Flash formatter

Format USB flash drives quickly with this free HP tool.

USB flash drives are this century's floppies, holding everything from personal and medical information to music and pictures and even secure data, with the added advantage of being small and rugged enough for keychain duty. You can even boot from flash drives, just like the old floppies, which, together with portability, universal compatibility, and enough space to host useful tools, makes them ideal recovery devices. Hewlett-Packard's USB Disk Storage Format Tool can quickly and thoroughly format virtually any USB flash drive in a wide range of file systems as well as create bootable USB media. We tested it in Windows 7.

This compact tool has an equally compact interface, an efficient little dialog with selections for Device and File system, and an entry field for Volume label, and check boxes for format options, including the ability to create a bootable DOS start-up disk using either internal system files or files at a location you can specify. Other than Start and Close buttons, that's it, not even a Help file, though this tool is easy enough to figure out without one. We moved the data off of an older 1GB flash drive and inserted the drive in an open USB port. HP USB immediately identified it and its file type, FAT. We chose to reformat it in NTFS and enable compression. We clicked Start, and a pop-up warned us all data on the drive would be lost. We allowed it to proceed, and it formatted the drive in seconds. Clicking Close called up a small dialog with detailed information about the drive. We then moved the data back to the newly reformatted drive, ejected it, reinserted it, and verified that everything was in order, including our portable apps.

HP's little tool is the USB flash drive tool that could, bringing enhanced power and capability to your Windows system at no cost. We recommend it to anyone who uses flash drives.

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