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How to format a USB flash drive

Formatting a USB stick for Windows and MAC

USB sticks are perhaps the best-known and widely used mass storage media of our time. With the help of these small electronic devices, almost all data types can be transferred from one computer to another. However, especially those working together with other people at the workplace or the university should take care to format their USB stick regularly. This eliminates any malicious programs on the stick and prevents business partners, work colleagues, etc. from entering private files and documents. At the same time, the data carrier is optimally prepared for the recording of new data.

The formatting of a USB stick runs differently on Windows PCs than on Mac computers. Therefore, first follow the instructions for formatting the stick on a Windows PC. Below follows the instructions for the Mac.

Formatting a USB stick on a Windows PC

  1. We connect the USB sticks to the PC at a suitable USB slot.
  2. Ir click on the icon “My Computer” on the desktop of the PC (also called “Explorer” or “Computer” for newer versions of Windows).
  3. A new window will open. We look for the submenu “Removable media” in the left column. This is drive E.
  4. Now, in the left column, right-click on “Removable Disk,” a new dialog box opens.
  5. In this dialog box, we are looking for the “Format” field. Press the left mouse button once. A new dialog box will open.
  6. In this dialog box, we will first create the file system. We click on the file system “FAT (standard).” The remaining fields remain unchanged.
  7. Click on the “Start” button.
  8. The error message now states that all files on the data carrier are irrevocably deleted. We confirm this by clicking the “OK” button.
  9. Formatting starts.
  10. When the formatting is finished, the start screen is displayed by point 6. We now click on “Close” because the formatting is complete and there are no more files on the storage medium.
  11. In the right lower system line, click the icon for the USB stick once with the right mouse button and click on “Eject.” We can safely remove the USB stick.

Formatting a USB stick on a Mac computer

  1. We connect the USB sticks to the PC at a suitable USB slot.
  2. We open the “Programs” folder.
  3. Open the subfolder “Utilities.”
  4. We open the program “Disk Utility.”
  5. The left column shows all available hard disks and connected storage media. We click on the USB stick with the left mouse button.
  6. In the gray area, right-click on the “Delete” tab.
  7. From the Volume Format menu, select “MS-DOS File System.”
  8. Click on the “Delete” button.
  9. A security dialog box will open. We also click on “Delete.”
  10. The formatting process is terminated.
  11. We close the “Disk Utility.”
  12. We can now eject the USB stick as usual and then remove it.


  • For volume format, the “MS-DOS filesystem” should always be selected if the USB stick is to be used on Windows and Mac computers.
  • For Windows PCs: In Step 6, the “Quick Format” item can also be selected. However, this should only be selected in an emergency, since the fast formatting is not carried out very thoroughly.
  • It can happen that the USB stick does not display the complete memory capacity even after formatting. This can be solved by emptying the computer’s basket. Often, the formatted files are stored in a sort of buffer, which is also deleted.

The USB flash drive should be formatted approximately once a month to make the best use of the memory capacity.

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