USB Flash Drive

How to Unformat a Thumb Drive on a Windows PC: a Detailed Guide

4 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutesAccidentally formatting a USB drive can result in important data being lost. While you cannot undo a format, you can still recover the data you lost and effectively unformat a thumb drive, provided you act quickly. The sections below will explore this in a detailed and easy-to-understand manner.

Is it Possible to Unformat Flash Drive?

While Windows doesn’t offer any feature to reverse a format, the wiped data can still be recovered depending on a few factors. So technically, you can unformat a flash drive and undo the damage that has been done.

In Windows, you can either perform a Quick Format or a Full Format. Data recovery after a Quick Format is quite easy, and you can almost certainly recover all the data that was lost, provided you didn’t write large amounts of new data to the thumb drive. A Full Format, on the other hand, overwrites all the data on the drive with zeroes, making data recovery impossible.

Luckily, the Quick Format option is ticked by default on Windows, so chances are that you performed a Quick Format on the pen drive.

If you used third-party data shredding software to format the USB drive, it is usually impossible to recover the data. Your best bet in this case, is to contact a professional data recovery service.

Another important factor affecting USB drive data recovery, is whether you wrote new data to the drive. Creating new files overwrites the previous files and permanently wipes them out. Regardless, you should still scan the thumb drive using data recovery software, as some of the files will still be recoverable.

How to Unformat a Thumb Drive on Windows

To unformat a pen drive on Windows, you will need the help of a data recovery program. There are plenty of such programs available for download, but it’s important to choose one that perfectly balances ease of use, functionality, and affordability.

Disk Drill is one such data recovery program that ticks all boxes of a good data recovery program. Not only does it offer the best in class data recovery rate, it also comes with in-built tutorials and a data recovery process that is the same whether you want to recover data from a USB drive or SSD. Windows users can take advantage of the free trial that lets them recover 500 MB of data for free.

Here is how you can unformat a thumb drive using Disk Drill:

  1. Download Disk Drill and run the setup file. Follow the steps in the wizard to install the program.
  2. Insert the pen drive you want to unformat.
  3. Open Disk Drill, select the USB drive from the list of devices. Click on Search for lost data. Disk Drill will begin the data recovery scan.Disk Drill home screen with the USB drive selected.
  4. While you can view the scan results in real-time, it’s recommended you wait for the scan to be over since Disk Drill’s scan times are quite fast, and it will display more recoverable data. Click on Review found items. Alternatively, if you want to recover specific types of files (such as Pictures, Video, Audio, Documents, and Archives), you can directly click on the relevant option on this screen.The Review Found Items screen in Disk Drill.
  5. Now, select the files you want to recover, using the checkboxes. You can preview the files by double-clicking them or clicking the eye icon next to them. Disk Drill also displays the recovery chances next to each file. After selection, click on Recover.List of recoverable files in Disk Drill.
  6. Select a recovery destination for the files. Click on OK.Select recovery destination window in Disk Drill.
  7. Disk Drill will recover the selected files.Data recovery complete screen in Disk Drill.

How to Increase Chances for Successful Data Recovery From a USB Drive

Being proactive and keeping good data recovery etiquette in mind goes a long way in determining the extent of data recovery from a USB drive. Here are a few useful tips that will help you unformat a thumb drive with maximum success:

  1. Stop using the USB drive immediately. As soon as you notice the data loss from your pen drive, securely eject it and don’t reconnect it to your PC until you need to perform data recovery.
  2. Don’t write new data to the drive. Copying new files to the pen drive will overwrite the data you want to recover and make it impossible to get back.
  3. Perform data recovery as soon as possible. Delaying data recovery will only increase the chances of accidentally writing new files to the drive.
  4. Use a good data recovery program in the first data recovery attempt itself. The first data recovery scan is usually the most successful. Repeated scans further stress the drive, therefore use a good data recovery program from the get go.
  5. Follow the steps in our data recovery tutorial carefully.


It’s quite easy to unformat a pen drive using data recovery software like Disk Drill. However, prevention is key, and it’s always best to have multiple backups of your data. To recap, here is how you can unformat a pen drive:

  • Determine whether data recovery is possible by recalling the format type.
  • Scan the USB using data recovery software.
  • Keep the data recovery tips in mind to maximize the data recovery chances.