[Solution]: How to fix the “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format” error?

Summary: In this blog, learn common reasons behind the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error and how to fix it. This error may also cause serious data loss if not resolved on time. Stellar Data Recovery for Windows is a smart tool you can use to quickly recover data lost due to this error. Download free trial from below.


[Solution]: How to fix the “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format” error?

When trying to format your external storage drive or a system hard drive, you may encounter an error – Windows was unable to complete the format.

Windows was unable to complete the format

Generally, this error occurs with USB drives or SD cards. A few user queries are shared below:

User Query

-Source

“I cannot format an SD card. It says -Windows was unable to complete format.”

-Source

This error pops up when trying to format an SD card or USB drive, and Windows doesn’t allow you to do the same. There can be multiple reasons behind this problem. Hence, first, you need to uncover the exact cause of the error, and then perform the tested methods shared in this blog.

Possible Causes of “Windows was unable to complete the format” error

Before we talk about the solutions, you must be sure of the cause behind the “Windows was unable to complete the format,” error. There could be issues such as,

  • Write protection is enabled
  • Bad sectors on the drive
  • Hard drive corruption
  • Malware attack on the drive
  • Hard drive not formatted with FAT (FAT16/FAT32), exFAT, or NTFS.

How to Fix “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format” error?

Below are a few simple yet effective methods to fix the error quickly. However, before you perform any of these methods, make sure you have a backup of your data. In case of no backup, you can try recovering the lost data using a reliable data recovery tool.

Method 1: Scan PC for Malware

You may experience the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error due to a malware attack on your system. Try running Windows Defender Antivirus to scan PC for malware to fix the problem. Follow the given steps:

  • Open System Settings by pressing Windows + I and then go to Update & Security > Windows Security > Virus & threat protection.
Virus & Threat Protection
  • Next, select Quick scan under Current threats. (In previous versions of Windows 10, go to Threat history and then select Scan now.)
Select Quick Scan
  • The scanning process will start. If you can’t find any issue but are still concerned, try using third-party anti-malware software such as Norton, Kaspersky, etc.

Method 2: Disable Write-protection

If you’re facing the error “Windows was unable to complete the format” while formatting the hard drive, there may be write-protection enabled. You can disable it by following the given steps:

  • Press Windows + R to open the Run dialog box, type regedit, and click OK.
Open Run and Type Regedit and Enter OK
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control.
HKEY LOCAL MACHINE
  • Right-click on the Control > New > Key, then type StorageDevicePolicies.
Storage Device Policy
  • Right-click on StorageDevicePolicies > New > DWORD (32-bit value)
DWORD 32 Bit Value
  • If your PC is 64-bit, choose QWORD (64-bit value).
  • Next, name it with WriteProtect.
Write Protect
  • Double-click on the WriteProtect and enter 0 under value data and click OK.
Type Value Data 0
  • Once done, close the registry window and reboot the system. The write protection will be disabled. Check if the error is fixed.

Method 3: Use Disk Management Utility

You may face errors while attempting to format your hard drive through File Explorer. Instead of directly formatting the hard drive through Windows File Explorer, try the Disk Management utility. Follow the given steps:

  • Open Disk Management and find the affected drive.
  • Right-click on the affected drive and click New Simple Volume if the Format option is grey.
  • Provide a Volume Label (optional) and choose NTFS as a file system.
  • Choose to perform a Quick Format to complete the process.
  • Once done, retry to format the drive.  

Method 4: Run CHKDSK Command

Sometimes, a corrupted hard drive may also cause the error “Windows was unable to complete the format.” You can run the CHKDSK command to check for corruption and bad sectors on the drive and fix them to solve the error.

Follow the given steps:

  • Press Windows + R to open the Run dialog box, type cmd, and press Enter.
  • In the Command Prompt window, type chkdsk f: f and hit Enter. (Replace the letter f: with your drive letter.)
CHKDSK Command

Wait until the process ends. It will fix the errors and hard drive corruption. Once done, close the window and try formatting the hard drive.

Note: The method only works on an NTFS formatted hard drive.

Caution: This method scans the drive, finds and marks the bad sectors on the hard drive, due to which Windows doesn’t store or read data from the bad sectors, meaning that you will lose access to your data. Don’t fret! You can recover data using reliable data recovery software, such as Stellar Data Recovery for Windows. It is a DIY data retrieval tool that can efficiently restore all kinds of data from Windows systems and external storage media drives lost due to deletion, formatting, corruption, or even encryption.

Method 5: Run DiskPart in command prompt

You can also try fixing the error “Windows was unable to complete the format” by running the DiskPart utility. This command-line utility can quickly help you format the drive and solve the problem. Follow the given steps:

  • Open command prompt using the above steps.
  • In the command prompt window, type diskpart > list disk and hit Enter.
  • Then type select 0 (Replace 0 with your affected drive letter) and press Enter.
List disk in C Part
  • Type clean command and then type create partition primary. Hit Enter to proceed.
  • Afterward, type format fs=fat32 quick or fs=ntfs quick, and press Enter.
Quick Format The Drive
  • Wait until the process completes. Once finished, close the window and restart your system to check if the error persists.

Note: The method will format the drive, causing you data loss. Hence, keep a powerful data recovery software handy to retrieve lost/deleted data.

Wrapping up:

Whether you face the error “Windows was unable to complete the format” on your system drive or an external hard drive, you can try all these DIY (do-it-yourself) methods to eliminate the issue. However, some of these methods, such as running CHKDSK and Diskpart utility, may lead to data loss. Hence, we recommend you keep the data recovery tool such as Stellar Data Recovery for Windows handy. This DIY tool can retrieve any data lost due to deletion, formatting, corruption, etc., from Windows systems and storage media drives.

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