Error Fixed: You Need to Format the Disk before You Can Use It 

External storage device is commonly seen in our daily life, such as external hard drive, USB flash drive and SD card. They are very useful owing to the portability and large capacity especially when you need to back up important files or transfer data between computers.

However, have you ever met a situation that you are informed to format the external disk when connecting it to computer? Here is a case:

I have a WD 2TB external hard drive with 1TB space used, containing my document files, family pictures and videos as well as other important data. But I was told to format it before using all of a sudden. Why? I don’t want to format it since there’s no backup. What can I do?

Overview of External Drive Format Error

I guess many users have encountered this error before. When this error happens, you can’t open the eternal drive to access the data because its file system is corrupted or not recognized by system. Coming with the error message, you may get stuck in the dilemma of data loss. 

In Disk management, this external drive will be displayed as RAW and unreadable by Windows. The causes for external drive format error may be various: virus attack, computer unexpected shut down, improper ejection, bad sectors, Windows-incompatible file system and so on. 

To get rid of this issue, we’d like to show you some practical methods in the following section. If you are being bothered by the error, just go through these solutions and find a suitable one to fix the problem right now.

How to Fix External Drive Format Error

When you run into external hard drive not formatted error, will you follow the Windows suggestion to format the drive without other measures? If you do, all data in the drive will be lost. If you refuse the suggestion, you will not be allowed to open and use the external drive. 

Here come the possible solutions!

Method 1: Take Some Simple Measures

① Restart computer to see if the error still occurs.

② Remove the external drive and re-connect it via other USB ports or to another computer.

③ Run a antivirus scan with Windows Defender or third-party antivirus program to remove the viruses since viruses or malware can lead to external drive not formatted error sometimes.

Method 2: Run CHKDSK to Check External Drive

Command Prompt is a Windows built-in tool to help you solve some basic errors related hard drive. So, you can make use of it to check and fix errors of your external drive.

① Type cmd in the Windows Run dialog. Press Enter and choose to run as administrator.

② In the Command Prompt window, type this command hkdsk h: /f and press Enter. You need to replace h with the drive letter of your target external storage device. 

③ Windows will begin to check the external drive and repair the found errors automatically. It will take some time. Exit this utility when the process ends.

However, you may come across a message during the process, informing you that the file system of the drive is RAW, and CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives. What can you do in this circumstance? 

Take it easy. Let’s move on to the next solution.

Method 3: Recover Data from External Drive and Format It

If all methods above don’t work, you may consider following the Windows suggestion to format the external storage device to make it reusable. Before that, you need to recover data from it to ensure data safety if you don’t have any backups.

Step 1: Recover Data from External Drive

To finish this work, you have to resort to some third-party data recovery software. A reliable program is the precondition of data recovery work. You can choose MiniTool Power Data Recovery to have a try.

① Download and install this software on your computer. 

② Open it to get the main interface. Choose This PC recovery module to start. 

③ Select the connecting external drive and click Scan

④ When the scanning process finishes, you can browse the found results to pick up the needed files to recover. Click Save to specify a storage location to keep the recovered files.

Step 2: Format the External Drive

You have two choices to reformat the external storage device.

Option 1: with Disk Management

① Type disk management and press Enter to open Disk Management.

② Right click the external drive shown as RAW and select Format from the context menu.

③ Follow the instructions to finish.

Option 2: with a Partition Manager

Partition Wizard is a free and useful tool to help you manage your disks and partitions better.

① Install it and open it. Connect the RAW external drive to the computer.

② Find the target external drive. Click it and choose Format Partition option.

③ Select a file system for it. 

After these steps, you’ve finished formatting external drive. Then, the external drive format error has solved and you can reuse it normally. 


In this article, we have introduced how to solve the error external hard drive needing to be formatted. Actually, they also apply to other issues related to external drive formatting and not showing up. You may try these solutions. 

It’s important to develop the habit of regular backup to protect your important data safe. Otherwise, you may encounter unexpected data loss. But don’t worry, you have chance to rescue data with the help of some reliable programs. 

Hope these tips can be helpful. Please feel free to share your thoughts or suggestions with us in the following comment section. Thanks!

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