Unformat USB | How to Unformat Flash Drive

Updated to File Recovery Tips by Nancy on Mar 1, 2024 | Approved by Jennifer Allen

Have you accidentally formatted your USB drive without backing up its contents? Don't panic, and all hope is not lost. Here, we provide multiple methods to guide you on how to unformat a USB drive in Windows 10/11, macOS, and Linux. With some simple steps, you can retrieve your precious data.

Table of contents
Part 1: A Brief Overview of What Formatting Is
Part 2: Precautions Before Unformatted USB Flash Drive
Part 3: How to Unformat a USB Drive in Windows 10/11 (3 Ways)
Part 4: How to Unformat a Flash Drive on Mac (2 Ways)
Part 5: How to Unformat USB in Linux
Part 6: Tips to Prevent Accidental Formatting of USB in the Future
Part 7: FAQs

A Brief Overview of What Formatting Is

Formatting, in the context of a storage device like a USB drive, refers to the process of preparing the disk for data storage. It essentially creates a new file system that allows your operating system to read and write data on the flash drive.

When a flash drive is formatted, it undergoes 3 main processes:

In summary, although formatting a flash stick will cause all data to disappear, you still have a chance to recover them even without a backup. However, before starting to unformat flash drive, you can follow the following tips to increase the success rate.

Precautions Before Unformatted USB Flash Drive

Before attempting to unformat USB, it's essential to take several precautions to protect your data and maximize the chances of successful recovery:

How to Unformat a USB Drive in Windows 10/11

Losing data due to accidentally formatting a flash drive can be a frustrating experience, but there is hope. Fortunately, there are ways to recover what you thought was lost for good. They are:

Method 1. Use a Professional Tool

Without a backup, data recovery software is your best choice if files are lost in any way. They use unique algorithms to retrieve any data ever stored on the thumb drive. Here, you can try iBeesoft Data Recovery. Here are some of its key features:

Your Safe & Effective USB Recovery Software

(Trust Score 4.7 by 1695 Users)
  • Wide Range of Supported Devices: iBeesoft supports data recovery from various devices, including hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards, digital cameras, and other storage media.
  • Powerful recovery capabilities: It is not only suitable for almost all data loss situations but also can repair damaged files.
  • User-Friendly Interface: iBeesoft's interface is easy to use, even for people who aren't tech-savvy.
  • Multiple File Types: The software can recover all files, including photos, documents, videos, audio files, archives, etc.
Download for Windows Download for macOS

Here are the detailed steps on how to use iBeesoft Data Recovery to unformat flash drive in your PC:

  1. Plug your thumb drive into your computer. Make sure the computer recognizes it.
  2. Open iBeesoft data recovery software after downloading and installing it.
  3. Select your flash drive in the disk list and click the "Scan" button that appears.
  4. After completing the scan, select the recoverable files in the file list and click the "Recover" button.
  5. Select a location to save the recovered files in the newly appeared window.

Method 2. Use Windows File Recovery

It is a command-line utility that can recover deleted files in Windows 11 and 10. Here's a general guide on how to use Windows File Recovery to unformat USB free:

  1. Download and install it from the Microsoft Store.
  2. Run Windows File Recovery as administrator.
  3. ype "winfr #: *: /x /y:JPEG,PDF,ZIP."

    # is the drive letter of the unformat flash drive
    * is the drive where the file is saved
    JPEG and more are the file types you want to recover
  4. Enter "Y" to start scanning.
  5. Go to drive* and find the "Recovery-Date" folder to view the data.

Method 3. Use File History

It will be helpful if you have used it to back up important data on a USB drive before formatting it. Here's how you can use File History to unformat thumb drive in Windows 11, 10, and more:

  1. Connect your backup disk to your computer.
  2. Click the "Windows" key and type "Restore your files with File History."

  3. Click the left and right arrows to browse the backed-up files.
  4. After selecting the files, click the "Restore" button to resave them.

How to Unformat a Flash Drive on Mac

Although macOS is a more closed ecosystem than Windows, there are still many options for unformat USB. Let's take a look at them next:

Method 1. Use Recovery Software for Mac

iBeesoft Data Recovery also has a version for macOS, which is the same as the Windows version in terms of performance. Therefore, it is still the simplest and most effective solution to unformat USB Stick. Here are the steps on how to use it to get your accidentally wiped data on a thumb drive on Mac:

  1. Download and Install the iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac software from their official website.
  2. Launch it, deselect the file types you don't need, and click the "Start" button.
  3. Choose the USB drive you accidentally formatted and click the "Scan" button.
  4. Once the scan is complete, it will display a list of files that can be recovered. Select the lost items and click the "Recover" button.

Tip: If your lost data is not entirely recovered, click the deep scan button at the top to extract more items.

Method 2. Use Time Machine

It is a built-in backup and restore tool for Mac. If you have used it to back up your important files, then you can use the following steps to unformat USB drive on Mac after you accidentally erase the drive:

  1. Ensure your Time Machine backup disk is connected to your computer.
  2. Click the "Time Machine" icon in the top bar and choose "Enter Time Machine."
  3. In the Time Machine window, navigate through the timeline or different windows to find the items you wish to restore.
  4. Once you've found the items, select them and press the "Restore" button.

How to Unformat USB in Linux

Linux is an open-source operating system. Although it has no user interface, it allows you to DIY at will. Because of this, it is loved by many technicians. If your computer uses a Linux system, then you can use TestDisk and follow these steps to unformat a USB flash drive free:

  1. Depending on your Linux distribution, the command to install TestDisk may vary.

    For Debian-based distributions like Ubuntu, you can use sudo apt-get to install it.
    For Red Hat-based distributions like CentOS, you would first enable the EPEL repository and then install it with sudo yum.
  2. Open a terminal and type "sudo testdisk" to run the program. You will need to enter your administrator's password.
  3. After launching TestDisk, select the "Create" option to create a new log file.
  4. Select the disk from which you unformat a thumb drive and choose "Proceed."
  5. Choose the type of your flash drive table. Usually, it's "Intel."
  6. Choose "Analyse > Advanced > Undelete" to search for lost data.
  7. Select the find files, and choose "Copy" to save them.

Tips to Prevent Accidental Formatting of USB in the Future

Accidental formatting of USB sticks can result in the loss of essential data. Here are some tips to prevent unintentional formatting:


Here are some frequently asked questions on how to unformat a USB drive on Mac, Windows and Linux:


Losing important data due to an accidental format of your flash drive can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Thankfully, this article provides solutions that can help you recover lost files. Whether you're using a Windows PC, Mac, or Linux, unformat USB drive is a straightforward process requiring no advanced technical expertise. By following the proper steps, you'll be able to quickly restore your files and get back to using your USB drive as normal.