Fixes for External Hard Drive Not Formatted/Won't Format Error

Daisy updated on Sep 17, 2020 to Resource | How-to Articles


Common external hard drive format errors include the external hard drive says it needs to be formatted and you cannot complete the format successfully. The former issue needs you to perform data recovery with software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and then format the device; The latter involves multiple solutions given the error message you receive. All are detailed below.

External hard drives are one of the most frequently used storage devices for data storage and data backup. However, when we enjoy the convenience it brings, we may also encounter various issues related to the hard drive, like hard drive not recognized, external hard drive not showing files, and, the case we focus here, external hard drive format error. There are two types of format error: the external hard drive asking to format or the external hard drive not formatting. Specify your situation and follow the corresponding solutions to cope with the issue.

Part 1. Fix External Hard Drive Not Formatted Error
Part 2. Fix External Hard Drive Won't Format

Part 1. External Hard Drive Not Formatted - You Need to Format the Disk in Drive Before You Can Use It

"Recently, I ran into a problem while accessing my Seagate 160 GB external hard drive. Whenever I tried to open it, Windows showed me that my external hard drive was not formatted and asked me to format it. It's really annoying! How can I fix this problem without losing my data?"


Generally, when you receive this error message, you will see your external hard drive shown as RAW under File Explorer or Disk Management. That's because:

  • The file system of your storage medium is corrupted due to a power outage, sudden ejection, virus attack...
  • The file recognized by the operating system of your computer.
The file system of a hard disk or partition controls how data is stored and retrieved. It's the bridge between data saved on your device and the OS.

File system errors prevent you from accessing your external hard drive. That's why Windows asks you to format the device since formatting will assign a new file system to your external hard drive. With the file system, the external hard drive can be used for data storage again.


Some say the external hard drive not formatted error could be fixed by running CHKDSK. In fact, when you attempt to run CHKDSK on a storage medium with file system errors, it will fail to repair the disk, and CHKDSK will reports RAW. Therefore, the most straightforward way is to format the external hard drive directly. If you don't want to lose the files on your device, perform data recovery and then format the hard disk.

Procedure 1. Recover Data from the RAW External Hard Drive

Although the files on your external hard drive are inaccessible by Windows when the "You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it" prompt pops up, you can easily access and recover them using software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, the reliable hard drive recovery software. It's capable of recover data after deletion, format, drive becoming RAW, and other data loss situations.

Step 1. Choose the partition.

Launch EaseUS formatted data recovery software after the installation. Choose the hard drive partition which you've accidentally formatted. Click "Scan".

select a partition and click scan

Step 2. Select wanted files.

After the scanning process, you can click "Filter" to filter a specific file type to quickly find wanted files.

select files

Step 3. Recover files to a secure location.

Select the data files you wish to recover. Click "Recover". Choose a location to store the files and click "OK".

recover files

Procedure 2. Format the External Hard Drive

The easiest way to get things done is to format an external hard drive under File Explorer.

Step 1. Open "This PC" (in Windows 10) and go to "Devices and drives".

Step 2. Right-click your external hard drive and choose "Format".

Step 3. Choose the file system and click "Start".

Step 4. In the warning prompt, click "OK" to start formatting your hard disk.

Format the external hard drive

If your external hard drive doesn't format, move on to the next part.

Part 2. External Hard Drive Won't Format - The Format Did Not Complete Successfully

"I have an LG external hard drive which I unplugged one day without doing the safe eject. Now it won't work. The computer recognizes its existence on the F drive, and Disk Management says the status is healthy (primary partition). But it will not format. Under the File system, the drive is described as RAW. I do not need to recover the data but I got it only six months ago and hate to have to throw it away and buy a new one. Any help would be much appreciated." — From How-To Geek Forum

When you try to format an internal or external hard drive, you may receive one of the three error prompts that indicate a format failure:

If you are in one of the last two situations, go to the related article to get the solutions. The fixes provided in this article mainly focus on the first situation.


Unlike the external hard drive saying it needs to be formatted, external hard drive not formatting could result in various reasons, including:

  • Your storage medium is infected by a virus
  • The hardware driver is outdated
  • System file (DLL, SYS, EXE) is missing or damaged
  • your hard disk is damaged


Based on the possible causes, there are six workable solutions to the problem "External hard drive not formatting":

Method 1. Remove the Virus

You can run the anti-virus software installed on your computer or Windows Defender. 

Step 1. Go to "Settings" > "Update & Security" > "Windows Security".

Step 2. Click "Virus & threat protection".

Step 3. In the "Threat history" section, click "Scan now" to scan for viruses on your computer.

