How do I change the file system on my flash drive?

By default flash drive manufacturers use FAT32 file system. It is not the most perfect, has limitations on the size of a writable file, but it is fully compatible with all modern operating systems. Our experts tell how to change the flash drive’s file system.


Formatting is the easiest and most widely known method of changing the file system on the stick. You can execute it using the graphical interface of your operating system or by using the command line.

Explorer menu

After connection to the USB stick open File Explorer. Right-click on the graphics area to open context menu. Select the item marked with a double mark.

Disk formatting dialog box will show up. Click the line marked with an arrow to display a menu of available file systems. You can choose between FAT32, exFAT and NTFS by default. The exFAT file system is a flash drive-optimized version of FAT. Not having any limitations on the size of the writable file it also has a feature to reduce the wear and tear on the memory cells. Having set the FS type press the button “Begin” underlined in the frame.

Confirm the operation in the pop-up window and at the same time agree to the deletion of all data on the flash drive and unsaved data.

After receiving the system notification, close it, and you can use the drive with an already modified file system.

File system type can be found in the flash drive properties, on the “General” tab. The information line on the screenshot is highlighted with a green marker and an arrow.

Command line

Open the “Start” advanced menu by pressing the “Win+X” key combination. Run the default shell installed for use on the drive. The described sequence of operations works in a similar way to the classical CMD shell.

At the prompt, type “format x:/ fs:exfat /q”. Type the letter assigned to the USB stick by the system instead of “X”. Choose the file system between FAT32, NTFS or exFAT. The “/q” option allows a quick format. The following screenshot shows a sample command. The operation is performed for the “F” drive, and exFAT is selected as the final file system.

After you press Enter, the system will ask you to insert the disk into disk drive “F”. Ignore this notification, left over from earlier versions of Windows. Press enter once again.

In the area marked by a unit the current and future flash filesystems are displayed. In the next step you will be prompted for the volume label. Type it in the line indicated by the number “2” and then press Enter again.

The system will report on the completion of the operation with the line marked with an arrow. Below it displays service information about the amount of free space, number and size of clusters.


To use PowerShell commands to format the drive let’s run the shell in elevated privileges.

Type “get-disk” at the prompt. Pressing the enter key in the console window displays a list of drives connected to your computer. In the following screenshot the “Kingstone” flash drive is marked with an arrow.

Enter the command to clear the data from the attached USB stick: “clear-disk -number 2 -removedata”. Take the number for the “number” key from the line in the list of drives (arrow).

The requested operation requires additional confirmation from the user. Enter the Latin letter “Y” in the line marked with the arrow. Pressing the enter key erases all data and the partition table on the drive.

Create a new partition table on the cleaned flash drive. Type “new-partition -disknumber 2 -usemaximumsize -isactive -driveletter f”. The “disknumber” key should be used to specify disk number “2”, used in the “cleanup” command. The “driveletter” option allows you to assign to the USB stick a letter, under which it will be displayed in Explorer. Our experts chose “F”, which was previously automatically assigned to it by Windows.

Running the initialization command will cause the disk to be redefined by the system. A pop-up window will appear prompting to perform formatting in the graphical interface of the operating system. Close it in order to continue working in PowerShell.

The number “1” in the console window shows a report on the creation of a new partition table. Enter the format command “format-volume -driveletter f -filesystem exfat -newfilesystemlabel Kingstone”. Driveletter” shows the assigned letter of the Latin alphabet. Set the file system using the “filesystem” option, choosing between FAT32, exFAT and NTFS. Using the last switch we set the volume label. In the example above, “Kingstone”. Press Enter to start its execution.

The console window displays in tabular form the final result of reformatting the flash drive.


Conversion allows you to change the USB flash drive’s file system from FAT32 to NTFS without destroying the data it contains.

Use the above described method to start a shell with elevated privileges. At the prompt, type “convert f: /fs:ntfs” and hit enter. Replace letter “F” used in the above example with the one assigned to the flash drive when it is connected to a PC.

The following screenshot shows the complete output of service information accompanying the file system conversion process. The arrow indicates a successful report of the requested operation.

At the end

Our experts described in detail several ways to change the flash drive file system, including saving the data recorded on it. Choose the most suitable one and use it following the given instructions.

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