Formatting fails or an error is shown while formatting a hard drive in Windows

Issue:

During the format process in Windows, an error is encountered or the format does not complete successfully.

Cause:

  • If the hard drive is not setup correctly in the BIOS or is not jumpered correctly, this may cause the BIOS and Windows to detect the drive incorrectly.
  • Viruses or spyware program are capable of conflicting with Windows programs such as the format utility built into Windows.
  • If the partition on the hard drive is corrupt or damaged, this would cause Windows to stop the format process or show an error message.
  • If the computer system does not have the latest BIOS and hardware drivers, and the operating system does not have the latest Service Packs installed, Windows may not address or recognize the drive parameters correctly.
  • You are attempting to format a partition larger than 32GB as FAT32 in Windows 2000, XP, or 2003.
  • If the hard drive or data cable is physically damaged or defective.
  • There may be a conflict between the hard drive and another device (on the same IDE cable).

Solution:

  1. It is recommended to low-level format the hard drive to resolve any partition corruption issues that may be present. For directions on how to low-level format a hard drive, please see Answer ID 1211: How to low level format or write zeros (full erase) to a WD hard drive or Solid State drive. This task will also run a full (extended) test on the hard drive with our diagnostics and will indicate if the hard drive is working properly.
  2. If it's an internal hard drive, please ensure that the latest BIOS is installed for the computer, motherboard, or PCI controller card. BIOS updates can be obtained from the computer, motherboard, or controller card manufacturer. The BIOS should be setup to Auto-Detect the hard drive. If there is a Mode option, this should be setup as LBA, Large, or Auto. Please see Answer ID 981: How to physically install, set jumper settings, and set up a Serial ATA, EIDE, or SSD drive in Windows 7, Vista, XP, and 2000 for proper jumper configuration for our EIDE hard drives.
  3. Ensure that the latest drivers are installed for the hardware in the computer. Drivers for the hardware should be available from the respective hardware manufacturers.
  4. Ensure that the computer is free from viruses or spyware before attempting to format the hard drive.
  5. Windows 2000, XP, and 2003 Operating Systems are unable to format a FAT32 partition over 32GB. This is an operating system limitation detailed in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 184006.. You will need to limit the partition capacity to 32GB or less or format the hard drive as NTFS.
  6. It is suggested that the data cable (Serial ATA or IDE Ribbon cable) be replaced to remove this as a cause of the formatting problem. Serial ATA and IDE ribbon cables should be no longer than 18 inches. IDE cables should be a standard Ultra ATA (80-conductor) cable. Ultra ATA and Serial ATA cables are available at most computer stores.
  7. If the Full Format fails to complete, attempt to perform a Quick Format instead of a Full Format.
  8. If the hard drive is conflicting with another device on the same IDE cable, moving the hard drive to the secondary IDE cable may resolve the issue.
  9. If this occurs on an external hard drive, connect the drive to another USB of FireWire port on the computer. You can also connect the hard drive to another computer system to perform the format. This issue may be caused by attempting to reformat a FAT32 partition as NTFS without deleting the partition first. You will need to repartition and reformat the hard drive from the directions in Answer ID 1021: How to change the format type (file system) of a hard drive or Solid State drive in Windows (7, Vista, XP, 2000) to resolve this issue.


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