Run Windows Defender to remove virus

Method 2. Update Hardware Driver

Updating the hardware driver can easily fix the hard drive format error caused by an outdated device driver. You can do it under Disk Management

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to PC, right-click on "This PC" (in Windows 10) and choose "Properties".

Step 2. Click "Device Manager" then expand "Disk drives". Find and right-click the problematic USB drive and select "Update driver"

Step 3. Click "automatically search for driver software online".

Step 4. Wait for the driver to be updated, then reboot your computer. Afterward, reformat your external hard drive to have a try.

Update device driver

Method 3. Run System File Checker Tool

The Windows built-in System File Checker tool can repair missing or corrupted system files, including the DLL, SYS, or EXE files that cause your external hard drive won't format. Here are the simple steps to run the tool:

Step 1. Click "Start" and type cmd.

Step 2. Right-click "Command Prompt" and choose "Run as administrator".

Step 3. Enter the following command lines in order. (The DISM command is used to make a Windows image to protect your data.)

Click to copy

Method 4. Run CHKDSK

If you won't be able to format your external hard drive and the device is not RAW, you can run CHKDSK to repair possible disk errors on it.

Step 1. Press the "Windows" key and type cmd.

Step 2. Right-click "Comand Prompt" and choose "Run as administrator".

Step 3. In the CMD window, type chkdsk G: /f and hit "Enter". (Replace "G" with the drive letter of your external storage device.)

Step 4. Then Windows will start checking and repairing disk errors and damaged files. Wait for the process to finish.

Method 5. Format your External Hard Drive via DiskPart or Third-Party Software

As mentioned, there is more than one way to format a hard drive. If you failed under File Management, you can retry using DiskPart or a third-party hard drive format tool. To use DiskPart:

Step 1. Press "Windows + R" and enter diskpart. Click "Yes" in the prompt to run diskpart.exe.

Step 2. Then enter the command lines below in order:

Click to copy

Method 6. Delete the Partition and Recreate a New Volume

If the methods above don't work, there is one more tip worth trying, which is to delete the partition and then create a new volume.

Step 1. Right-click "This PC" and choose "Manage".

Step 2. Right-click the problematic disk or partition and choose "Delete Volume". In the "Delete simple volume" prompt, select "Yes" to confirm the deletion.

Step 3. Afterward, the deleted partition will show up as unallocated space. Right-click the unallocated space and choose "New Simple Volume..."

Step 4. In New Simple Volume Wizard, click "Next" to continue.

Step 5. Follow the wizard to specify the volume size, assign a drive letter to the volume, and then format the partition.

Create new volume

The Bottom Line

Many users report that they encounter the external hard drive not formatted error after a forceful ejection of the device. Thus, be careful to remove any external storage device using the Safely Remove option. As for the external hard drive not formatting error, the causes vary. Yet it's also necessary to grow a good habit while using your storage device, be it an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or SD card. Hope the solutions in this article are helpful to you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why choose EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard?

"EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the best we've seen. It's far from perfect, partly because today's advanced disk technology makes data-recovery more difficult than it was with the simpler technology of the past, but it's fast and efficient..."PCMag

"The first thing you'll notice about EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro is that its interface is very clear and uncluttered, with only a small collection of self-explanatory controls. You won't find lots of extra options hidden in a system of hidden menus, either; what you see really is what you get."techradar

"Recover lost files, even after deleting a partition or formatting your drive."Macworld

2. Why cannot I recover 2GB data for free?

It is recommended to check the version installed is Free or Trial because they are different versions.

Trial has data preview function but cannot save any files, while the Free version enables to recover 2 GB files. The default free space is 500 MB and you may share the product on social media to get another 1.5 GB.

3. Why cannot the recovered files be opened?

A file is saved as 2 parts on the storage device: directory info (which is comprised by file name, time stamp and size info, etc.) and data content.

If the files with original file names and folder structures cannot be opened, one possible reason is the corrupted directory info. There is still a chance to recover the data content with the RAW Recovery method in our software.

4. Why isn't it suggested to recover the files back to the original drive?

The storage structure of the lost files would be altered or damaged by any changes on the drive. If you save the recovered files back to the same drive, the original data structures and data content would be corrupted or overwritten, which causes permanent data loss. So you should prepare another disk to save the files.

5. How can I check whether my data is recoverable or not before purchase?

The Free version helps you save 2GB files to better verify the recovery quality of our product before purchase.

6. How long does it take to scan the drive?

It strongly depends on the capacity of your hard drive and the performance of your computer. As reference,most drive recoveries can be completed in around 10 to 12 hours for a 1-TB healthy hard drive in general conditions.

About Data Recovery Wizard

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