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Fix 'You Need to Format the Disk in Drive Before You Can Use It' Error

Get the error message you need to format the disk in drive before you can use it on SD memory card, USB drive or external hard drive? This page shows you how to fix you need to format the disk in drive before you can use it in simple ways. Download EaseUS data recovery software for free to restore important files on the disk with you need to format the disk error right now.

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Table of Contents

Overview of Format Disk Error

Today, when I plugged my Sandisk SD memory card into my PC, Windows warned me 'You need to format the disk in drive H: before you can use it.' Is there any way to fix this error without losing my data?

You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it

When you unplug an SD card, USB drive, external hard drive or any other removable storage without using the Safely Remove option, you run the risk of the disk partition becoming corrupted. Should this happen, then the device will be unreadable by Windows, prompting the appearance of the 'You need to format…' warning message. 

While this is the most common reason for causing a drive to become RAW and rendered unusable, there are some other instances that can create the problem. These include the following:

  • The storage device suffers from a sudden power outage
  • The storage device is infected by a virus
  • The file system of the disk is not Windows-compatible
  • There are bad sectors in the USB flash drive, SD card, memory card, or external hard drive

Fixes for the "You Need to Format the Disk in Drive" Error

When you see the warning "You need to format the disk in drive", it doesn't necessarily mean something is wrong with your external storage device. So, don't hurry to format the disk as the prompt says, as that's the last solution you want to try. Instead, here are a few methods you can use to fix the error.

Tip 1. Try Simple Solutions First

Before trying anything technical, it's a good idea to rule out any basic issues. With this mind, here are a few things to check.

Try a different computer: Connect your external storage device to another computer, either a Windows PC or Mac. If the device works properly on macOS but not Windows, it's highly likely that the file system of the device is not Windows-compatible.

Run antivirus software: It's possible that the "You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it" error is caused by a virus attack. Try running your antivirus software to see if that clears the problem.

If the methods above aren't successful, don't panic. There are several more options below you can try that will hopefully get your data back safely.

Tip 2. Check and Repair Your Device with CHKDSK Command

Many users have reported that this method has helped them solve the 'format' problem. It involves entering code, so if you're not confident with this kind of thing, you'll probably want to skip onto the next tip instead. Otherwise, here's what you need to do.

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.

fix format disk error with cmd

When it has finished, you can try again to read your USB, SD card, or external hard drive after restart your computer. 

If you see the error message 'the type of the file system is RAW, CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives', you'll need to perform a raw drive recovery to retrieve your data. We cover this method in the next tip.

Tip 3. Recover Files and Format the Disk

If all the above solutions fail to fix the problem, the next course of action is to recover files from your external hard drive, SD card, memory card, USB drive or other storage media first, then reformat the drive. 

This allows you to retrieve your data and get the storage device working again, without risking any data loss in the process. To recover your files safely, we recommend the reliable EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. 

These are the steps to take to recover your files:

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Step 1. Scan the hard drive partition

Select the drive on your hard disk where you lost or deleted files. Click "Scan" and let EaseUS data recovery software scan for all lost data and files on the selected drive.

select a location and scan hard drive

Step 2. Check the results

When the scan completes, you can apply the "Filter" feature or click the "Search files or folders" option to find the lost files on the hard drive.

Find and preview all lost hard drive data

Step 3. Restore lost hard drive data

Select wanted files that you lost on the drive and click "Recover" to save them to another location.

Restore lost hard drive data.

Step 4. After recovering files from your disk, now you can format your hard drive to fix the error "You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it".

Video Tutorial: Recover Files from Formatted Disk

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a hugely powerful tool that not only recovers files from RAW disks, but also supports deleted file recovery, formatted recovery, recycle bin emptied data recovery, OS crash recovery and more.

Consult with EaseUS Data Recovery Experts for one-on-one manual recovery service. We could offer the following services after FREE diagnosis:

  • Repair corrupted RAID structure, unbootable Windows OS and corrupted virtual disk file (.vmdk, .vhd, .vhdx, etc.)
  • Recover/repair lost partition and re-partitioned drive
  • Unformat hard drive and repair raw drive (BitLocker encrypted drive)
  • Fix disks that become GPT protected partitions


In addition to the error we deal with in this article, there are other formatting-related problems that may happen to your external storage device, such as "the format did not complete successfully or "disk is not formatted".

In these situations, rather than trying to deal with it yourself, it's always a good idea to use the best data recovery software you can find. Remember, the quicker you perform data recovery, the higher the chances you will retrieve your data intact. So, download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard today and ensure that your files stay safe.

 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
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'You Need to Format the Disk in Drive' Error FAQs

Hope you have fixed the "You Need to Format the Disk in Drive' error, and we can offer more information about this error below:

Does formatting a drive delete everything?

Does formatting a drive erase everything? No! Formatting a drive will delete all the saved data on your drive and reset the file system. You need to format the drive when you encounter malware, virus, and spyware. Formatting only makes it harder to recover files and folders and will not delete everything on your drive. Your data is still on your hard drive before being overwritten.

Why does my drive need to be formatted?

There are plenty of reasons that you need to format your hard drive:

  1. 1. The file system is not recognized by Windows.
  2. 2. Power blackouts that occur suddenly when utilizing the drive.
  3. 3. HD with virus or malware contamination.
  4. 4. The disk wasn't removed securely
  5. 5. Bad sectors may exist on your drive.

How do I recover files from a hard drive that needs formatting?

Using a data recovery tool will be a wise choice. We highly recommend this powerful recovery program - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.

  1. 1. Scan the target disk that you want to rescue data from.
  2. 2. Filter and select the files you want.
  3. 3. Choose a destination and recover the files.

Can you fix the corrupted hard drive by formatting it?

Although formatting can fix a broken hard drive, there is no assurance that your data can be retrieved once the drive has been formatted, particularly if a Full Format is carried out. Windows users can use Disk Management to format the disk and fix the issues.

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Updated by Dany

Dany is an editor of EaseUS who lives and works in Chengdu, China. She focuses on writing articles about data recovery on Mac devices and PCs. She is devoted to improving her writing skills and enriching her professional knowledge. Dany also enjoys reading detective novels in her spare time.

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Approved by Martyn Casserly

Martyn Casserly has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews. He is a professional content contributor for many known ITwebsites like Macworld.co.uk and techadvisor.com.

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