When trying to format an external storage drive or a system hard drive, you may encounter an error: “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format” .
Usually this error occurs on a USB drive or SD card.
This error appears when trying to format an SD card or USB drive, and Windows does not allow you to do so. There can be various reasons behind this problem. So, first, you need to find out the exact cause of the error, and then implement the proven methods that are shared on this blog.
Possible Causes of “Windows was unable to complete the format” error
Before we talk about the solutions, you must be sure of the cause behind the “Windows was unable to complete the format,” error. There could be issues such as,
- Write protection is enabled
- Bad sectors on the drive
- Hard drive corruption
- Malware attack on the drive
- Hard drive not formatted with FAT (FAT16/FAT32), exFAT, or NTFS.
How to Fix “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format” error?
Here are some simple but effective ways to quickly fix errors. However, before performing any of these methods, make sure you have a data backup. If there is no backup, you can try to use a reliable data recovery tool to recover the lost data.
Method 1: Scan PC for Malware
As the system is attacked by malware, you may encounter a “Windows could not complete formatting” error. Try running Windows Defender antivirus software to scan the PC for malware to solve the problem. Follow the steps given:
- Open System Settings by pressing Windows + I and then go to Update & Security > Windows Security > Virus & threat protection.
- Next, select Quick scan under Current threats. (In previous versions of Windows 10, go to Threat history and then select Scan now.)
- The scanning process will start. If you can’t find any issue but are still concerned, try using third-party anti-malware software such as Norton, Kaspersky, etc.
Method 2: Disable Write-protection
If you encounter a “Windows could not complete formatting” error when formatting the hard drive, write protection may be enabled. You can disable it by following the given steps:
- Press Windows + R to open the Run dialog box, type regedit, and click OK.
- Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control.
- Right-click on the Control > New > Key, then type StorageDevicePolicies.
- Right-click on StorageDevicePolicies > New > DWORD (32-bit value)
- If your PC is 64-bit, choose QWORD (64-bit value).
- Next, name it with WriteProtect.
- Double-click on the WriteProtect and enter 0 under value data and click OK.
- Once done, close the registry window and reboot the system. The write protection will be disabled. Check if the error is fixed.
Method 3: Use Disk Management Utility
You may face errors while attempting to format your hard drive through File Explorer. Instead of directly formatting the hard drive through Windows File Explorer, try the Disk Management utility. Follow the given steps:
- Open Disk Management and find the affected drive.
- Right-click on the affected drive and click New Simple Volume if the Format option is grey.
- Provide a Volume Label (optional) and choose NTFS as a file system.
- Choose to perform a Quick Format to complete the process.
- Once done, retry to format the drive.
Method 4: Run CHKDSK Command
Sometimes, a damaged hard drive can also cause the error “Windows could not complete formatting”. You can run the CHKDSK command to check the drive for damage and bad sectors, and correct them to solve the error.
Follow the given steps:
- Press Windows + R to open the Run dialog box, type cmd, and press Enter.
- In the Command Prompt window, type chkdsk f: f and hit Enter. (Replace the letter f: with your drive letter.)
Wait until the process ends. It will fix the errors and hard drive corruption. Once done, close the window and try formatting the hard drive.
Note: The method only works on an NTFS formatted hard drive.
Method 5: Run DiskPart in command prompt
You can also try fixing the error “Windows was unable to complete the format” by running the DiskPart utility. This command-line utility can quickly help you format the drive and solve the problem. Follow the given steps:
- Open command prompt using the above steps.
- In the command prompt window, type diskpart > list disk and hit Enter.
- Then type select 0 (Replace 0 with your affected drive letter) and press Enter.
- Type clean command and then type create partition primary. Hit Enter to proceed.
- Afterward, type format fs=fat32 quick or fs=ntfs quick, and press Enter.
- Wait until the process completes. Once finished, close the window and restart your system to check if the error persists.
Note: This method will format the drive, resulting in data loss. So, bring with you powerful data recovery software to get back the lost / deleted data.
Whether you encounter the “Windows could not complete formatting” error on the system drive or external hard drive, you can try all these DIY (do it yourself) methods to solve the problem. However, some of these methods (such as running CHKDSK and Diskpart utilities) may cause data loss.