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How To: Correctly Format a USB Flash Drive in exFAT

Whether you’re formatting an internal drive, external drive, or USB flash drive, Windows makes it possible to choose between NTFS and exFAT formats. In this guide, we’ll go over the simple steps to formatting a USB drive and which format is best for certain situations.

USB Format

exFAT is a file system optimized specifically for flash drives. Introduced in 2006, it’s designed to be a lightweight file system like FAT32 without the extra features of NTFS and without the FAT32 limitations. exFAT has very large file size and partition size limits so files larger than 4GB a piece can be stored on a flash drive formatted with exFAT. It makes very few unnecessary writes, and stores files throughout the drive in order to maximize the lifespan and speed up transfers.

NTFS however, is not a flash drive’s best friend. It makes many extra disk writes and, as a dynamic file system, can also write without your knowledge. If one of these writes is taking place and a drive is pulled out, corruption and a reformat is required to get things back in order but your data will have been lost. Additionally, NTFS has read-only compatibility with Mac devices, a flaw not shared by the exFAT format.

Before we get started make sure to back up all data. Reformatting will result in a wipe of the drive so backing up on another device is vital to keeping your data.

Method 1:

Step 1: Plug the USB drive into your computer and allow it to be detected. Once it has been recognized, open up your standard File Explorer.

Step 2: Locate the drive under Computer. Right click and select “Format”. This opens a dialog box with formatting options.

USB Format

Step 3: On the “File System” dropdown, select the desired format. In this case, we’ll be formatting to exFAT. Our backups are created and our format type is set so click “Start” to initialize the process.

An alternative method is formatting USB drives using the Command Prompt. Some may find this method to be easier or more intuitive but it’s simply typing out the commands instead of using the tools in your Explorer.

Method 2:

Step 1: Plug the drive in and make sure it has been detected. As with our previous steps, backing up to save your data is still necessary.

Step 2: Open the Command Prompt. To do this, open your “Start” menu and type “cmd” into the search box. “cmd.exe” should appear so open it up.

Step 3: Your USB drive will have an assigned letter, for example “F”. Typing the following will bring up the formatting prompts
  “format F: /fs:EXFAT”

USB Format

Press Y or N to continue or stop the formatting respectively.

With these methods you’ll be able to optimize your flash drive’s format or save some hardware that has seen better days. For more How-To’s and tech related news, make sure to Follow Us On Twitter to receive the latest updates!

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