How to Fix: You Need to Format the Disk before You Can Use It



My Seagate External Hard Drive Shows Not Formatted

External hard drive is very useful when you want to copy large files between computers, or back up your important files like photos, videos, documents and other data. They typically have large capacities and can be connected to computer via USB sport or FireWire. External hard drives enjoy different forms, such as SSD, USB flash drive, Sony pen drive and so on, and vary a lot in their capacities from gigabytes to terabyte…However, you may see external USB hard drive not formatted error, saying you need to format the disk before you can use it; considering there are important files on the hard drive, you feel uneasy.

Phenomena: After you have plugged your external HD into a computer, you can’t open it to access the files because the Windows pops up an error message which reads: You need to format disk in drive before you can use it OR The disk in drive X is not formatted (appear in Windows XP).

disk needs formatting


"So I have a Seagate 3TB External Hard Drive that all of a sudden tells me it needs to be formatted. All I did prior to this happening was restart my PC, the same way I do every day. I have 2.8 TB of files, pictures, videos and more on that drive with no backups of it anywhere. So basically, when it is plugged in, every 10 seconds or so it disappears and then reappears with this pop-up message: "You need to format the disk in drive G: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?"

Obviously I don't want to format it as that means I lose all my data. Any help will be greatly appreciated…"

--from Tomshardware

It seems that such kind of data loss problem happens every day in our daily life. In fact, not formatted error not only happens on external hard drive, but also appears on almost all storage devices such as hard disk drive, USB flash drive, pen drive, floppy disk, memory card, memory stick and so on. When not formatted error happens on those devices, a similar error message saying "disk in drive is not formatted, do you want to format it now" will pop up. Facing such situation, what should you do? Are you going to format the hard drive as you are told?

Next, we will tell you more about this error message.

Why My External Hard Drive Keeps Asking Me to Format It

why disk needs formatting Now you know it's better not to format the external hard drive directly. However, since your external hard drive keeps asking you to format it, what can you do under such condition? Before answering this question, we would like to show you the reasons that may lead to this error. In this way you can avoid the improper operations to your external hard drive OR prevent the terrible things from happening. Below are the possible factors:

1.The external hard drive suffers from sudden power outage when it is used to transfer files or something else;
2.The external hard drive is improperly pulled out or forced to pull out;
3.The external hard drive gets virus attack;
4.There are bad sectors in the external hard drive.
5.More for discovering…

Misunderstanding on External Hard Drive Not Formatted Error

When running into not formatted error on external hard drive, most users have such misunderstanding: they think they have to take Windows' suggestion and have to format the hard drive without other solutions. Because in their minds, only when they can open the external hard drive, they are able to access files stored on the drive. However in this situation, formatting seems to be the only solution for them to access the external hard drive that has a lot of data inside.

The reality? It is true that formatting may enable you to regain the access to the external hard drive, but have you ever think about the consequence once you have formatted the external hard drive? Yes you will find no files on the drive after formatting.

Therefore, no matter what action you are going to take, keep this point in mind: DO NOT format your external hard drive before you take out the data in it. Formatting is a bad idea if the drive is failing, and that procedure means you will lost the file structure (folders, organization, file names…). As a matter of fact, the data in the external hard drive may get recovered as long as they are not overwritten. So remember the more changes you have made, the less chances you have for data recovery.

So how to fix the external hard drive not formatted error and recover data on the hard drive? Well, you need to use the software without altering the data on the drive or get it to someone who can help you out technically. And this article will show you what to do step by step.

Solutions to External Hard Drive Not Formatted

Solutions to external hard drive not formatted based on the whether you have made a full back up of your external hard drive. If you have made one, then congratulations! You can go ahead formatting the external hard drive and then make a data restore. But if you have not made a piece of backup, you'd better go ahead reading the following content. What should you do to recover data from not formatted hard drive without data backup?

You can try the following methods, maybe they will help you open your hard drive.

1 Try the easy things first.

  • Connect it to another USB sport or another operating system and see if you can read the files.
  • Take your chance to restart your computer and see if God opens another door for you.
  • Run anti-virus software to check and kill possible virus on the external hard drive.

These may seem meaningless but sometimes they do help people get out of trouble. If no miracle happens, try the second solution.

