7 Free Ways to Fix Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format

Disk formatting is effective in cleaning out disc partition files. It is what we do most of the time when we’re emptying a hard drive or a portable disc. When formatting a detachable disk. Windows occasionally prompt us with the message “Windows was unable to complete the format,” as seen in the figure below.

message windows were unable to complete the format

In general, partition formatting in Windows is relatively straightforward and takes only a few seconds to finish. First, Right-click on the drive you wish to format, then pick “Format” from the drop-down menu. 

Please pay attention to this article since it explains the causes of “Windows was unable to complete the format.” It provides step-by-step solutions. It also explains how to restore data from USB drives that are unable to be formatted.

Source of Windows Unable to Complete Format Error

We want to discuss the various causes of the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error before moving on to the solutions. As a result, users may able to prevent encountering such an issue. Windows was unable to complete the format due to the following five factors:

1. The Drive Is Write Protected

Furthermore, Windows is unable to format a write-protected drive. Therefore, when a USB drive is correctly attached to a computer and you begin to copy documents, it generates notifications. “The disc has a write protection feature. 

Disable the write protection or switch to a different drive.” Because formatting is a type of writing operation, you must first remove the write protection.

2. The Drive Has Bad Sectors

There are faulty sectors on storage devices. As we all know, storage devices are made up of sectors, which are the smallest unit of data storage. Discontinuous sectors are frequently occupied by files on a hard drive or a USB device. 

A bad sector has been damaged and cannot be read or written. As a result, bad sectors can cause problems with formatting and file recovery. 

Bad sectors can be caused by various factors, including poor quality, excessive defragmentation, and unplugging a USB device while it is still in use.

3. The Drive Is Physically Damaged

Another factor that makes a storage device inaccessible is physical damage. Physical damage to any component of a USB device or local disc is unavoidable. If the computer can’t use the device because the chip or circuit board isn’t working, it won’t format it. 

A professional repair center can replace damaged circuits and other damaged parts to restore functionality. The replacement process, on the other hand, is much more expensive than the USB drive itself.

4. Drive Suffers from Virus Infection

USB flash drives are small and portable, and they may simply be linked to a computer to back up or transfer data. However, USB drives are more likely to be destroyed or infected with viruses. In addition, they are frequently carried by people and may be used on several computers. 

When you insert a USB drive into a computer that is not protected by antivirus software, such as a public computer, the USB drive will become infected with a virus that will fill the USB flash drive with hazardous data and cause it to stop working.

5. The Drive Is Empty

Another factor that makes a storage device inaccessible is physical damage. Physical damage to any component of a USB device or local disc is unavoidable.

A professional repair center can replace damaged circuits and other damaged parts to restore functionality. The replacement process, on the other hand, is much more expensive than the USB drive itself.

As a result, you can view the detachable disk in Disk Management and receive the formatting recommendation. Unfortunately, windows cannot complete the formatting since it is based on partitions rather than unallocated space.

Indicator of Windows was unable to complete the format error

When users try to format a partition of a USB drive, memory card, external HDD, or another device, they get the “Windows was unable to complete the format” problem after right-clicking it in Windows File Explorer.

This error prevents you from formatting the partition, Fixing a corrupted file system (RAW drive), and swiftly erasing everything. Changing the file system type (e.g., converting FAT32 to exFAT), and so on.

In general, partition formatting in Windows is relatively straightforward and takes only a few seconds to finish. First, Right-click on the drive you wish to format, then pick “Format” from the drop-down menu.

Then click “Start.” You’ll see a notice that says “Format complete” after the formatting is finished. However, Windows may fail to format your USB flash drive, memory SD card, or even hard drive on occasion.

How to fix “Windows couldn’t complete format” on a USB Flash drive?

If your USB drive can’t be adequately formatted and says, “Windows was unable to complete the format.” Don’t throw the flash drives away until you’ve tried the solutions listed below. However, please keep in mind that no solution will work if the USB drive is physically destroyed.

1. Format with Command Prompt

Check out the instructions below to see if you can get everything done.

