How do you Format a RAW USB Flash Drive under WinXP

By richelm ยท 116 replies
Nov 28, 2004
  1. Please Help.

    During a new install of WinXP Pro I deleted all partitions seen in WinXP
    partition manager which unfortunately included my 128Mb USB Flash Drive which
    was still left plugged in after collecting drivers etc prior to install. The
    problem is now I have a flash drive which is RAW and WinXP cannot format it
    and FDISK of course does not work with WinXP. When I try to format in DOS I get the message:-
    "Cannot determine the number of sectors on this volume."
    Can anyone tell me the number of Tracks and Sectors I should specify using
    DOS Format for a 128Mb USB flash drive or point me in the right direction if
    this is incorrect.
    If I try to format the flash drive using WinXP I get the message "Windows was unable to complete the format" WinXP sees the drive as FAT and unknown capacity but in DOS the file system is RAW as the partition was deleted by WinXP partition manager. If nobody knows the number of tracks & sectors for a 128Mb drive then do they know if there a tool available (DOS or WinXP) that allows you to re-format a USB flash drive. I cannot find one anywhere and in the good old days this would have been simple using FDisk as long as your BIOS supported USB drives.
    Why MS decided to make partition manager only accessable on a new
    installation is beyond me and do away with FDisk all together with WinXP.


    Richard Elm
  2. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    You need to repartition the USB drive. Use the utility that came with the thing or the Disk Management thing in Administrative Tools.
  3. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    try partitioning it and formatting it using disk administrator, which you will find if you select computer management from administrative tools.
  4. Fearless

    Fearless TS Rookie

    I'm not the author of the original post, but thank you. Your post turned up on a google search and ended about 30 minutes of frustration for me.
  5. skye4485

    skye4485 TS Rookie


    i just wanted to thank you also i had this same probalem when i reblasted my machine. and this saved tons of time.
  6. sdeveila

    sdeveila TS Rookie


    I had a similar problem..I accidentally format the Flash Drive in a Windows 98 environment and when I plug the Flash Drive in another computer with a Windows 2000 Advanced Server OS it always prompts me "The Drive is not formatted. Do you to format it.?". I also tried formatting the disk the the windows could not complete the format. I try other solution like doing the partition and formatting in computer management but it didn't work. I also notice that the size of flash drive became 8MB but it is supposed to be 256MB.

    Hope you could help me...

  7. Kenchi Himura

    Kenchi Himura TS Rookie

    Help 2!!

    I have almost the same problem over here. I have a RiDATA EZ flash drive that i formatted (Don't asked me why i just did it) after instead of a 256Mb a have a lime 2MB. i must have messed up with the partition. XP Disk manager DOES NOT WORK! Somebody please help!!!
  8. Kenchi Himura

    Kenchi Himura TS Rookie


    I solved my problem!!!!!!!1 Im SOOOOOOOOOO happy. I contacted the customer care and they gave some driver. and tadaaaaaaaaa
  9. mancarious

    mancarious TS Rookie


    i solve my problem,thanks
  10. maroon5

    maroon5 TS Rookie

    hello,iam sorry to bother you,i have the same problem that you have with flash usb,i hope to help me.
    my great wishes
  11. Alkaint

    Alkaint TS Rookie

    hello , sorry to post this here . but i have the same problem with my Flash USB "LG M-DISK 256MB" the size changed to 64MB after i format it , any help plz ?
  12. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    same prob....

    I have a 512mb samsung flash drive.... how did you fix yours?
  13. Vinnie

    Vinnie TS Rookie

    Same problem here- maybe too little too late

    Yeah I did the same bonehead thing- strange bit is its a 64 MB FujiFilm thumbdrive, and when I deleted the partition, it only recognized it as a 55 MB. I re-partitioned it under WinXP setup, and it gave me only 47 MB of usable space! I'd like the other 17 MB of space back- how did the rest of you solve the problem?

  14. Modman

    Modman TS Rookie

    Thank you guys very much, you probably know how much trouble this saved me.
  15. blaacksheep

    blaacksheep TS Rookie Posts: 70

    Someone should post a Sticky post titled: "NEVER FORMAT YOUR FLASH DRIVE!"
  16. halo71

    halo71 TS Rookie Posts: 1,090

    The other side of the coin....

    Since USB drives seems to give alot of people trouble, heres my question. Why do some of the Dell computers at my work recognize my 256mb Sandisk Cruzer Mini and some don't? They all run XP Pro. The only way I can get them to see the drive is to reboot the PC. Is this a disk management problem?
  17. halo71

    halo71 TS Rookie Posts: 1,090

    No ideas from anyone?
  18. MetroidFan2002

    MetroidFan2002 TS Rookie

    Here is a detailed explanation of what worked for me, I had the same problem you did.

