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Summary: The “Disk not formatted error” is a common issue with external HDDs. This article identifies four main causes: forced ejection, physical damage, viruses/bad sectors, and corruption/power outage. Two remedies are suggested: a manual method involving renaming the drive, and an automated method using the Kernel for Windows Data Recovery tool for efficient data recovery.

I have two years of precious data stored on an external hard disk. Yesterday, when I turned my laptop on and plugged in my HDD, to my surprise, I got an error message- ‘You need to format the disk in drive D: before you can use it.’ It is unnerving that if I proceed to format my disk, I might lose my precious data. Can anyone suggest me a tool or a method to overcome this issue without formatting my drive?

Numerous queries like this are posted on several forums and websites. Disk not formatted error is the most common error associated with external HDDs. Whenever the user plugs in the drive in a USB port, an error message pops up. This can be quite frustrating and annoying at the same time. Before you get misty-eyed, we have some good news for you to cheer you up. We have devised some quick fixes for you which you can try. Apart from this, we will also go through the causes behind this error, which might help you take extra caution when dealing with these kinds of situations. Moreover, we will also discuss a third-party tool that is quite efficacious and can even recover deleted files free.
Error You need to format the disk in drive D before you can use it

Possible Reasons for Disk Not Formatted Error

Though there are many reasons behind this error, we have identified the top four reasons which might be causing this issue.

  • Forced Ejection
    Many individuals tend to disregard the importance of safely ejecting an external drive (so avoid abruptly removing it). This oversight can potentially result in data corruption and subsequently hinder your ability to access the drive. At times, Windows may decline to eject mass storage devices. This occurs when there is a file (located on the external drive) that remains open and must be closed before the drive can be safely removed. One can attempt to close the file explorer or terminate the file/application through the Task Manager.
  • Physical Damage
    If the drive sustains any physical damage, it may render it inaccessible. It is imperative to take great care in avoiding neglect or mishandling of the drive. Additionally, do not forcefully or abruptly disconnect the USB cable from the port. If you observe any signs of wear and tear on the USB cable, it is advisable to replace it.
  • Viruses & Bad Sectors
    External drives, being utilized across various systems, are susceptible to infections. Malicious software can impede your ability to access the drive, potentially resulting in a “USB Device Not Recognized Error.” It is advisable to employ a trustworthy antivirus program. Moreover, the presence of bad sectors on the drive can hinder read/write operations.
  • Corruption & Power Outage
    Data corruption may stem from factors like power disruptions, malware attacks, or mishandling of the drive. It is often the primary culprit behind various drive-related problems. A sudden power surge can exacerbate the situation, highlighting the importance of having a dependable power backup solution like a UPS./li>
Remedies to Fix “Disk Not Formatted Error”

There are two quick fixes to overcome this issue, which are described below:

Manual Method

It is often the case that the system detects the drive but blocks the access. The way around this is to rename the drive. Just follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Hold + R keys, type diskmgmt.msc, and hit Enter.
  2. Now right-click on the drive, then select Change Drive Letters and Paths.
  3. Next, click on the Add/Change option and hit Ok.

If this works for you, then you should quickly copy the content of the drive to a safe location.

Automated method

If you have made it to this section, then it means that you are you had no luck with the manual method. Hence you need a professional tool. Kernel for Windows Data Recovery is one such a tool. It is equipped with state-of-the-art algorithms that allow you to quickly recover data from a corrupt or inaccessible external drive. This tool can even recover deleted Windows files. With this tool, it is even possible to recover data after a drive format.

In the next few steps, we will explore the features of this splendid tool.

  1. After installing the tool, the welcome screen asks you to choose from three modes: Quick Scan, Deep Scan, and File Trace. One should only use the Quick Scan mode if you would like to recover recently deleted files as it coarsely scans for the deleted files. Next, the Deep Scan and File Trace modes are much more advanced than the former. If you have by accident formatted the hard drive, then select Deep Scan mode. If both of these modes are unable to recover your data, then go for the File trace mode as it scans the drive sector-by-sector. It is to note that File trace mode takes much time to run in comparison to the other two scan modes.Select Scan Mode
  2. Now select the drive to format from the hierarchy (in the left pane) and hit Next.Select the drive to format from the hierarchy
  3. Now, wait for the scan process to end. While searching for the lost data one can look at the selected drive’s properties. Moreover, the user can hide the progress by clicking on the Hide Progress tab. Anytime, to stop the process hit Stop.Wait for the scan process to end
  4. Now, from the tree view structure (see left pane) select the specific folders to save. The user can also preview the files before saving. Now click on Recover.Select the specific folders to saveNote: One can also search for specific files using the Find Files for specific files using the Find Files
  5. From the Recovery Settings, the user can select from a bunch of options.Select option to recover
  6. Browse for the location to save your file.Select location to save
  7. The time taken by the save process will depend upon the size of the data. While saving the data, the user can view the status of the process through a progress bar. Once you see a message stating “Files Saved Successfully” click Ok to finish the process.View the status of the process


We have discussed the possible reasons behind the Disk Not Formatted Error. Two remedies have also been discussed, including a manual method and an automated method. Kernel for Windows Data Recovery is once such tool which should be used if the user encounters this error. This tool can also restore files from corrupt drive quite efficiently. Therefore, the user should give this tool a try.

Kernel for Windows Data Recovery