  • Open the command prompt. Select the Start menu button and type cmd in the search window. If UAC is turned on, open Command Prompt from the Start menu and run it as an administrator.
Command Prompt
  • On the dark Window, type the command “diskpart” and hit Enter. 
  • Now type “list disk.” You may see the current computer’s partition and disk list. All of the drives are numbered, and the USB flash drive in question.
diskpart windows was unable to complete the format
  • Continue typing disk X, which is the hard drive, followed by clean and Enter. During the scanning process, the drive’s damaged file structure will be deleted.
  • Once the operation is complete, it displays a notification stating that the drive has been successfully cleaned and that a new partition must be formed.
  • Hit Enter after typing create a primary partition. Press Enter after typing “/FS:FAT32X:” in the Command prompt format. The USB flash drive letter is X, and you can alter it to suit your needs. 

The drive will be formatted on the FAT file system, which is a reasonably quick process.

2. Format via Disk Management

Disk Management is a feature of Windows that allows you to manage your computer’s partitions and disks. For example, disk Management can add new volumes, enlarge or reduce divisions, alter drive letters, delete or format cells, and so on. In addition, disk Management can be used to format a damaged USB flash drive.

  • Right-click My Computer and choose “Manage,” then select Disk Management from the left-hand menu.
disk management storage device
  • The local hard disk and partitions and the USB drive that may be recognized by capacity are shown in the center section of the disk management window.
disk management format SD card
  • To do a rapid format, right-click the USB flash drive and select “Format,” then “File System Format.” However, in other circumstances, this step is not feasible.
select drive  you want to format
  • Select “New Simple Volume” from the context menu when you right-click on the USB drive. The New Simple Volume Wizard will appear, guiding you through creating a new partition for the USB flash drive.

3. Remove Write Protection

Write protection is a common problem with SD cards and USB drives. Therefore, a physical write-protection switch is included on some memory cards and a USB flash drive. 

The drive is write-protected if the switch is set to the LOCK (ON) position. 

Users will not be able to format the drive or make any other changes in such a case. 

To deactivate write protection, make sure the switch is in the UNLOCK (OFF) position.

4. Check And Repair Errors For The Drive

Disk checking is another useful Windows feature that allows users to examine their drives for file system issues. To start a disk check on the drive, follow these steps:

  • Select Properties from the right-click menu of the partition that Windows is unable to format.
cannot be formatted drive properties
  • Select the Tools tab and, under Error Checking, click the Check button. Then, select Scan and Repair Drive on the pop-up box and wait for the process to complete.
cannot be formatted drive properties
  • Users should not use the drive while Windows searches for and corrects any issues. Users need to restart their computers if this takes a long time.
repair bad sectors error message

5. The Drive Has No Partition 

The best way to fix “Windows was unable to complete the format” is by following these methods.

Use MiniTool Partition Wizard to Create

MiniTool Partition Wizard is a one-stop shop for windows disk management and partitions in Vista/XP/7/8/10. It includes sophisticated tools for resizing partitions, rebuilding MBRs, converting file systems, and copying disks and partitions, among other things. Its simple UI and straightforward actions have aided millions of users in better managing their hard drives. However, when it comes to partitioning, follow these steps:

  • Start MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition and navigate to the main screen. Then select “Create Partition” from the drop-down menu when you click on the detachable drive.
minitool partition
  • Specify the new partition’s details in the new window, such as Partition Label, Partition Type, File System, Drive Letter, and so forth. Then, to proceed, click “OK.”
select file system type
  • When you return to the main interface, you’ll notice that the removable disk has a partition. 
  • You can click “Undo” or “discard” to reconstruct the partition if you wish to make some modifications. If you agree to the changes, simply hit “Apply,” and the new division will be formed.

6. The Drive Has RAW File System

The term “Raw drive” refers to a hard disk or partition that has not been formatted with one of the given file systems: FAT16/FAT12/FAT32 or NTFS. Many factors can lead to a RAW disk, including virus infection, format failure, power interruptions, and an unrecognized file system, among others. You can reformat the detachable disk with one of the following techniques to fix the RAW file system.

Use Partition Wizard to Format

You can use the partition wizard to solve the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error.

MiniTool will open to its primary interface. 

  • The RAW drive is labeled as “Unformatted” in the middle panel. Select “Format Partition” from the drop-down menu after clicking on this partition.
drive or sd card cannot format
  • Confirm the Partition Label, File System, and Cluster Size in the new box that appears, then click “OK” to proceed.
Use Partition Wizard to Format
windows was unable to complete the format
  • The removable disk’s partition will be modified. To save the changes, click “Apply.”

