmented in too many locations can overwhelm the file system.

Resetting the flash drive essentially gives you a fresh start by clearing any corrupted data or file system issues.

Before Resetting – Try These Quick Fixes

Before fully resetting the flash drive, there are a few quick fixes you can try that may resolve the corruption:

  • Try the drive on another computer – The corruption may be due to incompatibility issues with that particular computer.
  • Use antivirus software – Scan for and remove any malware or viruses from the drive.
  • Reformat the drive – Reformatting without fully resetting has a chance of fixing software corruption issues.
  • Delete unnecessary files – Remove files you no longer need to help declutter the drive.
  • Check for physical damage – Look for any signs of physical damage that could be causing issues.

If the flash drive still seems corrupted after trying these basic fixes, a reset is the next step.

How to Reset a Corrupted Flash Drive

Resetting a flash drive will completely erase and reformat the drive. This gives you a clean slate to work from. Follow these steps:

  1. Connect the corrupted flash drive to your computer.
  2. Open File Explorer on Windows or Finder on Mac.
  3. Right click on the flash drive and select ‘Format…’.
  4. Under File System, choose FAT32 or exFAT.
  5. Check the Quick Format box to reset the drive quickly.
  6. Click Start to begin the reset process.
  7. Wait for the reset process to finish. The flash drive will now be empty and ready for use.
  8. Eject the flash drive properly after resetting.

The steps may vary slightly for different operating systems, but the general process is the same. Resetting completely reformats the drive and writes a new file system, deleting all old data and restoring the flash drive to its out-of-the-box state.

Using Diskpart to Reset on Windows

An alternative way to reset a flash drive on Windows is to use the Diskpart command line utility:

  1. Open the Command Prompt as administrator.
  2. Type diskpart and press Enter.
  3. Type list disk to identify the flash drive’s disk number.
  4. Type select disk X (replace X with your flash drive’s number).
  5. Type clean to delete all data on the drive.
  6. Type create partition primary to recreate the partition.
  7. Type format fs=fat32 quick to quick format the drive.
  8. Type exit to close Diskpart when finished.

This achieves the same end result of a reset drive. The Diskpart method is more technical but works if you can’t reset through File Explorer for any reason.

Using Third-Party Tools to Reset

Alternatively, you can use third-party formatting tools to reset the flash drive instead of using Windows’ built-in tools. Some top options include:

Tool Description
HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool Free tool from HP specifically for formatting USB drives.
RidDisk Securely erases all data before resetting the drive.
Samsung Portable SSD Software Resets Samsung portable SSDs.
SanDisk SecureAccess Management software for SanDisk flash drives.

These specialized tools can give you more options and control over the reset process. The operation remains largely the same – fully reformatting the drive to factory state.

Tips to Avoid Corruption After Resetting

Once you reset your flash drive, you’ll want to avoid corruption going forward. Here are some tips:

  • Always eject the drive properly before unplugging it.
  • Don’t unplug the flash drive while files are still being transferred.
  • Keep backups of your important data on another drive.
  • Don’t fill up the drive completely – leave some free space.
  • Scan for viruses and malware regularly.
  • Avoid physical damage by being careful with the drive.
  • Reformat the drive every few months to clear out clutter.

Following best practices for flash drive use and maintenance will help prevent your drive from becoming corrupted again in the future.

When to Replace a Flash Drive

If you’ve reset a flash drive multiple times and it keeps becoming corrupted, the drive itself may be damaged or worn out. At that point, it’s best to replace the flash drive. Some signs it’s time to replace your drive include:

  • Frequent disconnects, failed transfers, or unreadable files
  • Overheating – hot to the touch after use
  • Strange noises – clicking, buzzing, grinding
  • Obvious physical damage – cracks, bends, broken parts
  • Flash drive is several years old
  • Reset process no longer works

Flash drives aren’t meant to last forever. Resetting can extend their usable life, but won’t work magic on a drive that is too old or worn out. It’s most cost effective to just buy a new drive at that point.

Recovering Data After Resetting

A factory reset will wipe all data from the flash drive. But if you had important files on the corrupted drive before resetting, there are some recovery options:

  • Data recovery software – Specialized software can scan reset drives and recover deleted files.
  • backups – Restore data from any backups you have on other drives.
  • Drive forensics – A forensic specialist may be able to recover remnants of old data.
  • Cloud copies – If your files were backed up to the cloud, you can redownload them.

However, recovering lost data is only possible right after resetting. The sooner you act, the better the chances. Once the drive is reused, old data will be overwritten.

Best Data Recovery Software

If you don’t have backups, data recovery software gives you the best odds of getting files back. Here are some top options:

Software Key Features
Stellar Data Recovery Recovers lost partitions and data from flash drives.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Allows you to preview found files before recovering.
Disk Drill Has easy-to-use interface forquick scans and recovery.
R-Studio Powerful advanced options for data recovery experts.

The right software makes a huge difference for successfully recovering data from a reset drive. Compare features and user reviews to decide which one best fits your needs.


Resetting a corrupted flash drive is usually straightforward – simply reformatting the drive essentially fixes many software-based issues. But recovery of lost data requires quick action. Backups and data recovery software provide the best way to get back deleted files after resetting. Avoiding corruption altogether comes down to handling flash drives carefully and maintaining them properly.