Question Can not format or clean WinToUSB bootable Flash

Mar 5, 2019
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This is my first ever post after tons of experience watching people solve problems here so it's my last hope, this IS however going to be a long post so I also apologize and ask for your patience. Will try to include TLDR in the end.

Basically my friend's laptop got its HDD busted and I wanted to boot into his laptop to recover some files. So I downloaded WinToUSB and made a "Windows to Go" Bootable flash using it with Microsoft's official Win10 ISO. Note that as far as I understand, this flash does NOT include setup for installing windows, but acts as an external HDD with windows installed and ready to be accessed. Anyway, whatever its purpose was, it didnt work. Long story short I wanted to restore my USB back for personal use. Here's where the problem starts:

The drive appears as Removable Disk (H:) as it should but it is Greyed out just like Hidden Files are shown, when I open My Computer. Shows no files inside. 0 Disk space. File System shown as Unkown in properties. And the format program doesn't even open from the right click menu.
Upon using Diskpart's "Clean" command to wipe partitions, it says "DiskPart has encountered an error. The system cannot find the file specified."
In Disk Manager it appears as 28.2GB Unallocated. But when I right click, the only option I have is "New Simple Volume". When I proceed with that to create a new volume of size 28GBs and FAT32 format, it ends with the error, "The system can not find the file specified". Chkdsk with all parameters gives "Cannot Open Volume for Direct Access". Device properties show MBR partition style and status: No media.

Internet told me to download EaseUS partition Wizard. There are steps online to wipe/format or do whatever with the USB but I can't even begin with those because the USB doesn't even appear in those. Disk 0 is my own HDD and there are no other partitions displayed.

Finally I come to Rufus that has nothing to do with anything before, because I never used it. But when I check "List USB Hard Drives" and unplug and plug USB again, it shows "NO_LABEL (H:) [0 bytes]". When I set boot selection to Non bootable and partition scheme to MBR or GPT(Tried both in list). Under format options the file system and cluster size menus are UDF and Default (Both have only one option). When I press Start, it goes with Deleting Partitions but then error comes up "Rufus has stopped working" when the progress says "Clearing MBR/PBR/GPT structures".

This is where things change. The drive disappears from My Computer. In Device Manager it is shown as Disk 1 with no label and reads "No media". Here's how programs respond:
Still doesn't appear in EaseUS or any partition program.
CHKDSK remains same.
DiskPart on listing devices says Disk 1, status No Media, Size 0B, Free 0B. Upon typing clean after selecting Disk 1, it reads "Virtual Disk Service error: There is no media in the device".

At this point nothing else works so I right click Disk 1 in Disk Manager and click "Change Drive Letter and Paths" and asign it the letter H again that went missing after Rufus.
After getting the Letter back, everything returns to as it was in the beginning and I've done this cycle three times in hopes of getting it into a partition program (I also have AOMEI that can force wipe over disk writing lock but doesn't show there either).

I've tried it on different PCs. I've tried going into Disk Drives in Device Manager, right clicking Kingston 3.0 USB and setting policy from Quick Removal to Better Performance (Zero change in anything). I've tried uninstalling drivers for this drive AND USB mass storage. HP USB formatting tool shows its name but does not format it.

The USB is a few weeks old Original Kingston DataTraveler 3.0 USB and has been under no physical damage or any pressure. It was completely normal until WinToUSB completed it's work and I tried it on friend's laptop. Ive tried disabling anti-virus and this Laptop has no threats otherwise.

TLDR: USB not readable or accessable by Chkdsk, diskpart. Doesn't appear in partitioning tools. Disk Manager doesnt even show Format option.

It's late night and I might go to sleep early but after a few hours of inactivity I'll try my best to follow up with your responses and give you feedback if needed for the rest of the day.
 

acecreator26

Prominent
Mar 9, 2018
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6
645
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This is my first ever post after tons of experience watching people solve problems here so it's my last hope, this IS however going to be a long post so I also apologize and ask for your patience. Will try to include TLDR in the end.

Basically my friend's laptop got its HDD busted and I wanted to boot into his laptop to recover some files. So I downloaded WinToUSB and made a "Windows to Go" Bootable flash using it with Microsoft's official Win10 ISO. Note that as far as I understand, this flash does NOT include setup for installing windows, but acts as an external HDD with windows installed and ready to be accessed. Anyway, whatever its purpose was, it didnt work. Long story short I wanted to restore my USB back for personal use. Here's where the problem starts:

The drive appears as Removable Disk (H:) as it should but it is Greyed out just like Hidden Files are shown, when I open My Computer. Shows no files inside. 0 Disk space. File System shown as Unkown in properties. And the format program doesn't even open from the right click menu.
Upon using Diskpart's "Clean" command to wipe partitions, it says "DiskPart has encountered an error. The system cannot find the file specified."
In Disk Manager it appears as 28.2GB Unallocated. But when I right click, the only option I have is "New Simple Volume". When I proceed with that to create a new volume of size 28GBs and FAT32 format, it ends with the error, "The system can not find the file specified". Chkdsk with all parameters gives "Cannot Open Volume for Direct Access". Device properties show MBR partition style and status: No media.