7. Format the drive with DiskGenius Free Edition

DiskGenius is a free partition manager that performs many tasks related to disk partition management in Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP. You can format, create, delete, resize, hide, resize, extend, split, image, and clone partitions. Also, partition hard drive, clone disk, permanently wipe disk/partition, check and repair bad sectors, and convert disks between MBR and GPT can be done.

In addition, manage UEFI boot entries, create WinPE bootable USB disk, and more with DiskGenius Free edition. In DiskGenius, here’s how to format a partition.

DiskGenius can also solve the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error.

DiskGenius Free edition is available for free download, installation, and use on your computer.

  • Select “Format Current Partition” from the context menu by right-clicking on the partition to be formatted, as seen below:
windows was unable to complete the format
  • Click the Format button after selecting a file system type from the drop-down box.
windows unable to format
  • You can complete the format partition with DiskGenius to NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, EXT4, EXT3, and EXT2 file systems, and you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
format fs ntfs error windows was unable

When the software asks if you want to confirm the procedure, select Yes.

How Do I Restore lost files when “Windows was unable to complete the format” on USB Flash Drive, SD card, and hard drive?

When a USB drive, SD card, hard drive, or pen drive is inaccessible, how can you restore data? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a partition to become RAW before we can back up its files. But, don’t worry; recovering deleted files isn’t difficult. You may use DiskGenius to recover RAW partitions, files from formatted/unformatted partitions, deleted files, and lost partitions, among other things.

Select the partition containing the lost files, then click File Recovery and then Start. Following that, DiskGenius begins looking for lost data. Wait for the scanning process to finish.

Preview files to see if they can be recovered.

File preview is available both during and after scanning, and it aids in determining whether or not lost files may be successfully recovered. Lost files may have been destroyed due to data loss, so you should evaluate them to ensure they are not corrupted.

To finish the recovery, copy the files to another partition: Right-click on the data and select Copy To from the drop-down menu.

How to Transfer Data from Inaccessible USB Drives

Remember that if we do “Format,” all data would be lost. If the USB device contains important papers, it is critical to back up the vital data. However, because we can’t access the hard disc and Windows keeps requesting that we format it, we’ll have to rely on data recovery tools to complete the task. MiniTool Power Data Recovery is highly recommended in this case.

Use Minitool to recover lost data.

MiniTool Software Ltd. has created a professional data recovery application for both Windows and Mac users to tackle various disc recovery problems. Because we’re discussing Windows’ inability to format a pen drive, MiniTool Partition Wizard, which runs on Windows Vista/XP/7/8/10, is the best option.

Although not all data on a damaged USB hard drive can be restored, data recovery remains the most dependable method of keeping data integrated. Given that no one wants to pay for useless software, we strongly advise you to download and try the Free Edition first.

  • Run MiniTool Partition Wizard after making sure Windows recognizes the USB disc. Select Data Recovery from the main menu.
  • To scan a USB disc, choose it (or double-click the USB drive partition to start the scanning).
  • Users can select the files they want to recover and a target path during the scanning process. We recommend selecting a location other than the original drive. The recovery result may be unsatisfactory.


This article will help you efficiently resolve the issue “Windows was unable to finish the format” on your USB, SD card, external, or internal hard drive. MiniTool Software is a dependable and effective formatting software that you should try. It simplifies the process of formatting the device on a Windows PC. It can also assist you with additional complex partitioning requests.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Format error mean?

Errors caused by damaged system registry structures or missing system files are known as format errors. It is a significant indicator of a shaky system, which is usually caused by poor computer upkeep. This type of issue is known as a “Windows was unable to complete the format .”

Why can’t I format my flash drive?

Here’s a list of reasons why your computer won’t format a USB drive and how to see whether your USB drive has the same issues: Infection with a virus. Device Write Protected (To format a write-protected USB, you’ll need to use a more complicated method.) The file system is incompatible.

Does formatting a drive wipe it?

Only the address tables are erased when a disk is formatted, not the data. Thus, people can choose between formatting and even safe approaches. However, they know that formatting is not a 100 percent secure means to delete all data from a computer entirely.

Why can’t I format my USB drive to FAT32?

The size of the partition you need to format is more significant than 32GB. You won’t be able to format partitions more important than 32GB to FAT32 in Windows. When you format the partition in File Explorer, you’ll notice that the Format window doesn’t provide a FAT32 choice. If you use Diskpart to format it, you’ll get an error saying, “The volume size is too large.”

Recommended Articles