If an attempt is made to format a USB flash drive or an SD card (or any other), you get the error message “Windows cannot complete disk format”, here is the solution to the problem.
Most of the time, this is not caused by an error in the flash drive itself and is simply solved by the built-in tools of Windows. However, in some cases, flash drive recovery software may be required – this article will cover both options. The instructions in this article are for Windows 8, 8.1 and Windows 7.
2011 Update: I accidentally wrote an article on the same subject and I suggest you read this same article, it has new methods even for Windows 10 – Windows fails to complete the format – what to do?
How to fix ‘can’t complete format’ error with Windows built-in tool
First, it is wise to try to format the flash drive using the disk management utility of the Windows operating system itself.
Run Windows Disk Management. The easiest and fastest way to do this is to press the Windows keys (with logo) on your keyboard + and type diskmgmt.msc in the “Run” window.
In the Disk Management window, locate the drive associated with your pen drive, memory card, or external hard drive. You will see a graphical representation of the partition, indicating that the volume (or logical partition) is fixed or unlocked. Right click on the Logical Partition screen.
From the context menu, select the format for the faulty volume or create a partition for the unlocked volume and then follow the disk management instructions.
In many cases the above will be sufficient to resolve the error of not being able to format the window.
Additional format options
Another option that applies when a USB drive or memory card is formatted is to interfere with some Windows process but it is not possible to find out what that process is:
Restart your computer in safe mode;
Run the command line as administrator;
On the command line type the format f: where f is the medium of your flash drive or other storage medium.
Pen drive recovery programs if it is not formatted
You can also fix a USB flash drive or memory card formatting problem with the help of specially designed free programs which will be done automatically. Below are examples of these types of software.
More detailed material: Flash drive repair software
D-Soft Flash Doctor
With the D-Soft Flash Doctor program, you can automatically recover a flash drive and, if desired, create an image of it for recording to another healthy flash drive. Some kind of detailed instructions here I don’t think are necessary: the interface is clean and everything is very simple.
Free download D-Soft Flash Doctor can be found on the Internet (check the downloaded file for viruses), but I do not provide the links, because I could not find the official site. More specifically, I found it, but it doesn’t work.
EzRecover is another utility that works for USB drive recovery when it is not formatted or shows 0MB volume. As with previous programs, EzRecover is easy to use and all you have to do is press a “recovery” button.
Again, I am not providing any link where to download Ezracover, since I did not find the official site, so be careful while searching and be sure to check the file of the downloaded program.
JetFlash Recovery Tool to Recover Transcend Flash Drives or JetFlash Online Recovery
Exceeding the JetFlash Recovery Tool 1.20 USB Flash Drive Recovery utility is now known as JetFlash Online Recovery. You can download the free program from the official website http://www.transcend-info.com/products/online_recovery_2.asp.
With JetFlash Recovery, you can try to fix transcend flash drive errors by saving data or try to fix and format the USB drive.
In addition to the above, there are the following programs for the same purpose:
AlcorMP – a program for recovering flash drives with Alcor controllers
Flashnull is a program for detecting and fixing various errors in flash drives and other flash memory drives such as memory cards of different standards.
Adata Flash Disk Format Utility – To fix errors on USB A-data drives.
Kingston Format Utility – for Kingston Flash Drive respectively.
If none of the above help, check out the guidelines on how to format a right-protected flash drive.
Hopefully this helps to solve the problem you are facing while formatting the flash drive in Windows.