Format Live Linux USB Destroyed by Rufus or Etcher


Here is the scenario. You used the Etcher or Rufus tools to create a bootable, live Linux USB drive on Windows or maybe Linux.

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

You plug it into your Windows system and to your surprise the USB disk capacity is only 4MB.

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

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

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

Live Linux USB formatting created by Rufus or Etcher [In Windows]

You only see 4MB of disk space in Windows. Do you know why? Because when creating the live Linux USB, the tool creates a 4MB EFI partition in the FAT 32 file system. The other partitions are in the Linux Ext4 file system which is not recognized by Windows.

That is why your Windows system only sees the 4MB EFI partition and displays the USB size as 4MB.

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

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

Let me show the steps in detail.

Step 1:

Go to the Windows menu and find the Disk Management tool.

Start the Disk Management Tool in Windows
Start the disk management tool

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

This is very important to select the right drive. Identify which one is the size of the USB disk or the “Removable” label.

identify usb drive in windows

2nd step:

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

Right click on the partition and click Remove volume.

delete partitions on usb disk
Delete partitions on the USB drive

When asked for your confirmation, tap Yes.

confirm partition deletion
Confirm partition deletion

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

create a new partition
Create a new simple volume (partition)

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

Once done, you will see that the USB drive has returned to normal state and you can start copying and pasting data on it.

live linux usb successfully formatted
USB returned to normal state

You can use your USB stick as before now.

These steps were for Windows. How about using Linux?

Live Linux USB Formatting on Linux

I have noticed that Live USB created by Etcher and such tools often create refusals to be formatted correctly by right click formatting option in file manager.

As an alternative, you can do what you did in Windows: delete the existing partitions and create a new partition with all the free space.

Use the GNOME Disks tool here. It is already installed on Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions.

start the disk application
Start the disk application

Again, make sure you’ve selected the external USB drive here.

You will see different partitions on the USB drive. Try to format the disc from the menu above.

usb formatting tool in disks
Format the disc

If that doesn’t work, delete partitions individually one by one, then create the entire USB as free space.

When you have created all the free space, click the + sign to create a partition on it in the NTFS or FAT32 file system.

create partition on usb

Create the partition with NTFS (or FAT 32), name it appropriately and then you can enjoy USB as before.


Tools like Rufus and Etcher don’t really destroy your USB drive. This is how they work, creating a different file system on the disk. But then the operating system does not understand it correctly.

The good thing is that it can be fixed with just a little bit of effort. Hope you too were able to fix it. If not, share your problem with me and I will try to help you.


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