The error message “Windows was unable to complete the formatting” is typically presented to a user when an attempt to format a storage device, such as a hard drive, SD card, or USB flash drive, fails in a Windows environment. This error isn’t limited to a specific Windows version and can occur across various scenarios in Windows 7, 8, and 10.

This error is a signal that Windows was unable to complete the process due to certain underlying issues. It serves as an indicator of an underlying issue rather than being the issue itself. 

The process of formatting involves preparing a storage device for use by deleting all of the information and setting up a file system. When you initiate a format command, the operating system tries to erase all data and create a new, clean file system. However, certain circumstances can interrupt this process, resulting in the aforementioned error.

So how do you fix this? Let’s get it figured out, starting with why this error occurs in the first place. 

Why Does This Error Occurs?

The error usually occurs when there are bad sectors on your drive, the drive is write-protected, or there are system file errors. Other causes could be virus attacks or the storage device being used by another program. It’s like trying to repaint a room while someone is still living in it – not practical, right?

The effect of this error is that you can’t use your storage device until it’s formatted, and this can be pretty frustrating. Picture yourself all prepared for an extensive road journey, only to find your car won’t start. That’s precisely the frustration you’d experience!

Methods to Fix “Windows Was Unable to Complete the Formatting”

Correcting the “Windows was unable to complete the formatting” error requires a specific set of methods. Here we’ll discuss three primary approaches: using Windows Disk Management, using Command Prompt, and utilizing third-party software.

1: Using Windows Disk Management

Windows Disk Management is an in-built utility that comes with the Windows operating system. It enables you to perform various operations on your hard disk and other storage devices, such as creating, deleting, and formatting partitions. If you’re facing a formatting error, this tool can be an effective solution. You can apply this method via: 

  1. Open Disk Management by right-clicking on “This PC/My Computer,” then choose “Manage.”
  1. Select your drive and right-click on it.
  1. Click on “Format”.
  2. Choose the file system and set the cluster size.
  1. Click “OK” to start the format.

2: Using Command Prompt

Command Prompt is a command-line interface from Microsoft, used extensively for troubleshooting and solving various Windows issues. When it comes to rectifying the formatting error, Command Prompt can serve as a potent tool.

This approach entails utilizing diskpart, a command-line utility integrated into Windows that grants you the capability to manage your drives. With a series of specific commands, you can effectively delete existing partitions and create a new one, essentially formatting the drive. This method requires caution, however, as the incorrect use of diskpart can lead to data loss or damage to the drive.

  1. Type “cmd” in the Windows search bar.
  1. Right-click on Command Prompt and select “Run as administrator.”
  2. Type “diskpart” and hit Enter.
  1. Type “list disk” and hit Enter to list all the drives.
  1. Type “select disk X” (replace X with your disk number) and hit Enter.
  1. Type “clean” and hit Enter.
  2. Type “create partition primary” and hit Enter.
  3. Type “format fs=ntfs quick” or “format fs=fat32 quick” and hit Enter.

3: Using Third-party Software

Sometimes, the in-built tools in Windows may not be effective in resolving the formatting error. In such cases, turning to third-party software can be a valid solution.

There is a range of disk management and recovery tools available online that can help you overcome the formatting issue. These tools have the advantage of being specialized and often more user-friendly than traditional methods. 

They often feature additional capabilities, such as recovery of lost data, repair of bad sectors, or removal of write protection, which can be useful when dealing with more complex causes of formatting errors.

While these methods are effective in most cases, remember to always back up important data before attempting any formatting operation. While the aim is to fix the formatting issue, these methods will erase all data on the drive in the process.

Preventive Measures to Avoid This Error in Future

  • Regularly check your drive for bad sectors and repair them.
  • Always safely eject your storage devices.
  • Protect your computer from viruses by installing good antivirus software.
  • Avoid interrupting the formatting process.


Dealing with the error “Windows was unable to complete the formatting” can be a frustrating experience, especially when valuable data or time-sensitive tasks are at stake. 

There are multiple strategies to rectify this issue, each suitable for different skill levels and complexity of the underlying problem. Utilizing built-in tools like Windows Disk Management or Command Prompt is often the first line of defense. These methods offer a direct and cost-free solution, making them a go-to choice for many users.