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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Format Live Linux USB Destroyed by Rufus or Etcher

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Here’s the scenario. You used Etcher or Rufus tools to create a bootable, live Linux USB in Windows or perhaps in Linux.

You used it to install Linux and the purpose of the USB is accomplished. Now you want to format this USB and use it for the regular data transfer or storage.

You plug it in your Windows system and to your surprise, the disk capacity of the USB is just 4 MB.

You try to format it and it probably won’t let you do that. Even if you manage to format it, the size of the USB is now shrunk to just 4 MB from the usual 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB.

Have you lost your USB? Not really. Your USB is not completely destroyed. You can still format it with a little trick and use it comfortably.

Let me show how to restore the bootable USB to a usable state in both Windows and Linux.

Formatting the live Linux USB created by Rufus or Etcher [In Windows]

You see only 4 MB of disk space in Windows. Do you know why? Because while creating the live Linux USB, the tool creates a 4 MB of EFI partition in FAT 32 filesystem. The other partition(s) is in Linux’s Ext4 filesystem which is not recognized by Windows.

This is why your Windows system only sees the EFI partition of 4 MB and shows the USB size as 4 MB.

mystery behind 4 mb linux live usb
Windows only see the EFI partition on the USB

All in all, what you need to do is to delete all the partition on the USB disk, create a new NTFS or FAT32 partition from the free space you got from deleting the existing partitions. That’s it.

Let me show the steps in detail.

Step 1:

Go to the Windows menu and look for the Disk Management tool.

Start disk management tool in Windows
Start disk management tool

Start this tool and it will show all the disks present on your computer. This includes the plugged-in USB, of course.

This is very important to select the correct disk. Identify which one it is from the size of the USB disk or from the ‘Removable’ tag.

identify usb disk in windows

Step 2:

The idea is to delete any existing partition present on the USB disk. The unallocated space cannot be deleted but that’s okay.

Right click on the partition and click Delete Volume.

delete partitions on usb disk
Delete partitions on the USB disk

When asked for your confirmation, press Yes.

confirm deletion of partition
Confirm deletion of partition

Your aim is to have only a single block of unallocated space. When you see that, right click on it and click on “New Simple Volume” to create a partition.

create new partition
Create New Simple Volume (partition)

The next steps are simple. Click on Next, select the entire available space, assign a letter to it, select the file system (FAT 32 or NTFS) and format it.

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