Windows fails to format USB drive that previously contained an ISO image

Thursday, February 11, 2021

I recently tried to format a USB flash drive for use in Windows, only to find that none of the usual tools (Explorer, Disk Management) would work. Even repartitioning the drive in Linux using fdisk didn't help.

Symptoms include:

Explorer doesn't show a drive letter when the drive is inserted, even if formatted FAT or NTFS.

Attempting to create a partition using Disk Management (New Simple Volume) may fail with:

The operation is not supported on a non-empty removable disk.

Or it may succeed, but the associated format step may fail and a dialog will pop up:

The volume was created successfully but it was not formatted. Retry the format using the format task.

Attempting to format the partition using Disk Management produces this error dialog:

The system cannot find the file specified.

diskpart's CLEAN fails with an error similar to:

DiskPart has encountered an error: The system cannot find the file specified. See the System Event Log for more information.

The log in Event Viewer/Windows Logs/System has Source "VDS Basic Provider" and message:

Cannot zero sectors on disk \\?\PhysicalDrive2. Error code: 5@0101000F

(All messages above taken from Windows 10.)

To fix this, plug in the drive and run diskpart. Select the appropriate disk:


Then try CONVERT:


If that doesn't work, try CONVERT GPT. Good luck!

Tags: windows, filesystem | Posted at 10:43 | Comments (0)


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