Have you connected your external HDD to your computer, and your external hard drive says it needs to be formatted? This error message can be frustrating as it doesn't allow you to use your external HDD.

Fortunately, we've prepared a guide to an external HDD asking to format, including why the error message appears. You'll also discover several proven solutions for an external hard drive asking to format.

Table of Content
    1. Re-Eject the Drive
    2. Restart Your Computer
    3. Repair the External Hard Disk Using CHKDSK
    4. Scan the External Hard Drive Using Error Checker
    5. Fix the External Hard Drive Using TestDisk
    6. Format the Drive

Why Does My External Hard Drive Say It Needs to Be Formatted?

external hard drive format error

Your external hard drive can ask to be formatted for several reasons.

These are the most common causes of the "External hard drive asks to be formatted" error:

Causes Explanation Solutions
Improper ejection or disconnection You forcibly removed your external drive from your computer, which can cause potential data corruption or damage to the disk's file system. Fix 1: Re-Eject the Drive
Computer bugs Your system is experiencing glitches. Fix 2: Restart Your Computer
File system corruption If the file system of the external hard drive is corrupted or damaged, the computer may not be able to recognize it and may ask you to format the drive. File system corruption can occur due to various reasons, such as power outages, malware, or hardware failure. Fix 3: Repair the Drive Using CHKDSK
Fix 4: Scan the Drive Using Error Checker
Fix 5: Fix the Drive Using TestDisk
Fix 6: Format the Drive
Bad sectors Bad sectors are sections of the hard drive that become inaccessible or unwritable due to physical damage or wear. If your external hard drive has bad sectors, it may cause the "asks to be formatted" error. Fix 3: Repair the Drive Using CHKDSK
Fix 5: Fix the Drive Using TestDisk
Fix 6: Format the Drive
Partition table issues The partition table contains information about the partitions on a hard drive. If the partition table is damaged or corrupted, the computer may not recognize the partitions on the external hard drive and may ask you to format it. Fix 3: Repair the Drive Using CHKDSK
Fix 4: Scan the Drive Using Error Checker
Fix 5: Fix the Drive Using TestDisk
Fix 6: Format the Drive
Incompatible file system If the external hard drive has a file system that is not compatible with your computer's operating system, it may ask you to format the drive. For example, an NTFS-formatted drive may not work properly on a Mac without additional software. Fix 6: Format the Drive
Virus or malware infection Malware or viruses can cause damage to the file system of an external hard drive, making it inaccessible and prompting the computer to request formatting. Fix 6: Format the Drive

You Shouldn't Automatically Format the External Drive

The error message asks you to format your external hard drive. So, why shouldn't you just click Format disk and get it over with? We don't recommend it. The reason behind the error message is probably fixable, so you most likely won't need to format your external hard drive.

Moreover, if you automatically approve your disk's formatting, you'll lose all your precious data. Thus, don't format your external hard drive just yet. You can do it as a last resort if all the methods to fix it fail.

How To Fix the External Hard Drive Asking to Format Error With or Without Formatting

We've prepared several methods to help you fix the error asking you to format your external hard drive. With our step-by-step instructions, you'll quickly resolve the problem and regain access to your data.

Fix 1: Re-Eject the Drive

You might have caused the error message to appear if you've forcibly removed your external hard drive from your computer. Thus, safely re-ejecting it might fix the problem.

Follow these steps to eject your drive from your computer safely:

  1. Plug your external hard drive into your computer.
  2. Click the Hidden Icons menu (the upward-facing arrow) in the Taskbar's system tray.
  3. Click the USB icon and locate your external hard drive.
    the usb icon in the taskbar's hidden icons menu
  4. Click it and select the Eject option.
    safely eject an external hard drive
  5. The message saying it's safe to disconnect your USB will appear shortly, so wait for it and safely remove your external hard drive.
  6. Lastly, reconnect your external hard drive to the computer and check if the error is fixed.

Fix 2: Restart Your Computer

Another common reason for the "External hard drive should be formatted" error message is computer glitches. Your computer can glitch for numerous reasons, so the best way to fix the problem is to restart it.

Follow these steps to restart your computer:

  1. Press the Windows key and click the Power icon.
  2. Select Restart from the given options.
    restart your computer
  3. Try your external hard drive again once your computer restarts.

Fix 3: Repair the External Hard Disk Using CHKDSK

CHKDSK (Check Disk) is a Windows utility that lets you scan your hard drives and fix errors. If your external hard drive asks to be formatted due to bad sectors or other issues, you can resolve the problem using the CHKDSK tool.