    1. Assume ALL FILES ARE LOST on the drive. You're SOL on these files (you may be able to recover the contents of many of them after the procedure, but don't get your hopes up)

    2. Download the free Active Kill Disk from

    3. Unzip and run Active Kill Disk. It will display the message that it supports "[ONE PASS ZEROES]" method only. Remember this.

    4. Press enter to bypass the startup screen.

    5. Scroll down the list to view your drives. Also, open up My Computer so that you know which drive letter your USB Key ISN'T. You will probably find a message of a drive not being ready, if you find this message, highlight that drive, otherwise highlight the drive that does not have the drive letters of the workable drives of your computer.

    For example, in addition to my main hard drive C: I also have a big hard drive E:. These show up as fine since it was my USB key (which is on F:, but that doesn't matter now) that was damaged.

    6. Press F10 and press enter to erase the disk (using that [One Pass Zeroes] method mentioned earlier

    7. Go into the Administrative Tools (this guide is assuming Windows XP) and select Computer Management. Double-click on Disk Management.

    8. Go down the list of disks until you find the new healthy partition of the USB drive. Right click it and say format. Format it whatever you want. If after the attempted format it says something like "I can't do this because the partition is write-protected," ignore this message.

    9. Go down to a green icon on the taskbar with an arrow on it, click it and say to remove your usb drive. After it says you can remove it, do so.

    10. Insert your USB drive again. Even though disk management said you couldn't format it, it did most of the reformatting and you will be able to recover any undamaged files from the combination of reformatting/erasing.

    11. Once you save any files that you can, reformat the USB drive (you won't have any errors this time) from My Computer. Remember that the reformatting will erase all the files on the drive. Once this reformat is complete you'll have your USB drive working again!
  19. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    tried your directions, my USB drive isn't even listed under kill disk.
  20. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    partioning the drive from disk adminstrator just resusitated my drive ! thanks !!!!!
  21. buenla

    buenla TS Rookie

    my dumb bf formatted his 256 usb drive & gave it to me after he killed it. I was able to partition it in Disk Management & now I get to keep it!! Thanks!!
  22. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    no problem, just delete the old partition, and create a new partition!

    the USB drive is treated like a mini- hard drive.
    tell your boyfriend thanks!
  23. sam8988378

    sam8988378 TS Rookie

    All the answers led me to discover the MMC and its formatting ability (thank you), but no one answered the question as to how large the partition sizes should be. I also need this information, as I accidently quick formatted my 128mb generic usb mp3 player. :dead: I wound up with nothing in Fat16 root sector, and nothing but data in a fat32 sector (and many "this sector is too large!" :eek: msgs. I also have a 256mb with the same problem, the firmware formatted out of existance. This information isn't as readily available with a google search.
  24. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    you don't enter and tracks or sectors for a flash drive. They're aren't any.

    Go into disk management under windows and raw format the flash drive. You can use fat32 for a style type.

    once the flash drive is formatted, you're in business.
  25. sam8988378

    sam8988378 TS Rookie

    But - I have data which says differently

    the way I originally killed the 128mb flash mp3 was by quick-formatting it. A helpful person suggested that the fat16 boot sector couldn't read the quick-formatted fat32, and I kept getting errors saying it was too large. Though that wasn't the only problem (who knows what happened to the firmware?).

    is where you will find screen captures of TestDisk.exe & win xp pro properties of the 256mb without firmware ( :suspiciou: wouldn't you know its Buslink, a place with perpetually busy tech support nontollfree phone #, and apparently not in the habit of answering their email). Both show sectors.

    I used the MMC to format the 256 to fat. Now it just reads as one vast, open space, no partitions. Yet I know there must have been partitions at another time and place. This is from a diskcheck of the 128mb:
    Volume Serial Number is 1AFC-2A2B
    Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.

    128882688 bytes total disk space.
    2048 bytes in 1 hidden files.
    124309504 bytes in 38 files.
    4571136 bytes available on disk.

    2048 bytes in each allocation unit.
    62931 total allocation units on disk.
    2232 allocation units available on disk.
    Checking file system on G:
    The type of the file system is FAT.

    When I would open the drive in Windows Explorer, unless I put data on the drive, it would show nothing there. Yet, as you can see from above, there was. Now its all just so :dead: , and I'm gymslacking (totally new behavior :eek: ) or crating cd's around, or trying to decide what to put on cd (not the same oh-well-this-doesn't-work-I'll-delete-it-and-put-something-else-on.) [/QUOTE]
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