Position : Tips - How to completely erase USB flash drives?

How to Completely Wipe a USB Flash Drive?

Do you want to permanently wipe USB flash drives and ensure that data cannot be recovered by anybody? There are two methods here to safely erase data off USB drives and make nothing recoverable.

Overview on wiping USB drives

The USB flash drive is a miniature high-capacity mobile storage product that uses a USB interface to connect a computer. It is portable, fast and easy to use and carry. Like hard disks, you may need to wipe a USB flash drive sometimes.

Wiping a USB flash drive means the process of securely erasing all data stored on the drive by overwriting every sector so that data becomes unrecoverable. By way of erasing a USB drive, sensitive and personal data once stored on the drive cannot be recovered or accessed by someone else. Thus, you may need to erase the USB drive before you want to dispose of it or share it with others for the purpose of data privacy and security.

wipe USB flash drive

Permanently erasing data from a USB drive is neither difficult nor complicated, and it usually involves several straightforward steps. So, most of us can finish the task on our own at home.

When and why do you need to wipe a USB drive?

Nowadays, USB data recovery tools and technologies make it quite simple to recover deleted, formatted, and lost data from USB drives. Even those users who are not data recovery experts can perform USB drive recovery with the right tools. Therefore, it is not enough to simply delete files or format the drive when you want to share, sell, or give away a USB drive, especially when the USB drive has stored important data. The USB drive erasing process overwrites both existing and lost data with zeros, random information, or other hex characteristics, making it impossible to recover original data. Here're some situations you might want to securely wipe a USB drive:

How to completely wipe a USB drive?

You cannot wipe data from USB flash drives completely with a simple deletion or quick formatting, because you can easily recover them using data recovery software. USB drive recovery programs can be easily downloaded from the Internet, and it is quite easy to retrieve deleted or formatted data from USB drives. Hence, extra operations are needed to completely wipe hard drives, external hard drives, SD cards, or USB flash drives, so that no data can be recovered. This can be done either through a full format in Windows File Explorer or Disk Management, or with the help of free disk wiping software such as DiskGenius Free Edition. Moreover, you can also physically damage the USB drive to ensure data cannot be recovered, and yet this also destroys the drive itself. Apparently, destroying the USB drive physically is not cost effective, and it is not recommended to do so unless you have special requirements.

To ensure a smooth data wiping process, please pay attention to the following:

- Before erasing USB drive data, you should make sure that you've backed up important files stored on the drive. That's because, once the drive gets erased, files are no longer recoverable. So, ensure you have backup copies stored on somewhere else.

- Also, you need to view content in the USB drive. Double-check if you are going to wipe the correct USB drive. Wiping the wrong drive will surely lead to permanent data loss.

- Besides, check if the write-protection is turned off. Some USB drives have a physical write-protection switch, and you need to move it to the unlocked side.

In the instructions below, I will show you two step-by-step methods that erase data on USB flash drives permanently on Windows 10.

Method 1: Wipe a USB flash drive using Windows formatting tools

Windows operating system comes with formatting tools such as Disk Management, Diskpart commands, and File Explorer, and you can format USB drives or hard drives easily. However, many of us format disks by way of a quick format which completes within seconds, but this cannot erase data for good. The quick format is the default formatting method. Actually, we can perform a full format on USB drives, which is able to erase data byte by byte so that files cannot be recovered by any means. How to clean data completely using the full formatting option? Let's have a close look at the process:

Step 1. Insert the USB flash drive into your computer, wait for a few seconds, and let the computer do its job - detect the USB flash drive and install the USB driver.

wipe USB flash drive

Step 2. Open File Explorer by double-clicking "This PC" and you can find the drive icon of your USB drive.

Step 3. Open the USB flash drive and move the important data to computer hard drive to create a backup.

Step 4. Right-click on the USB flash drive for which you want to erase data and select "Format" option from the context menu.

wipe USB flash drive

Step 5. Select file system type from the drop-down list and set Allocation unit size. If you do not know how to choose, you can follow suggested options.

Step 6. Unselect "Quick Format" option and click "Start" button. Then Windows will start full formatting the selected drive.

wipe USB flash drive

Note: The Quick Format does not erase data permanently, and you can recover lost data from formatted disk easily using data recovery software, while full formatting takes longer time to complete and wipes data permanently. If this drive contains important data, you should create a backup in advance.

Method 2: Securely erase a USB Flash Drive with DiskGenius Free

Apart from full formatting the USB drive, you can also use third-party disk erasing software to wipe a USB drive. Here we recommend a free Windows partition manager – DiskGenius Free Edition to erase data for you. DiskGenius Free Edition can erase data of any partition, hard disk, USB flash drive, memory card and other storage devices directly and easily, delete existing files permanently, and erase deleted files, ensuring wiped data cannot be recovered by any data recovery software or services. When erasing data, you can make some other settings, such as specify characters to overwrite data.

Step 1. Install and launch the free disk eraser software DiskGenius Free Edition on your computer.

Step 2. Select the USB flash drive for which you want to erase data, then click on "Tools" from the main menu, and click on "Erase Sectors" option.

wipe USB flash drive

Step 3. DiskGenius will pop up this window where you can set following options. Click "Erase" once all the settings are configured.

wipe USB flash drive

Step 4. You will see the following warning message, prompting the operation will erase data permanently and wiped data cannot be recovered. Click "Erase" to continue.

wipe USB flash drive

Step 5. Click "OK" button if you do want to erase data. Also, you can cancel it if you change your mind.

wipe USB flash drive

Step 6. DiskGenius is now wiping the USB drive, which may take some time. Wait for the process to complete.

wipe USB flash drive

Here's a video guide on wiping a USB flash drive:

If you think this software satisfies your requirement, you can download this tool to erase data. Files cleared by this feature cannot be recovered, which is a good option to protect privacy.


Securely wiping USB flash drive data is a necessary and crucial step before selling or discarding old flash drives, as this can effectively safeguard personal privacy. This article offers two methods to completely erase data, and you can follow either way to wipe your USB flash drives, SD cards, external hard drives, or hard drives with ease and free of charge.