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How To Format a Flash Drive as UDF (Windows 7 & 10 Solution)

When trying to format a flash drive in Windows (7 or 10) you will see the file system options best suited for the device. The proper file systems for a flash drive would be: FAT, FAT32 or exFAT. Windows will also list NTFS for a flash drive, but not the best for a USB stick, as mentioned before. The file system types listed by the Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) will depend on the GB capacity of the flash drive connected.

So why no UDF file system on the list?

First, let me say it IS possible for Windows to format a flash drive as UDF (Universal Disk Format). Microsoft just doesn’t want you to do it; and there are good reasons why.

Before the reasons given for not using UDF as a format on flash drives, let’s clear one thing up: If you think formatting a flash drive as UDF will make the thumb drive appear as an optical drive in the computer – you are mistaken!

From the Wikipedia page about Universal Disk Format, UDF, the specification is governed by the Optical Storage Technology Association and because of that, many believe a UDF anything will work like a disc. It, UDF, is most widely used for DVDs and newer optical disc formats, can be used on flash drives, but does make it operate like one.

If we take out the hope of formatting a USB with a UDF file system, some may feel the Universal Disk Format means the flash drive will work in anything, such as from Windows, to Mac, to Linux, Symbian and/or to proprietary system. The truth here is exFAT will do just the same. Please keep that in mind.

So why not format a USB as UDF in Windows? Here is a list:

  • The lack of fully-functional filesystem check tools.
  • 64GB limit with Windows & Linux, a bug, not a limit of UDF
  • SD and USB mass storage devices are exposed to quick wear-leveling failure
  • UDF is read-only for Windows XP

Without bogging down this post with ultra-technical information, from the above list, the most important to consider is the first, lack of filesystem check tools.

This means if the USB is pulled out while in operation and a bit is affected by the action, there are no tools to check the file system for errors. You are flying the dark as to why the USB no longer works and there are no tools available to help you figure it out. Given the flash drive was specifically designed to be portable and quick access, the above action is most certainly going to happen sooner or later, which makes UDF a high risk file system.

How to format a flash drive as UDF:

Connect the USB to your computer and note the assigned drive letter

Be sure any programs or data are not accessing the drive.

Navigate to your C drive and, at that point, click into the search field of Windows Explorer and type “CMD” it can also be lower case, click Enter. You will need Administrator privileges to do this.

You are now in the C drive and you may run the following commands:

format G: /fs:UDF /q [drive letter might be different than G]

“/fs” is for File System and that is defined by the UDF and “/q” is to instruct DISKPART, which is the program doing the work, to perform a quick format to create the UDF volume.

The OS will ask you to insert the drive, which you already have, so press Enter

The next prompt will ask if you want to enter a Volume name, or the name you want to give to the device. You may click Enter to keep it blank, or enter something, like in this case “Nexcopy”

DISKPART will go through it’s process and inform you the process is complete.

You can now type exit to close the command prompt window.

Please note, the “/q” command deletes the file table and the root directory of your previously formatted flash drive, or volume, but does not perform a sector-by-sector scan for bad areas like a full scan would. Remember the filesystem check tools mentioned earlier, well, here is case in point.

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Rich Gates

Administator for GetUSB.info GetUSB.info started in 2004 with the concept of providing USB information for everything USB related. At the time, USB was gaining momentum and every day new products, articles and news became published. Today, the site is focused on bringing technical information, tricks and hacks to USB related products. The site does publish off topic information as well, to keep the variety up. Please visit the footer area of any page if you or your company is interested in article or product placement via purchased advertising.

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