Are you trying to format a removable disk and see the error "Windows could not finish formatting"? You will probably feel stuck because you have an unusable device.
Regardless of whether this formatting error occurs on a USB flash drive, an SD card or similar, we will show you what to do if Windows cannot format a drive.
First: How to format a drive in Windows
To make sure that we start on the same page, let's briefly review how a removable disk is formatted in Windows 10
How to format a USB drive and why
. Remember that this process will destroy everything that is currently on the drive!
Open a file explorer window and navigate to This pc to display all drives connected to your computer. Find your removable disk on this page, right-click on it and select format.
This will bring up the basic Windows format menu. If you're not sure which options to choose, see the guide above for tips, or click Restore device standards Key to use what the device came with. click Beginning to format the drive.
If you try this several times and continue to get the message "Windows could not complete the format", continue troubleshooting.
1. Try formatting using Disk Management
For advanced disk requirements, Windows offers the Disk Management Tool, which offers more options than This PC. Therefore, it should be your first stop if a standard format doesn't work.
Press Win + X. or right-click the Start button to open a list of shortcuts, and then click Disk management to access it. At the top you can see a list of the volumes connected to your computer and at the bottom a visual representation.
If you see RAW next to the size of the drive below (and below) File system This means that Windows does not recognize the drive's file system. In some cases, this shows that the drive is formatted with a MacOS or Linux file system that Windows cannot use.
Right click your USB drive (make sure you choose the right one) and choose format. You will see a similar user interface as before. Choose a Volume label, Specify that File system (FAT32 works best for smaller devices or those you want to use across platforms.) Allocation unit size how default.
If you go Do a quick format activated, Windows does not check the hard drive for bad sectors. We'll cover this in a later troubleshooting step. However, you can turn it off at any time and see if Windows finds any problems. Remember that this takes a lot longer.
Delete the volume and recreate it
If this doesn't work, you can try it instead Delete volume Option in the context menu of the drive. Deleting the volume erases everything that Windows has allocated to the hard drive, leaving only unallocated space.
You then need to create a new volume by right clicking and selecting New simple volumeand go through the steps (which are similar to the other formatting methods).
2. Remove the write protection from the drive
As the name suggests, write protection prevents a system from adding new data to a drive. The most common reason for this is a physical switch on the drive itself, especially with SD cards. Look at your drive and make sure there are no sliders or switches in it blocked or read-only Position.
After checking this, you should also remove the software write protection on your drive
How to format a read-only USB stick
. To do this, press Win + R. to open and enter the Run dialog Diskpart. Confirm the UAC prompt that appears. A prompt interface will appear.
Enter here List disk and hit Enter. You will see a list of hard drives and should be able to identify your removable storage device based on its size. Enter Select disk X. to make changes to the correct device.
Once you receive confirmation that you have selected the correct hard drive, enter it Attributes hard disk to see information about it. If you see Yes next to Current read-only status, then the hard drive has write protection.
To remove this, type Delete attributes hard disk write-protected. Windows then displays a message that the attributes have been successfully removed. Give that exit Command to leave the window.
Try formatting the hard drive again as there is no write protection.
3. Use the SD memory card formatter
If you cannot format an SD card in Windows, the solution may be to use a specific utility instead of the Windows tool. The SD Association recommends using the SD memory card formatter instead of the one provided by your operating system. Download it if you have specific problems with an SD card.
The tool is simple and is similar to the options described above. Make sure you have selected the correct card in the dropdown menu above. Use Overwrite format to clear the current content of the card for best results and give it a name on the card Volume label Field.
4. Scan the drive for errors
Sometimes formatting errors occur because the drive has bad sectors or similar problems. At this point it is worth checking the drive to see if anything is wrong with it.
To do this, open This pc once again. Right-click on your removable disk and choose properties. In the menu that appears, switch to Tools Click on the tab Check Button below Error checking. Choose Repair the drive To run a scan on the drive, wait for the scan to finish and try again.
If you think your device is damaged, find out how to recover data from a damaged drive
Restore data from a damaged memory card or USB drive
5. Use a third-party formatting tool
If you still can't format your hard drive, a third-party problem can solve your problem. Such tools often use different formatting methods than Windows and may circumvent any problems Windows has with your hard drive.
Check out our favorite free Windows partition manager
The best free Windows partition manager for your needs
for multiple apps that can do this.
6. Check for malware
While this is most likely not the cause of your problem, it is worth doing a malware scan if you still can't format a drive. Some malware can interfere with the normal operation of the file system, including formatting drives.
We recommend running a scan with the free version of Malwarebytes to see if it detects any infections. Then try the format again.
7. Try formatting on a different operating system
Before you give up the drive, there is still a way to isolate the problem. If you have access to a computer running MacOS or Linux, try using these operating systems to format your external drive.
While you need to reformat the drive for use with Windows, you can find out if the problem is with your hardware or with Windows. If your drive is properly formatted on a Mac, there is a problem with Windows.
Learn how to format USB drives on macOS
Which Mac file system is best for an external drive?
Instructions for this.
Still can't format? Time to replace the drive
If you've followed all of the steps above and still get a format error, your drive may be dead. Unfortunately, flash drives and SD cards have a limited number of uses. cheap or old drives are more susceptible to spending. This is also the case if your drive has been physically damaged.
Hopefully you have backed up all important data on the drive. The good news is that you can buy a fast flash drive
5 of the fastest and best USB 3.0 flash drives
as a replacement for not much money.
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