Fix I/O Device Error on External Hard Drive/USB Drive in Windows

The I/O device error prevents you from accessing the files on your hard drive, USB flash drives, SD cards or other storage devices. Given the urgency to solve such a problem, we will show you what the causes of I/O device error are, how to fix the error, and how to recover your precious files from the affected device using EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.

Table of Contents

"The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error"

"I have a 500 GB Western Digital external hard drive. It shows up in disk management and also in Windows Explorer. But when I tried to access its files, I got an I/O Device error saying 'The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error.' How can I fix the I/O device error and regain control over my device?"

The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error

To solve your problem, you can take the corresponding measures to fix it.

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
Fix 1. Check the Connection If there is another computer available, try to connect the same device to another computer...Full steps
Fix 2. Change Drive Letter Go to "This PC", right-click it and choose "Manage" > "Disk Management"...Full steps
Fix 3. Update Device Driver Click "Device Manager" then expand "Disk drives". Find and right-click the problematic USB...Full steps
Fix 4. Change Transfer Mode Press "Windows+X" to open the menu, then select "Device Manager"...Full steps
Fore More Fixes Use CMD to repair IO device error or send disk for repair (in Fix 5 and 6)...Full steps

About I/O device error

An I/O Device Error (short for Input/Output Device Error) usually happens on external hard drives, SD cards, USB flash drives, CDs, or DVDs when you try to perform write and read operations on the device in Windows 10/8/7. 


If most of the cases, users encounter the I/O device error when they attempt to open a hard drive or external storage device. It also occurs when users try to initialize a disk showing "Disk 1 Not Initialized" in Disk Management. Generally, it will display "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" in the prompt. But actually, there are other two messages that indicate an I/O device error. 

  • "Only part of a ReadProcessMemory or WriteProcessMemory request was completed."
  • I/O Error codes: error 6, error 21, error 103, error 105, error 131

When there is an I/O device error on your hard drive or other storage devices, you can't access the files on it and can't perform common operations like disk checking and formating.


The I/O device error could be caused by both minor connection issues or serious hardware damage on the storage medium. You may receive the error message "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" due to:

  • Connection issue between your hard drive, USB, SD card, and your computer
  • Driver letter conflict between the problematic storage device and the partition on your computer
  • Outdated device driver
  • Windows is trying to use a transfer mode that the hardware device cannot use
  • Your device is damaged or corrupted

How to fix I/O device error on an external/internal hard drive

Based on the underlying issue, you have the following solutions available to fix the I/O device error.

Method 1. Check the Hardware Connection

You can try these tips to check whether the I/O error is caused by a loose connection or faulty cable/USB port.

  • If there is another computer available, try to connect the same device to another computer.
  • Try to connect your hard drive or USB to another port (especially a rear one). If it's an SD card, try another card reader instead.
  • Change the USB cable

If the I/O device error persists, don't worry. More methods are available for you to apply.

Method 2. Change the Drive Letter

Some of the users have reported the effectiveness of just changing the drive letter of the device that shows an I/O error. You can change the drive letter of a hard drive, USB, or SD card easily in Disk Management.

Step 1. Go to "This PC", right-click it and choose "Manage" > "Disk Management".

Step 2. Right-click your hard drive, USB or SD card and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths".

Step 3. In the new window, click "Change".

Step 4. Assign a new drive letter to your USB and click "OK".

Fix I/O device error - change drive letter

Method 3. Update or Reinstall the Device Driver

An outdated device driver has the potential to cause various issues related to your device. For example, "there is no media in the specified device", USB not showing up in Windows, and "the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error".

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

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

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

Step 4. Wait for the driver to be updated, then reboot your computer. Afterward, you can open your device to check whether the I/O error still exists.

Fix I/O device error - update device driver

Method 4. Fix I/O device error by changing the transfer mode in IDE Channel Properties

As mentioned, if Windows is trying to use a transfer mode that your device doesn't support, you will encounter the error message "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error." To remove the I/O error, you just need to switch the transfer mode.

Step 1. Press "Windows+X" to open the menu, then select "Device Manager".

Step 2. Expand "IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers". A subset will open, listing the different IDE ATA/ATAPI channels for the computer.

Step 3. Right-click the channel where the appropriate drive is connected, and then click "Properties". Typically, this channel is "Secondary IDE Channel".

Step 4. On the "Advanced Settings" tab, select "PIO Only" in the "Transfer Mode" box for the device that represents the appropriate drive. Typically, this is Device 0. Then, click "OK" and exit all windows.

Step 5. Test the drive and check if the message "the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" has been removed.

Fix I/O device error - change transfer mode

Method 5. Fix I/O device error in Command Prompt

This option will run the chkdsk function to check and repair disk errors on the hard drive, USB drive, or other storage devices to fix I/O device error. But you may receive the error message "cannot open the volume for direct access" using CMD.

Step 1. Press  "Windows" Key and type: cmd to open the menu, right-click "Command Prompt" and choose 'Run as administrator' option.

Step 2. Click "Yes" when you are presented with a window requesting permission to launch the Command Prompt as Administrator.

Step 3. In the new Command Prompt window, type: chkdsk E: /f /r /x (replace E with the drive letter for your device).

If you don't have any technical know-how and want to minimize data risks, using third-party software could be a better choice. The Command line is suitable for computer professionals since wrong commands can cause severe problems. Therefore, we strongly recommend you try an automatic command line alternative.

EaseUS Tools M is a practical computer fixing tool that is safe and light-weighted. It's a perfect alternative to CHKDSK command. Use this one-click tool to solve your computer issues.

To fix file system error or disk error:

Step 1: DOWNLOAD EaseUS Tools M for Free and install it.

Step 2: Open the software and select the "File showing" option. 

Step 3: Choose the drive and wait for repairing. After the operation completes, click the "View" button to check the drive. 

select the drive and check off file system error

Method 6. Send for Manual Repair

If none of the methods above helps to remove the I/O device error, you are recommended to send your device for manual repair because there may be serious damage on your hard drive, USB flash drive or memory card.

Recover data from I/O device error 

If you have important data lost on the external hard drive, USB flash drive, or SD card after fix the I/O device error, you can recover your files with hard drive recovery software - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. EaseUS data recovery software supports deleted data recovery, formatted file recovery, RAW file recovery and more. To recover data from your device that suffered from the I/O device error:

Step 1. Run hard drive recovery software.

Launch and run EaseUS hard drive recovery software. Select your hard drive which has I/O error and click "Scan" to scan and find your lost data.

select a location and click scan

Step 2. Find data on the hard drive.

Wait for the program to scan and find your lost data from the right pane. You can click "Filter" to help you filter a specific file type. Also, you can directly search for wanted files or data.

select files from the i/o hard drive

Step 3. Recover data from the hard drive.

Finally, choose the lost files you want to retrieve and double-click them to preview the files. Click "Recover", and then specify another hard drive on your PC or external storage device to save your data. Afterward, click "OK" to start recovering your lost items.

recover data

The Bottom Line

Although we recommend you recover data from your problematic device when there is data loss after the fix, you can try EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to recover your files as many as possible if all the solutions fail to fix "the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error".

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Updated by Gemma

Gemma is member of EaseUS team and has been committed to creating valuable content in fields about file recovery, partition management, and data backup etc for many years. She loves to help users solve various types of computer related issues.

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Written by Roxanne

Roxanne is one of the main contributors to EaseUS and has created multiple posts on digital devices like PCs, Mobile phones, tablets, Mac, etc. She loves to share ideas with people of the same interest.

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