Internet told me to download EaseUS partition Wizard. There are steps online to wipe/format or do whatever with the USB but I can't even begin with those because the USB doesn't even appear in those. Disk 0 is my own HDD and there are no other partitions displayed.

Finally I come to Rufus that has nothing to do with anything before, because I never used it. But when I check "List USB Hard Drives" and unplug and plug USB again, it shows "NO_LABEL (H:) [0 bytes]". When I set boot selection to Non bootable and partition scheme to MBR or GPT(Tried both in list). Under format options the file system and cluster size menus are UDF and Default (Both have only one option). When I press Start, it goes with Deleting Partitions but then error comes up "Rufus has stopped working" when the progress says "Clearing MBR/PBR/GPT structures".

This is where things change. The drive disappears from My Computer. In Device Manager it is shown as Disk 1 with no label and reads "No media". Here's how programs respond:
Still doesn't appear in EaseUS or any partition program.
CHKDSK remains same.
DiskPart on listing devices says Disk 1, status No Media, Size 0B, Free 0B. Upon typing clean after selecting Disk 1, it reads "Virtual Disk Service error: There is no media in the device".

At this point nothing else works so I right click Disk 1 in Disk Manager and click "Change Drive Letter and Paths" and asign it the letter H again that went missing after Rufus.
After getting the Letter back, everything returns to as it was in the beginning and I've done this cycle three times in hopes of getting it into a partition program (I also have AOMEI that can force wipe over disk writing lock but doesn't show there either).

I've tried it on different PCs. I've tried going into Disk Drives in Device Manager, right clicking Kingston 3.0 USB and setting policy from Quick Removal to Better Performance (Zero change in anything). I've tried uninstalling drivers for this drive AND USB mass storage. HP USB formatting tool shows its name but does not format it.

The USB is a few weeks old Original Kingston DataTraveler 3.0 USB and has been under no physical damage or any pressure. It was completely normal until WinToUSB completed it's work and I tried it on friend's laptop. Ive tried disabling anti-virus and this Laptop has no threats otherwise.

TLDR: USB not readable or accessable by Chkdsk, diskpart. Doesn't appear in partitioning tools. Disk Manager doesnt even show Format option.

It's late night and I might go to sleep early but after a few hours of inactivity I'll try my best to follow up with your responses and give you feedback if needed for the rest of the day.
First off, I appreciate how much detail and information you put into this.

I was doing the same thing on a Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 USB and had a similar issue, however nothing to this extent. If you can get your USB back to the original state where it displays as being grayed out I may be able to assist you.

I am aware that you have tried using Disk Management before, but bear with me and try what I have to suggest. When I had Windows installed on my USB I was too lazy to take 3 hours to delete Windows off of it, so I cleaned it with the DiskPart command. Then when I clicked on the disk it said "please insert a disk into drive ...". What I would suggest you do, enter into Disk Management, find your disk, and right click it. Select the New Simple Volume command and follow the wizard to the screen where it prompts you to select the formatting. Try formatting it as NTFS rather than FAT32.

I don't know if this is going to solve your problem, but as for me, I ran into loads of issues while using FAT32. I don't know if you've noticed, but your main drives are probably formatted as NTFS as well. I hope this was helpful, and if it wasn't let me know and I will try to respond with something that is helpful.
 
Mar 5, 2019
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First off, I appreciate how much detail and information you put into this.

I was doing the same thing on a Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 USB and had a similar issue, however nothing to this extent. If you can get your USB back to the original state where it displays as being grayed out I may be able to assist you.

I am aware that you have tried using Disk Management before, but bear with me and try what I have to suggest. When I had Windows installed on my USB I was too lazy to take 3 hours to delete Windows off of it, so I cleaned it with the DiskPart command. Then when I clicked on the disk it said "please insert a disk into drive ...". What I would suggest you do, enter into Disk Management, find your disk, and right click it. Select the New Simple Volume command and follow the wizard to the screen where it prompts you to select the formatting. Try formatting it as NTFS rather than FAT32.

I don't know if this is going to solve your problem, but as for me, I ran into loads of issues while using FAT32. I don't know if you've noticed, but your main drives are probably formatted as NTFS as well. I hope this was helpful, and if it wasn't let me know and I will try to respond with something that is helpful.
Hey, sorry for the late reply. Just woke up, hopefully will be available for the rest of the day. I appreciate you replying considering every other post after mine was getting replies and I wasn't because the wall of text scared people off.

