(Fixed) You Need to Format the Disk before Using It | 7 Methods

With possible reasons, you can easily fix the “You need to format the disk before using it” error. Scroll down to get 7 effective methods below right now. If not, try to recover data and format it.


By Ivy / Updated on April 2, 2024

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My External Hard Drive Says It Needs to Be Formatted

You may receive the error “You need to format the disk in drive D: before using it. Do you want to format it?” when you connect your external hard drive, USB drive, or SD card. The drive D: is a drive letter of disk have problems and it can be different in your case, for example, “you need to format the disk in drive G: before you can use it.” 

Format Disk in Drive D:

It indicates the disk does not have a recognized file system and it’s inaccessible. In such case, don’t format the disk immediately, especially if there are important data on it or you don’t know what’s in the drive, because it may result in data loss. In some cases, this disk won’t work even when it’s formatted. Worry not. In this article, we’ll discuss the possible reasons and solutions to fix this format disk error.

What Are the Reasons Behind the Format Disk Error?

You may want to fix the “you need to format the disk before you can use it” error right now, but it’s still worth taking the time to learn the possible reasons. It may offers you a clue to fix and prevent this error from happening again. we have summarized for you the following common reasons:

  • The USB drive, port, or PC is malfunctioning.
  • Your system includes malware or third-party software blocking access to the disk.
  • You don’t use the safe removal option.
  • Windows doesn’t recognize the file system of the disk.
  • The file system of the disk is corrupted.
  • The disk drivers are outdated or corrupted.
  • Your disk contains bad sectors.
  • Sudden power outage or abrupt system shutdown while you’re using that disk.

How to Fix “You Need to Format the Disk before Using It” 

After learning the possible reasons, you may think about the methods to fix “You need to format the disk in drive D: before you can use it”. But handling the problematic disk may also cause data loss. So you need to create a disk backup or get data off the disk using data recovery software.

Way 1: Try Easy Fixes

Here is a collection of some simple methods to this error. You could try them first.

  • Restart your system and check if this error occurs again.
  • Try a different USB port.
  • Check the USB drive on another Windows PC or Mac. If it works well on Mac but not Windows, it’s likely to have an incompatible file system. In this case, you need to recover data from external disk and format it.
  • Run antivirus software and remove viruses causing this not format error.

Way 2: Perform a Complete Shutdown

Windows enables fast startup in newer versions to make your system boot faster. But if the core system services in this process stop working, you may receive “You need to format the disk before using it” in external hard drive, USB, SD card etc. You can perform a complete shutdown to restart all the core system services.

Step 1. Press Win + R to open the Run window. Then, type cmd in it and click OK to access the command prompt with administrator priority.

Step 2. Type shutdown /s /f /t 0 and press Enter. It will start to shut down your system but with a longer time.

Shutdown Command

Way 3: Clean Boot Your System

Third-party software or services may interfere with system software and make it inoperable. You can perform a clean boot, which will disable all the third-party software and services from running at startup. If you are able to access the disk, repeat this process and enable third-party services one by one to exclude the software causing problems.

Way 4: Change the Drive Letter of Your Drive

Changing the drive letter of a disk needs to format helps to restore disk status. So if you are still told that you have to format the disk before using it, try this method.

Step 1. Press Win + R to open the Run window. Type diskmgmt.msc and press Enter.

Step 2. Find the disk needs to be formatted and right-click it, select the Change Drive Letter and Paths option.


Step 3. Click the Change button. Select a new drive letter for your disk and click OK.


Way 5: Update or Reinstall Disk Driver

If the disk driver is outdated or corrupted, you may also be told you have to format the disk before using it. In this case, you need to update or reinstall the disk driver.

Step 1. Press Win + X to open the Start menu and select Device Manager.

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


Step 3. Select “Search automatically for drivers” or “Browse my computer for drivers”. Finally, click OK to confirm this operation.


Way 6: Run Disk Check Tool

It is possible the disk needs to be formatted contains bad sectors or its file system is corrupted. To fix it, try chkdsk command or disk error-checking tool. It will also mark the bad sectors as unusable.

#1: Run CHKDSK command

Step 1. Open command prompt with administrator priority.

Step 2. Type chkdsk D: /f /r /x and press Enter. Replace D: with the drive letter of your disk. 


#2: Use Disk Error-checking Tool

Step 1. Open File Explorer and find out the disk needs to be formatted. Right-click it and select Properties.

Step 2. Go to the Tools tab and click Check under the Error checking section.

properties tools check

Step 3. Click Scan drive to find errors and fix it.

scan drive

Way 7: Execute SFC & DISM Command

If the disk check is not working, it’s probably because your disk has a corrupted file system or it’s missing. Try SFC & DISM commands to repair your disk.

Step 1. Open command prompt with administrator priority.

