How to fix ‘Windows cannot format this drive’ error message

Madalina Dinita
by Madalina Dinita
Managing Editor
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Any operating system is not free of quirks and Windows is no different. Most of the times when the machine is slow to respond or the overall performance goes down we try to resolve the problem by formatting the device. Obviously, we will try the other methods initially and if nothing works out formatting the drive/PC is the last resort.

Formatting a drive in Windows is relatively easy all one needs to do is select the drive, right click and hit on format. The caveat, however, is that sometimes Windows throws up errors that often leave us clueless. “Windows cannot format this drive. Quit any disk utilities or other programs that are using the drive, and make sure that no window is displaying the contents of the drive. Then try formatting again.”

The error quoted above is pretty common and nerve waking as well. In fact, the same error also pops up even if you open the Disk Management Utility and try to format the drive. While we can employ third party software to do the work for us, however with a few tweaks one can resolve the problem without the need for other software. We need to understand the problem can be tackled by several ways,

How to Format the Drive by using Diskpart command?

Apparently, DiskPart is one of the preferable methods to resolve this problem. The method involves invoking the Diskpart command line tool which will be baked into your Windows 10/8/7. In order to run the tool all you need to do is open a command prompt by clicking on “Start” and typing “diskpart.exe” in the search box. Press enter and click “DiskPart.exe”

  • Command prompt will be open
  • In the command prompt type the following command sequentially,
  • “list volume”
  • “select volume<number>” (The number refers to the disk that you want to format, if the disk is 3 then the command will be select “volume 3”)
  • DiskPart now responds with “Volume # is Now the Selected Volume.”
  • One can also use optional commands like “format fs=ntfs quick” and press enter for formatting NTFS format.
  • Typing “format fs=<file system type for the volume>quick” will help you perform a quick format with the specified file system.

2) How to Hard Format using Disk Management?

Remember how I explained earlier in the article that the Disk Management tool was helpless. Well, I was partially wrong. The Disk Management tool in Windows comes with a hard reset feature that will wipe out your disk without any error messages.

Open the run windows and type diskmgmt.msc and press Enter. The Disk Management tool will be opened. In order to format the drive click on the Format option, it’s quite likely that the tool will show this message, “The volume (Disk#) is currently in use. To force the format of this volume click Yes. ”

After clicking Yes the disk will be formatted without any further error messages. Alternatively, I would also suggest you run a USB diagnostics before troubleshooting this problem. As a prerequisite, I would also suggest all you folks to check your drive for physical damage or if the sectors have gone bad. It’s quite possible that in both the cases the same error message will be displayed while formatting. Also, recheck the USB driver in the Device Manager and if necessary update the same.