First of all, I'm able to put the USB back in the greyed out state, where it has a Letter assigned to it and shows 28GB unallocated space in Disk Manager. Son Disk Manager, when I select "New Simple Volume", on the formatting page, the only File System it shows me in the drop-down menu is FAT32. There is not a single other option.
But that is not the main issue. I understand that the drives are in NTFS format at this USB was too, but I would get it to FAT32 first if it were possible and then change it to NTFS in other programs probably. However the issue is, even with this single FAT32 option available, the wizard ends with the error "The system cannot find the file specified" as mentioned in the original post. So even if NTFS was available, I'd probably have the same issue. I can not format or clean the device where it is listed, and I just can not do anything because it doesn't appear at all in the rest of the programs.

I mentioned in the original post that it is a few weeks old but Original Kingston USB and has been under zero physical pressue. So hardware damage shouldn't be an issue.

I appreciate if you could help, but even if you can't, pointing me towards sources that could help me out would be appreciated too.
 
Try the HP USB format tool. It's really old (original version dates from 2008 I think), but it seems to be able to clear up cases like this.


I've never found an exact cause, but this problem seems to happen when the disk image you place onto the flash drive is a different size than the capacity of the drive. Usually you can still access and use the drive, just that its capacity is "permanently" reduced to that of the image rather than the original flash drive size, even during reformatting and repartitioning. I've only seen the flash drive become inaccessible in Windows a couple times, and both were when I flashed a Linux ISO to it.

The HP tool has worked for me to clear it up and restore the full flash drive capacity every time, except in cases where the flash drive has died. When a flash drive dies, a lot of them are programmed to go into read-only mode so you can at least recover your data. That may be what has happened here.

Edit: Be sure to right-click it and run it as admin.
 
Mar 5, 2019
5
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10
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Try the HP USB format tool. It's really old (original version dates from 2008 I think), but it seems to be able to clear up cases like this.


I've never found an exact cause, but this problem seems to happen when the disk image you place onto the flash drive is a different size than the capacity of the drive. Usually you can still access and use the drive, just that its capacity is "permanently" reduced to that of the image rather than the original flash drive size, even during reformatting and repartitioning. I've only seen the flash drive become inaccessible in Windows a couple times, and both were when I flashed a Linux ISO to it.

The HP tool has worked for me to clear it up and restore the full flash drive capacity every time, except in cases where the flash drive has died. When a flash drive dies, a lot of them are programmed to go into read-only mode so you can at least recover your data. That may be what has happened here.

Edit: Be sure to right-click it and run it as admin.
Hi. I mentioned in my original post that HP USB Fornat tool detects and shows the exact name of the USB and after setting everything to required and pressing start, it says "There is no media on this drive". And does not proceed. Im sorry I didn't explain this in detail but I tried a lot of programs and had to minimize the wall of text
 
Mar 5, 2019
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Just get a new USB flash drive. 32GB costs less than $5.
Hi. Thanks for your reply but I would not be writing essays on my issues after being desperate for help if I wanted to "JUST" go out and buy a new USB. Also, economy is a thing just like time zones and something being just $5 doesn't have anything to do with how much it may cost in, say, a third word under developed country or something. But I appreciate your try :)
 
Idea was, that your USB flash drive just might be unrecoverable and you'd have to get new one anyway.

Keep in mind - there's certain value to time and effort you've spent on trying to solve this issue. If you're spending more time, than it would take you earn $5, then you're wasting it.
 
Mar 5, 2019
5
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Idea was, that your USB flash drive just might be unrecoverable and you'd have to get new one anyway.

Keep in mind - there's certain value to time and effort you've spent on trying to solve this issue. If you're spending more time, than it would take you earn $5, then you're wasting it.
Sorry if my reply came off as rude or offensive, I tried my best to make it not look like so. The thing is that ever since I was a kid, I had been solving my PC's issues myself. Couldn't afford repairs or maintainance on my old PCs, I solved every software and sometimes, hardware issues myself. So I grew up trying to squeeze every single bit of life, every smallest solution that may possibly exist to a problem.
I'm a college student and the USB is not my own, but a friend's. I wanted to try my absolute best to fix it and even if it doesn't work, maybe the entire experience will teach me a lot about what to try or what should be done in case I DO get a USB that could be recovered in the future.

Appreciate your response, your second paragraph makes tons of sense and I sahre the view, but sometimes it's not applicable. Thanks for your help though, I appreciate that you at least replied to the topic!
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Did you try to run diskpart to wipe this disk on more than one system? If you did and it did not work, disk went bad, replace it. Should be in warranty since it's new.

You spent a bunch of time on this, but really the first time the thing failed using a low level program like diskpart you can put it in the junk pile, especially if you try it on more than one system.
 

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