Fix External Hard Drive Not Formatted Error without Data Loss

Receive the “external hard drive not formatted” error when you try to access or open it? Don’t worry about it. This article will tell you the possible reasons and how to fix it without losing data.


By Ivy / Updated on April 2, 2024

Share this: instagram reddit

Unlike the internal disk, the external disk is more convenient, so many users are willing to use it to store their precious data, such as family photos or videos, or working documents, and share it with other people.

However, sometimes you may also encounter disk errors, such as external hard drive not showing up, external hard drive access denied, device not migrated external hard drive, etc. Here we focus on the external hard drive not formatted error and tell you the possible reasons as well as solutions to fix it without data loss.

External Hard Drive Says Not Formatted

“Recently I plug my Seagate external hard drive into my Windows 11 and try to open it, but it tells me ‘The disk in drive X: is not formatted. Do you want to format it?’. I don’t want to lose any of my data. Is there any way to fix the external hard drive not formatted error? Thanks in advance.”

The Disk Is Not Formatted

Apart from formatting, Microsoft doesn't offer you other options, but that's not to say there aren't other feasible methods. Don’t format external hard drive now. If you do as suggested, you may lose all of your data or receive the following format failure prompts:

  • "The format did not complete successfully."
  • "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error."
  • "Drive is not accessible. The parameter is incorrect."

The external hard drive not formatted error means your disk is not ready for data storage and it’s not accessible. Generally, in this situation, your drive becomes RAW and you can confirm it in Disk Management.

Why Do You Receive External Hard Drive Not Formatted Error?

Why does this format disk error happen? You may be curious about it and I’ll show you the common causes below. Maybe you can find some clues to fix it.

  • The file system is damaged due to abrupt removal, power outage, virus attack, etc.
  • The file system is not compatible with your system.
  • The hardware driver is outdated.
  • The disk has bad sectors or it is corrupted.
  • The disk is write protected.

How to Safely Fix External Hard Drive Not Formatted Error

Some users may try to fix format disk error in external hard drive using CHKDSK, but receive “CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives”. That’s because this method can only work for recognized file systems. If it’s a RAW drive, please try the other 6 methods below. However, in order not to risk your data, please get them off with data recovery software first.

Recover Data from External Hard Drive Not Formatted

MyRecover is a reliable and easy to use data recovery software for Windows 7, 8, 10, 11, etc and Windows Server. Thanks to its two advanced scanning methods and high success rate, you can easily find out and recover data from unformatted external hard drive.

  • Recover Word documents, Excel files, PPT, pictures, videos, compressed files, etc and more than 200+ file types
  • keep the recovered files with their original name, format, quality, and path.
  • Recover specific files or folders during the scanning process. You don’t need to wait for the scanning result.

To get started, download the Windows data recovery software- MyRecover and install it on your Windows PC.

Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 1. Launch Windows data recovery software- MyRecover. Hover the mouse over the external hard drive saved deleted files before, and click Scan.


Step 2. The software will automatically scan the selected drive and display all the deleted or lost files.


You can also filter specific files if you don’t want to recover all the data on the external hard drive. Here are two ways in the following:

  • Directly type its file name in the Search for files or folders box.
  • Use the Filter feature. You need to select file type (eg: Word documents), date modified or size.

Search for Word Files


  • Type: include all file types, such as images, videos, documents, mails, webpage, compressed files, etc.
  • Data Modified: support today, yesterday, last 7 days, last 30 days, and custom.
  • Size: filter file size from less than 128KB to 128KB ~1MB to 1MB ~ 512MB and above, or custom.

Step 3. Select the files you want to recover and click Recover xxx files. You don’t need to wait for the final scanning result if you find files that need to recover.


Note: MyRecover displays the number of files to be recovered and their full size. You can use this to determine if you have selected all the Shift Deleted files.

Step 4. Select a new folder to store all the permanently deleted files on your drive. Then, confirm it and click Select Folder. It will automatically recover the selected files on this folder. Don’t save them to original location as it may cause data corruption or permanent data loss.

