How to Unformat a USB Flash Drive

Written by michael j. scott
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How to Unformat a USB Flash Drive
Flash drives can be unformatted with a data recovery program. (usb flash drive image by Bosko Martinovic from Fotolia.com)

Formatting a flash drive allows you to write data to the device. Unfortunately, formatting a flash drive will render any pre-existing data on the drive inaccessible. If you've recently formatted a flash drive, but realise you need the data that was previously on it, it may be possible to unformat the drive. This is because formatting a drive does not actually erase the data, only the address locations of the data. A data recovery program, such as EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard, DiskGetor Data Recovery or Jufsoft BadCopy Pro, can help you get that data back. Time is of the essence, however, because as the old data is overwritten the chances of recovery become much smaller.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Data recovery program

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Instructions

    EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard

  1. 1

    Download and install EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard from easeus.com. EASEUS offers a free version that can recover 1 GB of data. The full featured version, selling for £45 as of 2010, will allow you to recover the complete flash drive.

  2. 2

    Insert your USB flash drive into an open USB port on your computer. Wait for your computer to recognise the drive before proceeding.

  3. 3

    Open EASEUS Data Recovery Wizard. Select "Complete Recovery" from the welcome screen.

  4. 4

    Choose you flash drive from the list available drives on the next screen. Click "Next" to begin unformatting your drive. Depending on the size of your flash drive, the process may take awhile, so leave your computer alone while the program is working. Once complete, you will have access to your old data.

    DiskGetor Data Recovery

  1. 1

    Download and install DiskGetor Data Recovery from diskgetor.com. The site offers a free trial; the fully functional version is £44 as of June 2010.

  2. 2

    Insert your flash drive into an open USB port on your computer and wait for your computer to recognise the drive.

  3. 3

    Open DiskGetor Data Recovery. Select "Recover Formatted Drive" from the main screen and click "Next."

  4. 4

    Select the flash drive from the list of available drives on the next screen. Click "Next" to unformat your flash drive.

    Jufsoft BadCopy Pro

  1. 1

    Download and install Jufsoft BadCopy Pro from jufsoft.com. BadCopy Pro will cost £26 for the full version as of June 2010.

  2. 2

    Insert your USB flash drive into an open USB port on your computer. Wait for your computer to recognise the drive.

  3. 3

    Open BadCopy Pro. Select "Flash Drive and Zip Disk" from the left panel of the main window. This will take you to the next screen.

  4. 4

    Select your flash drive from the pull-down list in the main panel of the next screen.

  5. 5

    Select "Rescue Lost Files - Mode #2" from the pull-down list in the lower panel of the main screen.

  6. 6

    Click "Next" to unformat your flash drive.

Tips and warnings

  • Backup data in multiple locations. It's much easier to restore data from a backup drive than to unformat a drive.
  • Stop using your flash drive as soon as you realise you need to unformat it. The more you write new data to it, the less likely you will be able to recover old data.

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