So here’s a really annoying problem: you plug a USB stick or USB SD card reader into your PC and Windows tells you to format the drive in order to use it correctly! The only problem is that you didn’t have this problem two days ago and everything connected fine! So what’s the solution?
Well, Windows is unusual, and if some of the system files get corrupted, you might run into this really annoying problem of reformatting all of your USB drives and SD cards!
In most cases, this is not even an option, and if you can connect the device to another system where it boots correctly, then why format it.
Fortunately, there are several ways to get rid of this problem. In this article, I will try to tell you about the various actions that you can take to solve this problem.
Method 1 – System File Checker
The first thing to try is to run the System File Checker, a built-in tool that scans all Windows system files and replaces any corrupted files with fresh copies. You need to run this from an elevated command prompt.
You can go to an elevated command prompt by selecting Start, then Accessories, right-clicking Command Prompt and choosing Run as administrator. On newer versions of Windows, simply search Command Prompt in the Start menu and right-click on the first result.
Now type sfc / scannow and hit Enter. Be prepared to sit down and wait a bit, because this process usually takes a long time.
If, for some reason, System File Checker is unable to replace all corrupted files (which it will tell you about), you will have to do it manually. You can follow the instructions here:
I hope you don’t have to do this. Now restart your computer and then try plugging in your USB device and see what happens. If you’re still asked to format it, keep reading.
The second method – reinstall the USB controller
You can also try reinstalling USB controllers on your Windows computer. You can do this by clicking the Start button and then typing devmgmt.msc in the search box and pressing Enter.
If you are not using Windows 7, you can go to Device Manager by going to Control Panel, then System and clicking Hardware.
Go ahead and right click each item under Universal Serial Bus Controllers and select Delete. After removing all items, restart your computer and it will automatically reinstall every USB port.
The third method – run chkdsk
So it might seem impractical, but running chkdsk on a USB stick might also fix the problem. chkdsk will check for bad sectors and fix them if they exist. Now you can tell that the USB stick works fine on another computer, so it can’t have any problems, right? Well, maybe not.
Either way, this is the solution that some thought fixed the problem. Again, you need to run it from an elevated command prompt, as I mentioned above. Then enter the following command without parentheses:
chkdsk [drive:] [/ p] | [/ r]
[Disk] is the disk you want to scan. / p will check the hard drive even if it has been marked dirty. / r will find bad sectors and restore all data from there. When finished, disconnect the drive, and then restart your computer. See what happens when you plug it back in.
Fourth method – connect to a different USB port
At this point, you are running out of options. One solution that several people have mentioned is to try to plug the device into a different USB port. Obviously, this is more of a Windows XP problem.
Somehow, when a device connects to a specific port, Windows remembers something about that device, and plugging it into a different port can confuse Windows.
I’ve never had this problem before, but it seems to be causing problems for some. It’s worth it and it can be an easy solution.
Method 5 – try the partition recovery tool
If your USB stick keeps showing the same message on whatever computer you connect it to, the problem is likely with the file system structure on the USB stick.
You can try to repair your USB drive by running chkdsk that I mentioned in method 4. If that doesn’t work, you can try the third party TestDisk tool, which is free and open source.
It is a command line tool and therefore a little more technical, but it works really well. They also have good documentation. In our case, you should follow the step-by-step instructions to restore and repair partitions.
Method 6 – Initialize the device
If you still get this message, then there really is nothing you can do other than format it. However, you should connect the device to another computer, copy all the data, and then format it.
Also, when formatting a device, you must go to Disk Management, then right-click the device and select Format.
You can go to Disk Management by right-clicking My Computer or the Computer icon in Windows 7 and choosing Manage. Also check out my previous post on which file format is best to use when formatting USB drives.
Finally, I wrote a post if your computer doesn’t recognize your USB drive at all and how to fix this problem. If you have this problem and you fixed it in another way, please leave a comment here and let us know how to do it! Enjoy!