2 Check your hard drive for errors.

  • At the Start button, click Run.
  • Type “cmd” into the blank and hit Enter key.
  • Type “chkdsk o:/f” (if your external hard drive is Drive o:) into the Command Prompt window, you can replace the letter "O" if your external hard drive is not "O". Then click Enter button.
  • Press Enter key and it will start repairing damaged files and you will see some of your filenames before it finally asks if you want to save lost chains into another location. Click "Yes" just in case.

If CHKDEK can run this process normally, you can try again read your external hard drive after restart your computer. CHKDSK usually takes some time to fix the error, so please be patient. When it is finished, your external hard drive may become normal as before.

However, if you are unable to go through this process, and encounter the following message: the type of the file system is RAW, CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives, what should you do?

chkdsk raw
raw drive

Any other tips for how I can restore these files from not formatted external hard drive?

3 Recover Data from Not Formatted Hard Drive.

If your external hard drive keeps asking you to format it after you have tried the above solution, you can  download  free MiniTool Power Data Recovery which is an excellent program that brings file recovery to Windows to have a try. This software works great on Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, both 32 bit and 64 bit, and is able to recover the mainstream file types on audio, video, image, email, etc.. With this tool, you can easily get your inaccessible files out from unformatted hard drive (RAW drive).

MiniTool Power Data Recovery composes of five data recovery parts, and they are Undelete Recovery, Lost Partition Recovery, Damaged Partition Recovery, Digital Media Recovery and CD/DVD Recovery. Before you choose any part to begin, you can move mouse over them to get short explanations to identify whether these modules are best for your data recovery.

Follow these steps to carry out data recovery process from not formatted external hard drive:

Step 1. Launch MiniTool Power Data Recovery, and then select "Damaged Partition Recovery". You can see this module is specially designed for recovering data from damaged, RAW, or formatted partition when moving mouse over it. So it is most suitable for not formatted hard drive data recovery.

damaged partition recovery

Step 2. Then select the external hard drive to have a full scan (We take a 16 GB Kinston flash drive for example here). The scanning time depends on the capacity of your data in it.

full scan

Step 3. When the scanning is finished, Power Data Recovery will show you the files it has found in the hard drive in tree structure. Tick the files and click "Preview" to check whether the files are the right ones.
Note: you can press "Filter" button to choose specific file types to be shown in the middle pane.

check file recover

Step 4. In this step you are expected to click "Save" and then choose a safe location (usually it is another hard drive) to store all data you have selected. After that, wait for the success.

save files

note Note that the free version only offers 1GB data restoration, and you can see how much data you can recover by using the free version at the bottom of the interface. If you have got more than 1GB data to recover, purchase a personal license to break the limit and enjoy great discount now!

At the end of the process, you can format the external hard drive by using Disk Management or MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition. Both are OK to help format your external hard drive. Their differences are the latter one offers more flexible features and is more user-friendly.

disk management format
partition wizard format

How to format an external hard drive? Click on the partitions on the external hard drive and then choose "Format". (Need to click "Apply" when using Partition Wizard in case of wrong operation.)

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Why Some Files Are Corrupted after the Recovery

Sometimes, you may find out that you are unable to access the recovered files from not formatted external hard drive and Windows tells they are corrupted. You may wonder how it is corrupted because the last time you open it, it is in sound condition.

file corrupted

Here, we would like to inform you that MiniTool Power Data Recovery can only help you recover the lost files with their original states, instead of changing anything on them such as repair the corrupted files or destroy the files. That is to say, if the files Power Data Recovery recovered are corrupted, they were corrupted before the recovery due to some certain reasons before your external hard drive requires formatting. In this case, if the files means a lot to you, then it is better to find a reliable data repair service to help you out - which is normally a huge expense.


In this article, we mainly focus on data recovery solution from external hard drive that saying "your external hard drive needs formatting". Also you may run into pen drive not formatted error due to the similar reasons. The good news is, Power Data Recovery is possible to recover data in all kinds of hard drives including the pen drive. (See the full devices types Power Data Recovery can handle at

All in all, if the data in it is meaningless, format it directly. If not, considering whether you have made a backup, you should do a data restoration or turn to the other solutions offered in this post, especially the way to recover data from not formatted hard drive before formatting. For any questions or suggestions, please leave us comments below, we read every thread.

Common problems related to partition recovery and our solutions: