4 Ways to Fix Windows was Unable to Complete the Format Error

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Were you encountering the warning sign that Windows was unable to complete the USB formatting? When Windows cannot complete the format, you will not be able to use the USB flash drive or SD cards unless you complete the formatting process. With the help of a few troubleshooting methods, you can easily fix the error and format the drive.

Quick Navigation:

Why was Windows unable to format the drive?
Recover data from the USB to be Formatted
Fix the error Windows was unable to format the USB drive (SD or any external drives)
Frequently asked questions

Why was Windows unable to format the USB drive?

Here are a few reasons listed below why Windows was unable to format the drive:

    1.       Disk is write-protected: This could be one of the main reasons why Windows could not complete the format on USB. If the USB or any external disk is write-protected, you cannot edit anything on the USB or format the drive.
    1.       Corrupt drive: if the drive has a Corrupt or damaged file system, this can lead to the error Windows cannot format.
    1.       Bad sectors: Bad sectors on the drive can also cause problems when Windows initiates formatting on the USB drive and stops the process.
    1.       Virus intrusion: Virus/ Malware could indulge the proper working of USBs or any external drives and cause trouble while Windows starts to format the USB drive.  
    1.       Empty Drive: it is also possible that due to errors on the USB or SD cards, files go missing and shows drive is empty. If you try to format the drive, you are likely to encounter the error Windows was unable to complete the format.

The above-mentioned reasons are possibly the cause of the issue: Windows cannot complete the formatting process. However, if you accidentally tried formatting the drive without taking any backup, you can try recovering the data from the USB drive and continue with the formatting process. T is always recommended to recover USB and try solving the error Windows was unable to complete the format.

It is also important to use the secure USB data recovery tool for safe recovery of files from USB. SFWare USB recovery tool is the most recommended tool to restore formatted data from the drive. The drive can easily scan the entire drive within minutes and recover files.

Free Download for WindowsFree Download for Mac

How to Recover Data from USB that Windows was unable to complete the formatting?

 Download and install the USB drive on your computer. Connect your USB drive to the PC and launch the software and follow the steps given below:

    1.       From the main screen select Recover Drive/Partition, from next screen select Drive/Partition Recovery.
      SFWare Data Recovery software main page
    2.       The software starts to display all the drives and partitions available on the computer. select the USB drive or SD card that Windows was displaying an error unable to complete the format.
      Select USB access denied drive
    3.       Now, the software initiates to scan the drive. The software scans each and every sector in the USB drive to search for the files that are formatted from the drive. Once the scanning process completes, all the recoverable files are displayed in the list.
      List of recoverable files
    4.       Select the important files you want to recover from the USB drive and click on Next button.

Lastly, select the location to save all the recovered files from the USB. Make sure you save the files in a different location to avoid the overwriting of the files on the same drive.

Once you complete the recovery process. You can move ahead with fixing the error and format the drive.

How to fix Windows’ unable to complete format error?

To fix the error Windows cannot complete the format error, you can try the following methods one after the other and verify if the error is fixed.

Remove Write Protection from the Drive

To remove write protection from the drive (USB/SD card or any external drives), check if the drive has a physical switch to unlock the write protection. Toggle the switch to the opposite direction to unlock the write protection. If you have no physical switch on the drive, try fixing the write protected drive using other methods.

Fix Bad Sectors using Scan and Repair

Every time any external drive or USB with bad sectors or virus are inserted on to the computer, your Windows asks to scan and repair it. Scan and Repair is a built in Windows automatic repair utility.

Error Checking Tool to fix formatting error

    1.       Right-click the USB drive or SD card >> select Properties from the menu.
    2.       Click the Tools tab >> check the option under the Error-checking section >> Check
    3.        Click the Scan and repair drive option to fix the bad sectors or any issues present on the drive.

 What if your Scan and Repair is itself stuck? Do not worry! You easily fix the issue with Scan and Repair and fix USB.

Format the drive Using CHKDSK

If you still encounter that Windows was unable to format the drive, try formatting using CHKDSK command in the command prompt.

Fix USB drive using CHKDSK

    1.       Type command prompt in the search tab and Open command prompt >> Run in administrator mode
    2.       Type CHKDSK D: /f /r /x where D refers to the drive letter you need to format

Once the bad sectors on the drive are fixed, you can go to Windows File Explorer >> locate and right-click on your USB or SD card drive.

    1.       Select Format, reset the file system as NTFS >> Quick Format >> click Start

Format the SD card

This method should help you fix any errors and allow Windows to format the drive

Another method to format using CHKDSK

    1.       Launch Command Prompt through the Windows menu using the same steps explained above.
    2.       To format the drive directly on command prompt, type the following command with your respective drive letter and the existing file system and hit enter:

Format D: /fs:NTFS (if the drive has NTFS)

Format D: /fs:FAT32(if the drive has FAT32 file system)

Format Using Disk Management

The Windows Disk Management tool is one of the easiest methods to format the drive.

    1.        Right click on the start >> Select Disk Management and  open.
    2.       Select the drive that you received the Windows was unable to complete the format drive. error message.
    3.       Right-click on the drive >> select the Format option.


With all the above mentioned methods, you will be able to format the drive. If you are worried about losing your data due to formatting, do not worry! You can always rely on SFWare USB data recovery to recover data from formatted or corrupt USB drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to fix Windows’ unable to complete the format using CMD?

Using command prompt (CMD) you can fix the issue Windows was unable to complete the format error. You can first fix the bad sectors using CHKDSK D: /f/r/x commands and format the drive or directly by giving the command Format D: /fs:NTFS.

How do I fix a USB drive that won’t format?

4 easy ways to resolve the issue are:

    • Verify if the USB drive is write protected
    • Check if the USB drive is affected from virus and make use of Antivirus
    • Try using command prompt to format the USB drive 
    • Make use of Disk Management to format the USB drive

Why can’t I format the USB on Windows?

Windows stops the formatting process due to many reasons. One of the most common reasons is drive being write-protected and bad sectors on the drive. Try to switch off the lock to format Disk protected USB. and use command prompt or scan and repair utility to fix bad sectors on the drive.

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