Fix ‘Windows Unable to complete the Format’ Error

You want to format a drive but a formatting error prevents the activity, displaying the Windows formatting error messages, such as -‘Windows was unable to complete the format’ or ‘drive cannot be formatted.’

This is a common Windows problem witnessed by many while trying to format hard disk or any external storage device like USB or pen drive. This blog guides you through the solutions to fix such Windows drive formatting errors issues.
Usually drive formatting is performed to prepare the drive for reuse by deleting all data on it. When you format a hard drive partitions or external drive like USB, pen drive etc., the files and folders on them become inaccessible and a new file system is created. You can save afresh data in the drive.
Why Windows fail to format your drive?
Common reasons due to which Windows drive formatting errors occur are:
• Virus infection
• Bad sectors on the drive
• Disk Write protected
How to format the virus infected drive?

Your drive will fail to format if it is infected by any virus or ransomware. A virus infection destroys and corrupts the files on the drive. There can be many reasons for the virus infection in your drive, such as below:
• You have opened attachments or links from unknown emails
• Downloaded software from malicious sites
• Malvertising i:e., opened malicious online ads
• Visited unsafe sites
• Connected a virus infected external drive to your system

To format the virus infected drive, use an effective antivirus software. Download, install, run, and scan the drive using antivirus. It will detect and remove any malware in the drive. Once the antivirus solution is removed the detected virus, attempt formatting the drive again.

How to format drive with bad sectors?

A drive with bad sectors cannot be formatted. A bad sector on a hard drive or USB drive is one that is either inaccessible or cannot be read or written. There can be logical or physical reasons for the bad sectors in drive. Below are the possible reasons your hard drive has bad sectors:
• Overheating damaged the internal hardware
• Hard drive/USB drive is very old
• File system error
• Virus/malware attack
• Improper shut-down of computer
• Sudden power outage
• Dust

To format a drive with bad sector, first fix the bad sectors on the drive by following below steps:
1. Visit the Search box of your system, type This PC >click This PC.
2. Select the drive to be repaired > Right-click the drive >Click Properties.
3. Select the Tools tab

Illustrates the Properties on right click of drive

Figure 1: Illustrates the Properties on right click of drive

4. Under Error checking, click Check.

Illustrates Error Checking under the Tools tab

Figure 2: Illustrates Error Checking under the Tools tab

5. Review the scan results
6. Click Scan and Repair drive
7. Windows Scan and Repair the drive bad sectors
8. Once the bad sectors of the drive are repaired, format it with the usual process.

How to format Write Protected drive?

Sometimes external storage devices like pen drives, USB flash drives or SD cards are write protected to prevent data loss by denying delete or format decisions. Thus, an error message ‘disk is write protected’ appears when you try to format them.
You can remove the write protection of the USB flash drives and pen drives using Regedit.exe by following below steps:

1. In the Windows Search box, type Regedit, Select the top result Regedit Run command to open Registry Editor window
2. Navigate to the following key: Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies.
3. Under StorageDevicePolicy, double-click on WriteProtect tab in the right pane

Illustrates the Registry Editor window

Figure 3: Illustrates the Registry Editor window.

4. In the Edit DWORD box, change Value data from 1 to 0, click OK.

Figure 4: Illustrates Edit DWORD box to change value data

Figure 4: Illustrates Edit DWORD box to change value data

5. Now close Regedit and restart your system. Again connect your USB flash drive or pen drive to format it as usual.

How to fix write protection error of SD memory card?
On the side of SD card is a lock switch, slide it up to unlock position. This will remove write protection and you will be now able to format the memory card.
Can you recover data from a formatted drive?
Although formatting visibly erases all data on the drive, creating an empty disk, technically the data is still present but made inaccessible. Unless you rewrite new data over it, you can recover lost files and folders from a formatted drive using a third-party tool.

Tip: Do not use the formatted drive, if want to recover data on it
If the formatted drive contained an important data that you need back, do not rewrite it. Even the third-party Windows drive recovery software cannot recover lost data from a formatted rewritten drive.

Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery – Home is a cost effective way to recover data from formatted, corrupt, inaccessible hard drives partitions, pen drives, USB flash drives, or other storage media.
It is an easy-to-use data recovery solution for personal users with just 1 GB minimum memory and 50 MB of free space requirement.
Some of its remarkable features are:
• Simple, intuitive user-interface
• Two-level scan – Quick and Deep scan for effective files search
• Recovers documents, photos, videos and other archive files

Whatever the reason for your Windows drive formatting errors, be it a virus infection, bad sectors on the drive, or disk write protected, try the above manual fixes to resolve the issue. These methods successfully work for formatting of any drive including hard disk partitions, pen drive, USB flash drive, SD card, SSD, CDs or DVDs.
Since drive formatting removes all data, be sure to backup your important files. If you have not, only a third-party software like Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery – Home can come to your rescue.

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