What to do if your external HDD won’t format

Ivan Jenic
by Ivan Jenic
Troubleshooting Expert
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fix external hdd format problems

Some Windows users reported to us that their external HDD won’t format. If you also experience the same issue, we would be glad to help you out with this post.

The external HDD won’t format problem is normally accompanied with the ‘Windows was unable to complete format’ error prompt. As a result of this, the format process is either halted or incomplete.

There are several reasons why the external HDD won’t format problem may occur, this include:

  • Malware or virus infection
  • Missing or damaged DLL, SYS, or EXE files
  • Incorrect drive format
  • Damaged hard drive partition
  • Incompatible or outdated hardware drivers or BIOS, etc.

How to fix external HDD format problems

  1. Scan the external HDD for malware
  2. Run SFC scan
  3. Run CHKDSK
  4. Install the latest updates
  5. Use Diskpart
  6. Run Disk management tool
  7. Use third-party tools

Solution 1: Scan the external HDD for malware

Malware and viruses can cause the external HDD format issues. Therefore, you should scan the external hard drive for potential malware or viruses.

In order to scan the external hard drive, you can use Windows’ built-in antivirus i.e. Windows Defender, or third-party antivirus programs.

Here’s how to scan your external hard drive for viruses:

  • Plug the external hard drive into your system
  • Go to Start > type ‘defender’ > double click Windows Defender to launch the tool
  • In the left-hand pane, select the shield iconexternal hdd wont format
  • In the new window, click the Custom scan tick box.
  • Now, click on the ‘Scan Now’ option.

Alternatively, you can use other antivirus software for Windows PC to scan your external hard drive. Some of the best third-party antivirus programs such as Bitdefender 2019, Panda, BullGuard, MalwareBytes, etc are ideal for virus removal.

Solution 2: Run SFC scan

Corrupt system files can also cause external HDD format problems. Therefore, you can use SFC (System File Checker) utility tool, which scans the system files to check for integrity file violations for systematic resolution.

Here’s how to run SFC scan:

  • Press Windows+Q and type cmd.
  • From the search results, right-click Command Prompt and choose “Run as Administrator”.external hdd wont format
  • A new cmd window appears. Type sfc /scannow and hit the ‘Enter’ key.
  • Wait until scan and repair process is finished.

Solution 3: Run CHKDSK

CHKDSK can also be used to solve the external HDD wont format problem. This is because CHKDSK cleans up disk related errors from your drive.

Follow these steps to run CHKDSK:

  • Go to Start > Type “command prompt” >Right-click on it, and select “Run as administrator”.
  • Now, type “CHKDSK C: /F”.
  • Hence, type CHKDSK C: /R without quotes in the Command Prompt and hit “Enter” key.
  • After CHKDSK process, restart your PC afterwards.

Note: Ensure you type in the external drive letter in the second step above. In some cases the letter might be F, G, or any alphabet.

Solution 4: Install the latest updates

Outdated BIOS and hardware drivers can cause the external HDD wont format problem. So therefore, it is essential that you update your PC so as to resolve the issue.

Besides, Windows updates can fix taplethora of Windows OS issues most especially any external HDD related issue.

Here’s how to run Windows update:

  • Go to Start>type “update” in the search box and then click on “Windows Update” to proceed.
  • In the Windows Update window, check for updates and install the available updates.external hdd wont format
  • After the update is complete, restart your Windows PC.

Alternatively, you can use automated solution to update your BIOS and hardware drivers. We highly recommend that you use Tweakbit Driver Updater, which is approved by Microsoft and Norton for updating hardware device drivers as well as any other system drivers.

Solution 5: Use Diskpart

Some Windows users reported that they fixed the external HDD wont format problem simply by using Diskpart. On the other hand, Diskpart is an utility tool that can be used to format the external hard drive. However, before accessing Diskpart, you need to use Command Prompt.

Follow these steps to use Diskpart:

  • Plug in the external HDD into your system
  • Go to Start > Type ‘Command Prompt’ without quotes.
  • Select Command Prompt (Admin) to open the Prompt’s window.
  • In the Command prompt window, type ‘diskpart’, and then press the ‘Enter’ key. This will open the Diskpart window.external hdd wont format
  • Now, type ‘list disk’ and hit the Enter key to open a list of drives.external hdd wont format
  • Type ‘select disk n’ in the Diskpart window, and press the Enter key. (Note: replace the n with the number of the external hard drive you intend to select.external hdd wont format
  • Type ‘clean’ without quotes, and hit the Enter key.
  • Proceed by typing ‘create partition primary’ command in Diskpart, and hit the Enter key
  • Finally, type ‘format fs=ntfs quick’ and press Enter to format the external HDD with NTFS (New Technology File System).

— RELATED: 5 best software to recover damaged Windows hard drive

Solution 6: Run Disk management tool

Another workaround applicable in resolving the external HDD wont format problem is by using disk management. This tool formats and restores the default drive settings; therefore, it enables you to format your external hard drive once and for all.

  • Plug in your external hard drive
  • Go to Start > type ‘disk management‘ > select the Disk Management utilityexternal hdd wont format
  • Right-click the drive that you want to format > select the Format option
  • Follow the prompts to proceed with the format process > click OK on the warning window.
  • After the format process is complete, you can use your drive.

Solution 7: Use third-party tools

Saving the best for the last, there are several third-party tools out there which you can use to format your external HDD without stress. Therefore, you can try out any of them in order to resolve the external HDDwon’t format problem.

Some of the best tools for formatting external HDD include GParted Disk Partition, HDD Low Level Format Tool, IM-Magic Partition Resizer Free, and Tokiwa FAT32 Formatter.

While some of them are free, others are available at a premium price. But you can definitely format your external HDD by using any of the tools. Additionally, you can also format USB flash drives as well with the aforementioned tools for formatting external HDD.

In conclusion, we do hope that any of the solutions we mentioned above helped you to fix the external drive wont format problem. However, if you still experience the problem, you can use an enclosure with SATA cable for the external HDD before you proceed with the format process.

If you have any question of comment regarding any of the solutions we mentioned above or you experience technical issues with your Windows PC, feel free to comment below.


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