How to Fix the “You Need to Format the Disk in Drive Before You Can Use It” Error?

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Every time you attempt to use an external storage device, you could sometimes see an unexpected hard drive format error that states, "You need to format the drive in drive before you can use it.". However, if you have already tried CMD and it failed to scan the device, you can make use of Remo partition recovery software. To easily regain access to your inaccessible data from a hard drive suffering from format disk error.

Written by
Published on
July 26, 2019
Updated on
November 1, 2023

User Query: My external drive suddenly says it needs to be formatted.

Source: Reddit

Solution:  It is a very frustrating situation when you are not able to access the External Hard Drive, or USB drive in the computer due to errors such as “You need to format the disk in drive X”, or “The volume does not contain a file system” and “The file or directory is corrupted or unreadable”.

How to Fix Format Disk Error?

The situation worsens when you need to immediately access the data in the storage device. But you cannot format the drive to get rid of the error and remain stuck in the situation as formatting will delete all the data. 

If you are wondering how to fix “you need to format the disk in drive error” then you are at the right place. Read the full article to find out to fix your hard drive without losing any data.

Why do I get a Format Hard Drive error on my computer?

You can get a format disk error because of various reasons that lead to file system corruption. It happens very often if you frequently force unplug your external Hard drive, SD card, USB, or any other removable device without using the Safely Remove option.

It results in partition table corruption of the device. The partition becomes RAW, which ultimately becomes unreadable for Windows. As a result of this, you might receive the disk format error message "You need to format the disk in the drive before you can use it. Do you want to format it?" when you try to access the storage device.

This is because the file system that holds all the file-related data has now become RAW, thus without this information, the computer is not able to access any file stored in the drive. The PC will suggest formatting the drive to make the storage drive again functional. However, it is a difficult choice for the user as formatting the drive will erase all the precious data in the drive.

Reasons behind “You Need to Format the Disk in Drive Before You Can Use It” Error

  • Corrupted file system: Symptoms of a corrupt file system include facing common errors such as “The volume does not contain file system”, and “The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable”.
  • Bad sectors: The formation of Bad sectors at the same location where the file system is stored makes the files present in the drive inaccessible. A format disk error message stating “You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it” will be shown.
  • Virus or Malware attacks: A virus attack on the hard drive can severely damage the file system.
  • Compatibility: At times your USB drive or memory card connected to the computer might contain a file system that was not recognized by the computer. This can happen because the USB or SD card is formatted with a different file system which the computer failed to recognize. Therefore, the computer asks the user to format the file before using it.

If you are facing one of the above situations and are looking to fix format disk errors without losing the data on the drive, you have landed at the right place. Here you will get to know how to fix the "You need to format the disk in drive" error.

Methods To Fix "You Need to Format the Disk in Drive" Error

Method 1: Try using the same Storage device on a different computer

Running the same storage device on another system helps us diagnose the problem easily. Connect the external drive to any other Windows or Mac computer, if you didn’t find any issue with the device or the system, then the storage drive is incompatible with your computer system.

Also, you can try to use a different computer and connect the external storage device to check if the file system is recognized.

Method 2: Scan the computer with powerful antivirus software

Virus attacks can severely damage the file system. Running an antivirus scan on the computer on a regular basis can remove any potential virus on the computer and also stop the virus from damaging the computer even more.

Method 3: Fix you need to format the disk before use  using CHKDSK in CMD

This is one of the effective methods that can help solve the Format disk error or “The file directory is corrupted or unreadable” error with the Windows built-in utility. The command helps in identifying any bad sectors as well as the corrupted or missing file system. Perform the below steps to remove the fix format disk error.

  • Press the Windows + R key on the keyboard
  • Now, in the search field type “cmd
  • In the command prompt type “chkdsk H: /f” and hit enter. (replace H with the drive letter that has to be fixed)
Fix Format Disk Error using CMD

After the scan is complete, exit from the command prompt and restart the computer. Now check the volume again for its functionality. Sometimes, if the drive is RAW the CHKDSK can also return an error message stating "CHKDSK not available for raw drives". Hence, you need to be aware that the CHKDSK may or may not help you solve the issue all the time.