You can use CHKDSK in the Command Prompt by running specific commands, so follow these steps:

  1. Use the Windows key + R keyboard shortcut to open the Run dialog box.
  2. Type cmd and click OK.
    type cmd to open the command prompt
  3. Run this command: chkdsk e: /f (replace e with your external hard drive letter).
    the chkdsk command to fix an hdd
  4. Once the program checks your external hard drive and fixes the errors, restart your computer.

If you are a Mac user, you can use Terminal to repair an external hard drive on a Mac.

Fix 4: Scan the External Hard Drive Using Error Checker

Windows has a built-in Error Checking tool that lets you scan your hard drives for errors and repair them. Thus, if the cause of your external hard drive asking to format is the problem with your external HDD, you can scan and fix it with the Error Checking tool.

Follow these steps to scan your external hard drive and fix the errors:

  1. Use the Windows key + X keyboard shortcut and select File Explorer.
    open file explorer
  2. Choose This PC and find your external hard drive.
  3. Right-click the drive and select Properties.
  4. Switch to the Tools tab and click Check.
    start the error-checking tool
  5. Select the Scan and Fix option to start scanning and repairing your external hard drive.
    scan and fix an external hdd
  6. Restart your computer when the Error Checker completes the process.

Mac has a tool equivalent to Windows Error Checker called First Aid, which you can use to repair an external hard drive on a Mac.

Fix 5: Fix the External Hard Drive Using TestDisk

Another way to eliminate external hard drive issues and access it without formatting is to use TestDisk. TestDisk is an open-source program that can recover and fix lost hard drives on Windows, Mac, and Linux computer. However, the lack of a graphical user interface makes it similar to the Command Prompt.

If you find the command-line interface challenging to navigate, follow these steps to use TestDisk to fix your external hard drive issue:

  1. Download TestDisk on your computer.
  2. Extract everything from the .zip file and double-click testdisk_win.exe to open it.
  3. Use arrow keys to navigate through TestDisk. Select Create and press Enter.
    create a new log file
  4. Choose your external hard drive and hit Enter.
    select an external hard drive
  5. TestDisk automatically selects the partition table type. Press Enter to continue.
    choose a partition table type
  6. Navigate to the Analyze option and hit Enter.
    analyze the partition structure
  7. Press Enter to perform a Quick Search on your hard drive.
    perform a quick search
  8. Wait for the search to complete, select the appropriate partition, and hit Enter. Then, choose the Write option and press Enter.
    write the partition structure to the disk

Fix 6: Format the Drive

If the methods above don't work, the only option is to format your external hard drive. If a file system incompatibility or corruption causes the "External hard drive should be formatted" error message, you can fix it by performing a Quick Format. If the error persists, you will need to perform a Full Format.

Learn more: Quick Format vs Full Format

However, formatting your external hard drive will result in permanent data loss. Thus, use trusted data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit to retrieve your files beforehand.

Wondershare Recoverit
  • Recovers data from 2000+ storage media, including HDDs, SSDs, USB drives, SD cards, etc.
  • Enables recovery of data lost due to formatting, disk corruption, virus attack, and more.
  • Works with all popular file systems, such as NTFS, FAT, HFS+, and APFS, among others.
recoverit box recoverit logo

Follow these steps to recover your files using Wondershare Recoverit:

  1. Install and launch Wondershare Recoverit on your PC and connect your external hard drive.
  2. Click Hard Drives and Locations, select your external HDD, and hit Start.
    perform a quick format
  3. That will start an all-around scan of your disk. Monitor the process at the bottom of the screen, where you can pause or stop it.
    scan files in external hdd asking to format
  4. Preview the files Wondershare Recoverit finds once the scan is complete. Click Recover and save the recovered data to a different location since you'll format your external hard drive.
    recover files from external hard drive asking to format

Now that your files are safe, you can reconnect the disk and click the "Format Disk" button when the error message pops up, or perform a Full Format on your external hard drive in Disk Management:

  1. Use the Windows key + X keyboard shortcut and open Disk Management.
  2. Right-click your external hard drive and select Format.
  3. Choose the desired file system (Check the best format for Mac external drives and Windows file system), tick the Perform a quick format checkbox, and click OK.
    select the external hard disk asking for format
  4. Once the process is complete, try accessing your external hard drive.

Conclusion

You don't need to worry if you see the error message saying you need to format your external hard drive once you connect it to your computer. That can happen for various reasons, such as system glitches, bad sectors, virus attacks, corruption, or unsafe ejection.

However, you can solve this problem in several simple ways, like re-ejecting or scanning the drive, restarting your computer, using CHKDSK, or fixing your HDD with TestDisk. If those methods don't work, you can perform a Quick or Full Format. However, use Wondershare Recoverit to recover your files before formatting.

Eleanor Reed
Eleanor Reed Mar 06, 24
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