Once in a while, you stumble upon a “Windows was unable to complete the format“
error while trying to use your USB Flash drive or any other external storage on
Windows 7/8/10/11. This error would leave you stuck and permits you to use your
storage device. Today, we are looking at the possible reasons behind this
problem and the best solutions.
5 Major reasons for the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error
1. Write Protection on Drive
Write protection is a feature to prevent users from making changes or writing new data to the drive. You may see a message “The disk is write-protected” on copying data to the pen drive. There are two types of write protection, hardware-based and software-based. To remove these write protection from the drive, look at the following section Fix 4.
2. Bad Sector on Drive
The smallest possible units for data storage are sectors on a storage drive. The bad sector is a corrupted or damaged sector that cannot be read or written on the drive. These bad sectors can prevent formatting your drive.
3. Physically Damaged Drive
External storage drives are likely to damage physically if not handled with care. Once its internal hardware components are damaged, you can’t do anything. Then the available option will be to take it to a repair centre or get a new storage drive.
4. Malware Infection
There are types of malware that also prevent deleting its infected files. It makes them read-only that stops the formatting. If this is the case, you’ll need first to remove the malware/virus infection.
5. Drive has no partition
If the drive has no partition or the space is unallocated, Windows can’t perform formatting. You’ll need to create partition or volume first in this case. You need to assign a drive letter before using a storage drive.
9 Easy fixes you can try for “Windows was unable to complete the format”
Fix 1: Using Disk Management
Disk Management is a Windows tool to manage drives and their partitions. It detects every storage device connected to the computer even it does not have a partition or file system. So, we can create delete partitions or file systems.
There are the following three methods to open disk management:
- Right-click on Start Menu click on the Disk Management You can also open this by shortcut key Windows Key + X and pressing the M key.
- Open the Run box by pressing Windows Key + R, type “msc”, and press enter.
Once you’ve opened the disk management window, you can see drives attached to your computer. Now follow the below steps.
- Right-click on the drive you want to format. Select the format option and perform a format.
- Hopefully, this procedure has resolved your issue.
Also, you can create a partition of your drive from here if it does not have any partitions or volume or shows unallocated space.
- Click on the drive and select the “New Simple Volume” option to create a partition.
- Define the size of the volume/partition in the appeared window.
Fix 2: Using Command Prompt (Simple)
To format the drive:
- Open the cmd box by searching the start menu or type cmd in the run box.
- Type the following command “format F: /fs:ntfs” and press enter.
Warning: Here F: is the drive letter of the drive we are trying to format, and ntfs is the file system; you can change these parameters according to your needs, i.e., FAT32 is another popular file system in Windows.
Fix 3: Using Command Prompt (DiskPart)
To perform this method, we need to open DiskPart, and we can open it by following ways:
- Type diskpart in the run box and click ok.
- Open cmd and type diskpart, and press enter.
Once you’ve opened diskpart, you’ll see ab window box like below:
- Type the command list disk and press enter for a list of connected disks to the computer.
- A list of attached drives will be shown in the result. Now we have to select the specific drive. To select a drive, type select disk 1 and press enter key. Please notify that disk 1 is the drive we are trying to format. A message will be displayed saying that disk 1 is now the selected disk.
- Now type command clean and press enter. This command will erase data from the selected disk.
- The next step is to create a partition by creating partition primary
- After successful partitioning, perform format by format fs=fat32 quick and again fat32 is the file system and quick parameter performs faster format. But you can remove this parameter for the deep format, and then the formatting takes much time depending on the size of the disk.
- Now the last step would be to assign a drive letter for the drive to be accessible by following command assign letter L:
Fix 4: Remove Write Protection on Drive
Hardware-based write protection is usually a feature of SD Cards or Flash drives, enabling us to make the storage read-only; it prevents formatting or changes to the data on the drive. To disable this write protection, you need to look for the SD Card or Flash drive lock switch and turn it off. To check whether the write protection is turned off or on the write attributes disk command after selecting the disk in DISKPART. For more info, please review the previous fix.
Fix 5: Using Third-Party Formatting Tools
There are plenty of third-party tools to try for disk management operations. If you’re trying to format an SD Card, then SD Memory Card Formatter is recommended. It is a small and easy-to-use tool, much like a Windows format tool.
Fix 6 Scanning and Repairing Drive Errors
If we plugin a storage drive to the computer containing drive errors, windows will show a pop-up message displaying “Scan and repair drive” click this option and let it perform a quick repair to the drive. If this pop-up message doesn’t appear, then:
- Right-click on the drive and open properties.
- Click the Check button under the Tools tab under the error checking
- Then click the scan and repair drive option.
Fix 7: Repairing Bad Sectors
If your drive contains corrupted or bad sectors, Windows can’t perform formatting. First, we will have to scan bad sectors on the drive and then repair. Try using the tools mentioned earlier to scan and repair bad sectors. Another option would be to create a partition that does not contain bad sectors and unallocated spaces.
Fix 8: Scanning for Malware
Scanning the drive for the malware and viruses can also resolve your problem, even though it’s not likely the case. There are some viruses or malware that create or make files containing on the drive read-only. Even though Windows Security Defender is enabled by default in updated versions, try scanning your drive with reliable and popular antivirus applications like Malwarebytes or Avast.
Fix 9: Formatting the drive on another Device or OS
If the previously mentioned solutions didn’t work, format the drive in another operating system like macOS or Linux distros before giving up the hope on the drive. There may be a problem lies in your installed operating system.
We have looked at the reasons behind the error “Windows was unable to complete the format” and their solutions. Although USB drives are portable and reliable storage devices today, they can get physically damaged easily. If the above mentioned solutions didn’t work in your case, then it’s most likely that your drive has been damaged physically, it is much difficult and nearly impossible or difficult to fix. Taking it to a repair shop would cost almost as a new drive.
Precautions to take to avoid this problem
- Avoid rough handling of your drives.
- Do not remove or unplug your storage drives while copying or writing data in your drive.
- Safely remove the drive before unplugging, even though it can be skipped in newer versions of Windows OS.
- Always use antivirus applications to prevent malware from infecting your drives or creating read-only files on drives.