How to Erase a Memory Stick?


How should you go about erasing your memory stick? The memory stick, which is also known as a USB flash drive, thumb drive, flash stick, thumb stick, and what-have-you, is a storage device that ultimately replaced the diskette or floppy disk.

How to Erase a Memory Stick

You actually have multiple ways to erase a memory stick, the most accessible among them involves a reformat. It’s the same way with your computer or laptop, actually. If your Windows installation is in error, just reformat everything and start fresh.

You can also download apps or programs that can do the flash drive cleaning for you in a few seconds flat. However, most do the reformat option because it’s and natively and readily available on Windows already.

Formatting the Memory Stick

To format the memory stick, click “Start” on your Windows PC then click “Computer”. Right-click the listing for your USB flash drive on the available drive options to get to the Windows format utility. Now do the following:

  • Select Format and Go to Format Window: To reformat the memory stick, select “Format” on the shortcut menu of your right-clicked USB flash drive in order to end up in the “Format” Window.
  • Select Your Format Type: You can select between FAT32 and NTFS. Modern Windows systems all support NFTS and FAT32.
  • Volume Label: You should also type the name you want to label your memory stick with in the “Volume Label” section. It’s like naming your HDD drive or partition.
  • Select Your Format Speed: You have two formatting speed options as well—Quick Format and Full Format.
  • Start to Begin Process: Click “Start” to begin formatting (or reformatting) the USB memory stick. You’ll get a notification when the formatting is done.
usb Memory Stick

What are the Different Format Types?

The drop-down menu on the “Format” window for “format preference” (the one below “File System”) has two options—NTFS and FAT32.

  • FAT32: The File Allocation Table 32 format is more widely compatible but doesn’t support files larger than 4GB or drives bigger than 32GB. It should be fine on older, more limited flash drives but for the 1TB monsters of today, use NFTS instead.
  • NTFS: The New Technology File System format supports drives larger than 32GB and files larger than 4GB but it’s not as compatible as FAT32 even in 2022. It’s more versatile, secure, and has practically no size limitations to it.

What are the Different Format Speeds?

Quick formats take only a few seconds while full format requires you to wait hours because it’s also fixing any errors on the disk.

  • Quick Format: Go for the “Quick Format” option if you want to clear your flash drive data in a flash (pardon the pun). This takes less time but doesn’t check possible errors on the memory stick or attempt full data deletion.
  • Full Format: The full data deletion option wherein knowledgeable computer users couldn’t resurrect the data from the drive is “Full Format”. This takes longer but checks errors and ensures complete deletion of all your files.

Erase and format a USB flash drive on a Mac

How to Permanently Delete Files on USB Flash Drive

How do I wipe a memory stick in Windows 10?

  • Open Start on Windows.
  • Look for “Create and format hard disk partitions”, and then click the top result to open the Disk Management app.
  • Click Right-click the removable drive and Select Format from the menu.
format usb on management disk
  • In the “Volume label” field, confirm a name to identify the storage in File Explorer.
  • Use the drop-down menu next to “File system” and choose “NTFS.” (You could also choose “FAT32” or “exFAT.”)
  • In the “Allocation unit size” drop-down menu, choose “Default.”
  • Check the box next to Quick format.
  • Check the Enable file and folder compression” option. (Optional)
  • Hit the “OK” button.

After you finish these steps, the drive will be wiped clean and set up to store data again.

Format Memory Stick using command-line

Follow these steps to format a Memory Stick or a USB flash drive quickly or completely with Command Prompt:

Look for “Command Prompt,” right-click the first result, and choose “Run as administrator.”

To format the USB flash drive quickly, type the following command and press Enter:

C:/><strong>format </strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">VOLUME:</mark> /v:<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FLASHDRIVE-LABEL</mark> /fs:<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FILE-SYSTEM</mark> /q
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)
  • Make sure to replace “VOLUME” in the command with the correct drive letter for the storage.
  • “FLASHDRIVE-LABEL” with the name of the Memory Stick.
  • “FILE-SYSTEM” with one of the available file systems, such as “FAT32,” “exFAT,” or “NTFS.”

This example shows how to format the F drive quickly:

C:/><strong>format </strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">F:</mark> <strong>/v:</strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">DataUSB</mark> <strong><em>/fs</em>:</strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">NTFS</mark> <strong>/q</strong>
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)

Completely format the USB flash drive:

C:/><strong>format </strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">VOLUME:</mark> /v:<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FLASHDRIVE-LABEL</mark> /fs:<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FILE-SYSTEM</mark>
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)

In this example, the E drive gets a full format:

C:/><strong>format </strong><mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">E:</mark> /v:<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">DataUSB</mark> /fs:<mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">NTFS</mark>
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)

How to format a USB drive using PowerShell?

Follow these steps on Windows 10 to format a USB flash drive with PowerShell commands:

  • Open Start.
  • Search for PowerShell, right-click the first result, and choose Run as administrator from the menu that appears.
open powerShell

To format the flash drive quickly, type the following command and press Enter:

PS C:/><strong>Format-Volume</strong> -DriveLetter <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">DRIVE-LETTER</mark> -FileSystem <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FILE-SYSTEM</mark> -NewFileSystemLabel <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">DRIVE-NAME</mark>
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)
  • Replace DRIVE-LETTER with the letter of the drive you want to format.
  • FILE-SYSTEM with FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS.
  • DRIVE-NAME with the name you want File Explorer to show for the device.

Example 1: uses the FAT32 file system to quickly format the “E” drive:

PS C:/><strong>Format-Volume</strong> <strong><em>-DriveLetter</em></strong> <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">E</mark> <strong><em>-FileSystem</em></strong> <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FAT32</mark> <strong><em>-NewFileSystemLabe</em></strong>l <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">DataUSB</mark>.
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)


Example 2: Type the following command and press Enter to completely format the USB flash drive:

PS C:/><strong>Format-Volume</strong> <strong><em>-DriveLetter</em></strong> <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">DRIVE-LETTER</mark> <strong><em>-FileSystem</em></strong> <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">FILE-SYSTEM</mark> <strong><em>-Full -Force</em></strong>
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)
  • Replace DRIVE-LETTER with the correct letter for the drive you want to format.
  • FILE-SYSTEM with FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS, depending on the file system you want to use. If you don’t know and you’re using Windows 10, use NTFS.
  • The -Force option tells the command to use the override switch, and the –Full option tells the command to do a full format.

Example 3: formats the “E” drive all the way through:

PS C:/><strong>Format-Volume</strong> <strong><em>-DriveLetter</em></strong> <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">E</mark> <strong><em>-FileSystem</em></strong> <mark style="background-color:rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)" class="has-inline-color has-vivid-cyan-blue-color">NTFS </mark><strong><em>-Full -Force</em></strong>
Code language: HTML, XML (xml)

After you finish the steps, PowerShell will use the settings you chose to format the removable storage.

Nevertheless

Memory sticks or USB drives serve as convenient storage data media in the form of compact, easily transferable sticks. However, they’re not convenient as permanent storage drives. Instead, save in the cloud or save in an HDD as well as burn CDs/DVDs/Blu-Ray Discs instead.

References:

  1. Matt Skaggs, “How to Completely Erase a Memory Stick“, SmallBusiness.Chron.com, Retrieved May 23, 2022

Andy Avery

I really enjoy helping people with their tech problems to make life easier, ​and that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the past decade.

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