Formatting storage devices can help remove corrupt files and unwanted data. On a Windows computer, this is a straightforward and fairly straightforward process. In fact, there are a number of ways to do it. However, there are possibilities that you may encounter some hiccups while formatting the storage. In this tutorial, we are going to share a few reasons why Windows might not format your storage drive and how to resolve the resulting error.
In 9 out of 10 times, the problem is with the disc / drive you are trying to format. You may encounter the “Windows could not complete formatting” error if the drive in question is physically damaged (totally or partially) or write-protected. Some complex or advanced virus infections can also cause this error. Proceed to the section below to learn how to handle this failure and format your drive. But before that, you can also try to format the drive on another computer to confirm whether the problem is with the drive or your PC.
1. Check for a system error
In addition to the above, there are some file or system errors that can prevent your PC from properly formatting a drive. Therefore, the error “Windows could not complete formatting”. Fortunately, the Windows operating system has a built-in error checking tool that allows users to diagnose and repair errors on internal and external drives. Use the tool to check the affected drive and try to reformat it afterwards.
Step 1: Launch Windows File Explorer (Windows key + E) and navigate to the This PC menu.
2nd step: Right-click on the affected drive and select Properties.
Step 3: Go to the Tools tabs and click the Check button in the Error checking section.
Note: You must be logged in as an administrator to run the error checking tool.
Step 4: Your PC may inform you that the drive does not need to be scanned because the tool did not find any errors on the drive. Ignore the prompt and click “Scan and Repair Drive” to continue.
If the error checking tool is detected any error, follow the prompt to fix it. You will probably be prompted to restart your computer afterwards. Just follow the instructions and errors preventing formatting of the drive should be overwritten. If no errors were found, close the tool and continue to the next solution.
2. Format the drive using the disk management tool
Disk management tool is a much better option for formatting drives on Windows computers. We have found that users who were initially unable to format their drives directly from File Manager can do so using Disk Management Tool.
Step 1: Launch Windows File Explorer and click Manage – located in the ribbon bar.
This will open the Windows Computer Management menu.
2nd step: Expand the Storage option in the left pane and click Disk Management.
Quick advice: You can quickly start Disk Management from the Windows quick access menu. Use the Windows + X shortcut and select Disk Management.
Step 3: Right-click on the affected drive and select Format.
Step 4: Click Yes at the warning prompt to continue.
Step 5: You can rename the drive if you want. Leave all other options as they are and click OK to continue.
Step 6: Click OK on the confirmation prompt to begin the drive formatting process.
The drive will be formatted instantly. Go to your PC’s File Explorer and open the drive or check its properties to confirm. If the error persists, we recommend that you check the drive write protection / permission.
3. Disable write protection on the drive
As mentioned earlier, you might get the error “ Windows could not complete formatting ” if the drive you are trying to format is write protected. When a disk is write-protected, you cannot modify (copy, delete, or format) the data it contains. Some SD cards and USB drives have write protect switches / buttons that allow you to easily turn their write protection on and off.
If your USB drive does not have a physical switch to change the write-protect state, there is a workaround. You can use the DiskPart utility to check and disable the write protection. Here’s how.
Step 1: Launch the Run dialog box using the “Windows Key + R” shortcut.
If prompted, grant the User Control Access utility.
2nd step: Type diskpart in the Open dialog box and click OK.
Step 3: Type list disc and press Enter.
A list of drives connected to your computer will be displayed and labeled as Disk 1, Disk 2, Disk 3, etc., in that particular order. Locate the affected drive using its size.
In this case, the USB key (size 14 GB) labeled Disk 2 is the affected drive.
Step 4: Then type to select followed by reader label and press Enter. Suppose the affected drive is labeled Disk 3 on your PC, type select disc 3 and press Enter on your keyboard.
You should see a message informing you that the disk has been selected.
Step 5: To view disk properties, type attribute disk, and press Enter.
Look for the “Current read-only state” and read-only attributes. If set to No, the drive is not write-protected.
If they both read Yes, the drive is write protected. Go to step 6 to remove write protection from the drive.
Step 6: Type read-only disk clear attributes and press Enter.
This will erase the write protection of the disc. You can type the command in step 5 to confirm whether write protection has been turned off. Now try to format the file explorer drive or use the disk management tool (see method # 2 above) and see if it works.
Explore third-party alternatives
Instead of using Windows built-in tools to format your drives (hard drive, USB drives, SD cards, etc.), there are plenty of reliable third-party software that can get the job done just as well, faster, and better. You can resort to these alternatives if all else fails.
Find out 6 ways to repair and open or recover corrupted files and folders on Windows 10 computers in the article linked below. We’re also sharing an easy way to make sure this never happens to you again.
Last updated Oct 13, 2020
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