Cannot Format External Hard Drive on Windows PCs? Try the 3 Easy Fixes!

When you cannot format external hard drive, the 3 easy and effectively fixes can be helpful. You can fix the issue or forcefully format if the Windows cannot format external hard drive.


By Irene / Updated on May 7, 2024

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When you receive the notification "Windows was unable to format a removable disk" while trying to format your external HDD/SSD, Micro SD card, USB flash drive, pen drive, etc., it generally means that you cannot format the external hard drive. What are the possible reasons and how to fix that? This post will introduce it in detail with 3 effective solutions.


Why do you cannot format the external hard drive?

To better address the issue of the external hard drive not formatting, it's a good idea to understand its causes. Here, we've compiled some possible reasons:

Possible reasons that make Windows cannot format external hard drive:
Malware or viruses
Bad sectors on the drive
Missing or damaged DLL, SYS, or EXE files
Issues with the hard drive partition
Write protection on the disk
Incorrect drive format
Outdated hardware drivers or BIOS

Apart from the direct "Windows was unable to format a removable disk" notification, there are other messages that indicate an issue that the external hard drive won’t format if you come across the situations listed above:

"Disk is not formatted"

"You need to format the disk in drive F: before using it"

"This volume doesn't have a recognized file system"

When facing these issues, many people use CHKDSK to try and solve them. However, running CHKDSK might lead to an error reporting a RAW format.

How to fix Windows cannot format external hard drive issue?

If you cannot format external hard drive on a Windows PC, you can try the following 3 methods to solve the problem.

Fix 1. Remove write protection with CMD

One reason Windows is unable to format the external hard drive is due to write protection on the hard drive. You can use CMD, a Windows command-line-based program that assists in managing your hard disks and partitions via command lines.

Step 1. Press the Win + X on your keyboard, then choose Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu. Then enter diskpart and hit Enter.

Step 2. Input list disk and press Enter.

Step 3. Type select disk #(for example: Disk 1) to choose the write-protected disk and press Enter.

Step 4. Enter attributes disk clear readonly to modify the disk’s properties, remove the read-only status, and press Enter.

Step 5. Type exit and press Enter twice to exit both Diskpart and Command Prompt. Reconnect your USB flash drive to verify if the write protection issue has been resolved.


Fix 2. Check bad sectors on your hard drive

To effectively and easily check whether there are bad sectors on your hard drive, it is strongly recommended to use the AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. It's effective in checking and fixing bad sectors on various external hard drives, including WD, Samsung, and SanDisk. It can even offer solutions if bad sectors are causing issues with formatting your external hard drive.

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Once you identify bad sectors, consider marking them as unusable and hiding them to prevent further issues.

Note: Kindly please note that some methods suggested online for repairing bad sectors may not provide a direct solution. For optimal data safety, it's advisable to replace a hard drive with bad sectors. You can also maintain regular automatic file backups to prevent any potential data loss.

Step 1. Download, install, and open AOMEI Partition Assistant. Then, right-click on the partition you want to examine and choose "Advanced" > "Check Partition".

Advanced Check Partition

Step 2. In the pop-up window, you will see three different options. To fix bad sectors on external hard drive, please check the option “Check partition for errors by using chkdsk.exe” and click “OK” to complete the operation.

Check Partition and Fix Errors

If you want to check whether there is a bad sector on other hard drives, you can do as below:

Step 1. To check the partition, simply right-click on the desired partition and then choose "Advanced" > "Check Partition". This process mirrors step 1 in the partition check procedure mentioned above.

Step 2. In the pop-up window, choose the last option, which is "Check whether there is a bad sector on the partition." Then, click "OK" to proceed.

Check Bad Sectors

Step 3. Afterward, click the "Start" button to initiate the check.

Check Bad Sectors Partition

After checking for bad sectors, if the external hard drive contains any, it's advisable to back up your data beforehand, if feasible. If important data resides in the bad sector, it's best to send the hard disk to a professional data recovery center for direct data recovery.

Fix 3. Force format if the external hard drive not formatting

If you're unable to format your external hard drive, you can use the AOMEI Partition Assistant already installed to forcefully format the drive. This tool has fewer restrictions compared to Windows built-in formatting tools and comes with the following benefits:

Benefits of using AOMEI Partition Assistant to fix external hard drives not formatting
Formats large hard drives (over 32GB) to the FAT32 file system.
Allows formatting of hard drives to Ext4/Ext3/Ext2 under the Windows environment.
Easily formats internal hard drives to exFAT.
Successfully force formats RAW, write-protected, encrypted, or corrupted hard drives.

Step 1. Install and launch AOMEI Partition Assistant on your Windows 11/10/8/7 PC. You'll find all disks on your computer displayed in the main interface. If you encounter an external hard drive marked as "Unformatted" due to being unable to format, simply right-click on it and choose "Format Partition".

Format Raw Partition

Step 2. Next, a Format partition window will appear, allowing you to configure the details. Select the desired file system from the list provided, and then click "OK".

Format Raw To NTFS

Step 3. Finally, click on "Apply" followed by "Proceed" to initiate the entire process.


Typically, following these three steps will format your external hard drive. If the formatting process still fails, you can attempt to use the Wipe Hard Drive feature of AOMEI Partition Assistant to address the issue.


When you cannot format the external hard drive, you can try the given 3 easy fixes. It is advisable to upgrade to AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional to explore more advanced features. It can recover your lost files after formatting, extend the drive space, or clone the disk if you want to upgrade the disk. For Windows Server users, it offers the AOMEI Partition Assistant Server edition.

Irene · Staff Editor
Irene is an Editor of AOMEI Technology. She devotes herself in giving insightful thoughts on common computer problems with simple and clear guidance. Irene loves to help people solve problems and explore more solutions on relevant issues. She loves reading, singing and travelling.