In case the scanning is unsuccessful, the only other way to fix the format disk error is by formatting the drive.

What does formatting a hard drive do?

Formatting is the process of preparing a hard disk drive or other storage devices fit for reuse. Formatting a hard drive means losing all of your data stored in it, it makes perfect sense to first recover data from the drive and save it elsewhere, and then format it.

If you have already formatted the drive while trying to fix the format disk error, move on to the next section to find out how to recover data from a formatted hard drive.

Method 4: Recover Data and Format the Drive

Now that you know the only way to fix format disk error is to format the hard drive, it is important that you restore your important from the hard drive before you format. Now the question is how do you recover data from inaccessible hard drives?

All you need is powerful hard drive data recovery software that can help you recover data and allow you to fix format disk errors after formatting the hard drive. When you format a hard drive to resolve certain errors, the data on it is not permanently gone; instead, it is marked as free and can be readily retrieved using the Remo Recover Software.

Unless the formatted drive is not overwritten with the new data, data is recoverable with utmost ease. Remo Recover’s  Automated Dual Scan technology enables sector-level scan of the hard drive and helps you recover the whole drive in one go. The AI-powered smart scanners are designed to identify more than 500 file types.

You can also use Augmented Preview to evaluate the results of the recovered data from the formatted hard drive. The iDS Technology (Instant Data Sorting)  will help you locate all files in Dynamic Recovery View and easily sort the data files to recover them in just a click. Download Now.!

How to Recover Data Before Formatting a Hard Drive?

To recover data before formatting you need a professional tool like Remo Recover as already discussed in the previous segment. Formatting the drive will create a new file system and the data present in the drive will be erased. Therefore, it is important to recover data in the drive before formatting.

Steps to recover data from formatted disk using Remo recover

Step 1. Download and install Remo Recover and start the recovery process

Step 2. Click on the hard drive with the error disk code from which you choose to recover data and hit the Scan button.
Note: If your hard drive with disk error is not detected, use the Can’t Find Drive option to easily get them and choose your hard drive to Scan.

Step 3. The tool will initiate Quick Scan, automatically followed by Deep Scan. You can recover your data simultaneously while the Deep Scan is running, by going through the Dynamic Recovery View.

Step 4. After you Preview the results, click on the files you wish to recover from the drive and hit Recover to save the files to the destination location.

Note: Never save the recovered data on the same drive that has been restored.

Now, that you have successfully recovered your data from your drive you can go ahead and format your hard drive. 

As mentioned earlier, Formatting is the only option left to the user if he wants to make the storage device fit for reuse. To format a hard drive on Windows as well as on a Mac computer refer to this article on how to format a hard drive.

Note: If you have already formatted the storage device refer to this article to Recover files after format.


If a hard drive format error message pops up on your screen. Stating you need to format disk in drive before using it. We always suggest users fix the issue first before formatting. Run the antivirus scan or perform the steps for chkdsk as mentioned in the above article.

In the case of an external hard drive or USB, check the drive by connecting it to a different computer, if the drive works well on another device, time spent on fixing the device can be avoided. In case you have a formatted hard drive make use of Remo Recover to quickly recover the data in the drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is formatting a hard drive necessary?

Not really. Hard drive formatting is usually required when a user adopts a new operating system. This can also happen if you have space issues and need more space to store more data on the drive.

Can I fix a corrupted hard drive by formatting?

Yes, you can fix a corrupted HDD by formatting it with a new file system. Logical disk corruption is often caused by file system corruption. Formatting the partition with a new file system can easily fix a corrupt hard drive.

How to format a hard drive without losing data?

By formatting, a hard drive you will lose all your important data as the formation of a drive will erase all the files. But you can take a backup of your drive or use a data recovery tool to recover your data before formatting a hard drive.

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