Select Folder


  • MyRecover allow users to recover files from flash drive needs formatting for free, up to 500MB. To recover unlimited files, try advanced editions.
  • You still can use it to recover data from USB that needs formatting, recover files from formatted hard drive, fix RAW SD card without losing data, and other data loss scenarios.

Try Simple Fixes First

Here are collections of some simple fixes to fix external hard drive not formatted with NTFS, FAT32, FAT, etc compatible file system. You can try them and see if it works.

  • Restart your Windows PC.
  • Connect the external hard drive to another machine and try to access your data. If yes, please backup files on external hard drive now.
  • Check the external disk enclosure. If you have extra external disk, try this. If you are able to access this disk, the problem is related to your enclosure. If not, the enclosure may be damaged.
  • Run antivirus software to remove viruses or malware on external disk.

Change Drive Letter

If your external hard drive does not have a drive letter, you can try to assign it with a new one.

Step 1. Press Win + X and select Disk Management. Then, find out the unformatted external hard drive.

Step 2. Right-click this disk and select Change Drive Letter or Path.


Step 3. In the popup window, click Change. Then, select a new drive letter and click OK to confirm it.


Update Hardware Drivers

If you don’t update disk driver for a long time, you can also try this.

Step 1. Press Win + X and select Device Manager.

Step 2. Expand Disk drives, right-click the unformatted external disk and select Update driver.


Step 3. Click Search automatically for drivers. It will install drivers for the selected disk automatically.


Run SFC & DISM Command

Both SFC and DISM command helps to scan file system and fix corrupted system files, such as SYS, EXE, or DLL files may cause format disk error in external hard drive.

Step 1. Press Win + X and select Windows PowerShell(Admin).

Step 2. In the command prompt window, type sfc /scannow and press Enter.

Refresh DISM

Step 3. Then, type DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth and press Enter.

Delete Partition and Recreate a New One

You can also choose to delete partition and recreate a new one in Disk Management. This process will delete data on the partition. If there are any important data, you need to recover files first.

Step 1. Open Disk Management and find out the problematic disk. Right-click it and select Delete Volume.

Delete Volume

Step 2. In the “Delete simple volume” prompt, click Yes to confirm this deletion.

Step 3. After deleting, you will see a new unallocated space. Right-click it and select New Simple Volume.


Step 4. In the “New Simple Wizard”, click Next.

Step 5. Then, you will be asked to specify volume size, new drive letter, and format it. Click Next and wait for the operation to complete.


Format External Hard Drive with DiskPart

If you end up using the format method, please be sure you get your data off or save copies of them. Because the formatting process will delete all the data on external hard drive.

Step 1. Press Win + R and type diskpart in the Run window. Then, click OK to open it.

Step 2. Enter the following commands and press Enter after each line.

  • list disk
  • select X (X is your external disk number.)
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • format fs=ntfs quick (or format fs=fat32 quick)
  • exit

Format RAW Drive to NTFS

How to Prevent This Error from Happening Again

Anyway, you are able to fix external hard drive not formatted error and recover data from it. In order not use experience this error and potential data loss, you need a good usage habits or do some necessary precautions.

  • Always use the safe eject option to remove external disk.
  • Don’t often use the same disk on multiple systems.
  • Turn on antivirus software - Windows Defender and be sure it’s running properly.
  • Update the disk driver on a regular basis.
  • Save at least 3 copies of your files on external disk. Except for the original files, you still need to create two backup copies and save them on different devices, such as external disk, cloud drive, etc. Meanwhile, you also need backup software for Windows like AOMEI Backupper Standard.

File Backup

Concluding Words

If you are experiencing external hard drive not formatted error, you can try 6 effective methods above to fix it. At the same time, it’s important to recover files from external hard drive if there are critical data for you. Otherwise, you may lose them forever.

In addition, if you want to prevent this error in the future, you need to perform a good habit, such as, use safe eject option, turn on antivirus software, save copies of your files, etc. Hope it helps you. If you think it’s helpful, please share it with your friends.

Ivy · Editor
Ivy is an editor of AOMEI Technology, she covers backup & restore,hard disk & partitions management and cloud files transfer and so on for AOMEI. She is an outgoing girl and enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. She loves traveling, eating, reading and so on. She usually hangs out with friends at her leisure time.