External Hard Drive Error: 6 Methods you can use to Fix it

Running a few commands on Command Prompt should fix this issue

by Madalina Dinita
Madalina Dinita
Madalina Dinita
Windows & Software Expert
Madalina has been a Windows fan ever since she got her hands on her first Windows XP computer. She is interested in all things technology, especially emerging technologies... read more
Reviewed by Alex Serban
Alex Serban
Alex Serban
Windows Server & Networking Expert
After moving away from the corporate work-style, Alex has found rewards in a lifestyle of constant analysis, team coordination and pestering his colleagues. Holding an MCSA Windows Server... read more
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  • If your external hard drive displays error messages, it might be because it is not initialized.
  • One quick and effective solution is to run the CHKDSK command on Command Prompt.
  • Another solution is to update or reinstall your disk drive or USB drivers.
external hard drive error

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The external hard disk is one of the most sensitive computing accessories mainly because it usually stores crucial backup information. So what happens when you receive an external hard drive error on the disk?

Well, it is not the end of the world, as it can be easily fixed. And we will show you the steps to restore your hard drive in this detailed guide.

What causes fatal device hardware errors on an external hard drive?

There are various reasons your external hard drive is not working well. Below are some of the well-known causes:

  • Unformatted drive: You can get different error messages on your external hard drive if it is not formatted. In most cases, the drive will not show up or might not be accessible. The solution here is to format the drive.
  • Unassigned drive letter: If you have not assigned a drive letter to an external hard disk, you might be getting errors on it. You need to assign it a letter in Disk Management.
  • Faulty USB driver: Faulty or outdated USB drivers might also be the reason you are having issues with your hard drive. Reinstalling or updating the drivers should solve this.
  • Problems with the drive: At times, it might be difficult to trace the reason you are getting an error message. You will need to run the CHKDSK command to fix the memory problems.

How can I fix the external hard drive error?

Before exploring the fixes in this section, perform the following preliminary checks:

  • Disconnect the hard drive and restart your PC
  • Try the hard drive on another computer
  • Use the original USB cable

If these do not work, you can now explore the fixes below:

1. Run the CHKDSK scan

  1. Press the Windows key, type cmd, and click Run as administrator under Command Prompt.
    cmd  admin external hard drive error
  2. Type the command below (replace C with the drive letter) and hit Enter: chkdsk c: /rchkdsk
  3. Wait for the command to finish running and apply any recommendations.

CHKDSK is a built-in tool that fixes many hard disk issues on Windows. For example, it can improve the problems causing the external hard drive error 0x80071ac3 and other versions of the error.

Remember to restart your PC after applying the recommended fixes.

2. Update drivers

  1. Press the Windows key + X and select Device Manager.
    device manager
  2. Double-click the Disk drives option and right-click your external driver.
  3. Select the Update driver option.
    update driver disk external hard drive error
  4. Now, choose Search automatically for drivers and install any available update.
    search auto
  5. Click the arrow next to the Universal Serial Bus controller option.
  6. Right-click each device there, select Update driver, and choose the Search automatically for drivers option on the next page.
    search auto usb
  7. Better still, if you find any device with a yellow exclamation sign, right-click it and select Uninstall device.
    uninstall device
  8. Now, click the Uninstall button and restart your PC.
    uninstall button external hard drive error

You might get an external hard drive error when your driver is faulty. For example, the problem might be your USB or hard disk driver. In this case, updating or reinstalling the drivers should fix this problem.

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Another option is to go to the manufacturer’s website to download the latest versions of your driver.

To make things easier, you should use an automatic driver updater software in DriverFix to update the drivers. This eliminates the stress of going through your drivers one after the other to correct them.


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3. Assign a drive letter

  1. Press the Windows key + X and select Disk Management.
    disk management
  2. Right-click the external drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
    change drive
  3. If the drive already has a letter, click the Change button. If it does not have, click the Add button.
    add or change external hard drive error
  4. Now, choose a drive letter and click the OK button.
    driver letter

Drive letters make it easy to access your disks. So, if you are getting an I/O device error on your external hard drive, you might need to assign or change its letter.

4. Initialize disk

  1. Launch Disk Management and right-click your external hard drive.
  2. Select the Initialize Disk option.
    initialize external hard drive error
  3. Select the disks you want to initialize, select either MBR or GPT partition styles and click OK.

Initializing your hard drive is a way of activating it. This should clear any roadblocks that might be giving the error you are getting on your external hard drive.

5. Change the drive format

  1. Right-click the Start icon and select the Disk Management option.
  2. Right-click the drive and select Format…
  3. Select the NTFS or exFAT option, tick Quick format, and click the OK button.

If your external hard drive is in the wrong format, you will likely face different errors. Changing the format to those that are accessible should eliminate these issues and restore normalcy.

6. Change the power setting for the USB driver

  1. Press the Windows key + X and select the Device Manager option.
  2. Double-click the Universal Serial Bus controllers option to expand it and right-click the driver there.
  3. Choose the Properties option.
  4. Now, click the Power Management tab at the top.
  5. Finally, uncheck the box for Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power and click OK.
    power external hard disk error

Your external hard drive needs the required power to function correctly. If the USB port device is set to turn off to save power, your external disk might give error messages when the feature is activated.

The external hard drive error can be frustrating, as it might lead to the loss of crucial data. But by applying the fixes above, you should be able to fix them quickly.

If you are facing the external hard drive not showing on Windows 10 issue, check our detailed guide to regain access to it quickly.

Feel free to let us know the solution that worked for you in the comments below.

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