Step 2. Type DISM /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth and press Enter. 

Step 3. Type sfc /scannow and press Enter. Wait until the process is complete. Then, type exit to leave this window.

SFC /Scannow

How to Format Disk Needs to Format without Data Loss

If you still cannot resolve this problem or the disk becomes RAW, the only method is to format the problematic disk. However, this process will delete all the data on it and cause data loss. If there are any important data or you are not sure, try professional data recovery software to get your data off.

Part 1: Recover Data from Disk Needs Formatting

MyRecover is a professional data recovery software, with its two advanced scanning methods, you can easily find out and recover all the data on the disk needs to format. It can be an external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card, etc. And you can also enjoy the following advantages:

  • Has a high success rate and fast recovery speed.
  • Recover Word documents, Excel files, PPT, pictures, videos, compressed files, etc and more than 200+ file types
  • Keep the original name, format, quality, and path of recovered files.
  • Filter specific files on the disk and recover them immediately during the scanning process. You don’t need to wait for the scanning result.
  • Apply to Windows 7, 8, 10, 11, etc, and Windows Server. So you can use it to recover deleted files in Windows 11, or in other data loss scenarios.

To get started, download the Windows data recovery software- MyRecover and install it on your Windows PC. Meanwhile, connect the disk needs to format as well.

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 run two advanced scanning methods - Quick Scan & Deep Scan automatically and find out all the data on the problematic drive. Once any of the files are found, it will display in the following window. You can then preview or select them to recover immediately.


To recover specific files, 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, mails, 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.

Step 3. After the scanning process is complete, select all the data on the selected drive and click Recover XX files.



  • MyRecover will display the number of files to be recovered and their entire size. You can recover files up to 500MB freely. To recover unlimited files, please upgrade MyRecover.
  • Select a new location to store files on the drive needs to be formatted. Retrieving files to original location may overwrite the space of deleted data, resulting in data recovery failure.
  • You still can use it to recover deleted files from Windows Server 2016, 2019, 2022, etc.

Part 2: Format Disk without Worry About Data Loss

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 disk M (M is the disk number of the RAW SD drive.)
  • clean (The clean command will delete all the data on the RAW SD drive.)
  • create partition primary
  • format fs=ntfs quick

Format RAW Drive to NTFS

Step 3. Type exit to leave this command prompt window.

How to Prevent Format Disk Error and Data Loss

There are many reasons for the “You need to format the disk before using it” error. It is helpful to fix the problem as well as prevent disk error and data loss. Below are some suggestions you can follow:

  • Use the “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media” option.
  • Be sure to use high-quality external hard drive, USB drive, SD card etc. The disk with lower quality or not from well-known manufacturer is more likely to become damaged or has a shorter lifespan.
  • Use a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) to prevent sudden power outages.
  • Run antivirus software regularly to scan and remove viruses.
  • Create at least one copy of your files. It gives you a chance to get your files back immediately, even if your format the disk containing your files, or in the event of other data loss scenarios, such as system crash, power outage, virus attack, etc. To make it, you need a free backup software like AOMEI Backupper Standard.

File Backup

  • Don’t format the disk unless you get your data off. The formatting process will delete all of your data on it and you will lose them forever.
  • Don’t often use the same disk on multiple systems. The supported file system on a different system (eg: Windows or Mac) is different.


✍ What does it mean to format a disk drive before using it?

If you are asked to format a disk before using it, it may indicate the disk is probably damaged, contains bad sectors, has a corrupted file system, etc. In sum, Windows cannot recognize it and you cannot access your data on it.

✍ Does formatting drive delete everything?

By default, Windows will use a quick format method to format disk, which only remove the file system access to your data instead of erasing your data. If you uncheck this option or your disk is an SSD, your data will be deleted completely.

✍ Does formatting a disk repair it?

If your disk is corrupted due to bad sectors, file system damage, etc other logical disk problem, the formatting process will repair it and mark bad sectors as unusable.

✍ Can I recover files after formatting?

The answer is yes as long as you don’t add new data to your disk, it may overwrite them. It will be more difficult if you use the full format option or the disk is an SSD. Click the page to recover data from SSD.

✍ How do I format a disk?

Microsoft offers you 3 available methods to format a disk, you can use File Explorer, Disk Management, Diskpart. Read CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives for detailed steps, it works for all the disks.

Concluding Words

You can easily fix the “You need to format the disk before using it” error as long as you know the possible reasons. Try 7 effective methods above. If it does not work, you have to format it. Please get data off using data recovery software like MyRecover first if you don’t want to lose any data on it.

Not only that, it’s also helpful to prevent this format error and data loss due to it. You need to form a good habit, such as use the safe removal option, backup files on a regular basis, etc. If you already receive this format error, don’t format it before recovering data.

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.