(Fixed) Unable to Format External Hard Drive RAW

If you are experiencing the “unable to format external hard drive RAW” error, you are in the right place. This article will tell you the possible reasons and how to fix it without losing data.


By Ivy / Updated on April 2, 2024

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The Case: Unable to Format External Hard Drive RAW

“My WD external hard drive show as RAW and it asks me to format the disk before using it. I click Format in the pop up window, but find it reports ‘Windows was unable to complete the format’. How do I fix a RAW external hard drive without losing data”

Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format

Formatting is one of the suggested methods to fix a RAW external hard drive and most of the time it works. But sometimes you may find it is unable to format external hard drive in the RAW file system. Worry not, this article will tell you how to recover data from a RAW hard drive and format it successfully.

Why Does an External Hard Drive Become RAW?

You may be confused as to the reason your external hard drive becomes RAW. we have summarized for you the following common reasons:

  • Remove the external hard drive without “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media”.
  • Sudden power failure, such as a power surge.
  • System crash.
  • Virus infection affecting the file system.
  • Bad sectors.
  • Incompatible file system on the system.

How to Recover Files from RAW External Hard Drive

To recover files from RAW external hard drive, you could consider using reliable Windows data recovery software - MyRecover. It can do a big favor for you.

  • Recover more than 200+ file types, such as recover lost Word documents, Excel files, PPT, pictures, videos, compressed files, etc.
  • Support two advanced scanning methods - Quick Scan and Deep Scan. It helps to find all the deleted or lost data on RAW external hard drive.
  • Filter specific files on RAW external hard drive quickly with Type, Date Modified & Size and recover them as soon as they are found.
  • Recover data from RAW external hard drive with a high success rate and fast speed, keeping its original file name, format, quality, and path.
  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, 11, etc and Windows Server.

To get started, download Windows data recovery software- MyRecover and install it on another working Windows PC. Meanwhile, connect the disk containing the C drive in RAW as well.

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

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


Note: You can identify the RAW disk or partition through drive letter or capacity.

Step 2. The software will run Quick Scan & Deep Scan automatically and find all the deleted or lost data on the C drive. Once any of files are found, it will display in the following window. You can then preview or select them to recover immediately.


Step 3. Select all the data on the C drive and click Recover XX files.



  • MyRecover will display the number of files to be recovered and their entire size. You can free recover files up to 500MB in total. To recover unlimited files, please upgrade MyRecover.
  • Select a new location to store files on the RAW C drive. Retrieving files to original location may overwrite the space of deleted data, resulting in data recovery failure.
  • Except for Windows 10 or 11, it is still able to recover deleted files from Windows Server 2016, 2019, 2022, etc.

Besides, you still can use this software to recover files from formatted hard drive, or other data loss scenarios due to virus attack, system or disk failures, etc.

How to recover specific files on a RAW C drive:

In MyRecover, you could directly type its file name in the Search for files or folders box. Or use the Filter feature. You need to select file type (eg: Word documents), date modified, or size.

  • Type: It will contain all the file types in the local drive, such as images, videos, documents, emails, webpage, compressed files, etc.
  • Data Modified: It supports today, yesterday, last 7 days, last 30 days, and custom.
  • Size: It allows you to filter file size from less than 128KB to 128KB ~1MB to 1MB ~ 512MB and above, or custom.

Search for Word Files

How to Format RAW External Hard Drive

The error “can’t format external hard drive in RAW” usually occurs in Windows Explorer or Disk Management. So if you are experiencing this error, try DiskPart. Here are two situations in the following:

  • The external disk has only one partition. You need to select the entire disk and clean it before formatting external hard drive from RAW to NTFS or FAT32.
  • The external disk has multiple partitions. The RAW drive is just one of partition on it. Thus, you could select the partition directly and format it to a recognized file system.

Fix 1: Format RAW External Hard Drive from RAW to NTFS

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

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

  • list disk
  • select X (X is the disk number of the RAW drive.)
  • clean (The clean command will delete all the data on the RAW drive.)
  • create partition primary
  • format fs=ntfs quick (or format fs=fat32 quick)
  • exit

Format RAW Drive to NTFS

Fix 2: Format RAW Partition on External Hard Drive

Step 1. Open diskpart in a command prompt window.

Step 2. Type the following commands and press Enter in order.

  • list partition
  • select partition Y (Y is the disk number of the RAW partition.)
  • format fs=ntfs quick (or format fs=fat32 quick)
  • exit

How to Prevent External Hard Drive Become RAW

If you don't want to encounter this error and potential data loss, it's suggested to take some precautions. Here are some useful suggestions below:

  • Remove external hard drive with “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media”.
  • Don't use the same external drive on multiple systems too often.
  • Always keep Windows Defender on and updated. It helps to scan viruses or malware that may cause file system corruption.
  • Backup your external hard drive automatically. It minimizes data loss when your drive becomes RAW. To make it easily, you need a user-friendly backup software for Windows, such as, AOMEI Backupper Standard.

If you still don’t have an external hard drive backup, you’d better create one with AOMEI Backupper Standard after fixing the “unable to format external hard drive RAW” error. It will include all the data on your drive and automatically keep track of changes you made on them later.

Step 1. Download and run disk backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. Select Backup -> Disk Backup. To backup only files, select File Backup instead.

Disk Backup

Step 2. Click the + Add Disk button to select the external disk you want to backup. Then select a location to store them.

Add Disk

Step 3. Click Schedule Backup and enable Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event trigger or USB plug in backup option. Then, click Start Backup to backup the entire disk automatically.

Schedule Backup


Concluding Words

There are many reasons for a RAW drive and formatting is one of suggested methods to fix it. But sometimes you may find it’s unable to format external hard drive in RAW. Usually, this error occurs when you use the format feature in Disk Management or File Explorer. Try DiskPart instead.

Besides, if you do not want your external disks to become RAW again, this can lead to huge data loss, depending on its volume and importance, you need to keep a good habit of using external disk. Meanwhile, it’s necessary to create an external hard drive backup and run it automatically to protect data on it.

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.