Fix: Can’t read from the source file or disk

Several users report getting the “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error when trying to copy certain files to or from an external hard disk. This issue doesn’t seem to be specific to a certain Windows version and is reported to occur on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10.

Interupted Action: Can't read from the source file or disk.
Interrupted Action:
Can’t read from the source file or disk.

What is causing the “can’t read from the source file or disk” error?

We investigated this particular error message by looking at various user reports and the solutions that they advertised as being successful. Based on what we were able to gather on the issue, there are several common causes that will trigger this particular error message:

  • External hard drive appears offline for short periods of time – Whenever this happens, Windows is unable to resume reading even after the disk becomes available again. Possible causes for the apparition of this issue are unstable HDD controllers, faulty power supply over USB or unstable USB contact or cable.
  • Insufficient space on your local machine – Another reason why this issue will be triggered is if you don’t have enough local space to copy the file to a local hard disk.
  • Power saving profile is disconnecting the external drive – If you’re using a laptop with a battery-saving profile active, you might be encountering the issue because the external drive gets disconnected while the machine is unattended.
  • Bulk source file/folder contains bad sectors – This error is also known to occur if you’re trying to copy a corrupted file/folder that contains corrupted sectors.
  • The hard drive is overheating – If you’re trying to copy a very large file while using an older HDD, the issue might occur due to overheating.

If you’re trying to resolve this particular issue, this article will provide you with a selection of verified troubleshooting steps. Below you have a collection of methods that others users in a similar situation have used to get the issue resolved.

For the best results, follow the repair strategies presented below in order until you encounter a fix that successfully resolves the issue in your particular scenario.

Method 1: Compressing the file before moving it

Several users encountering the “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error have reported that they were able to avoid it by compressing the source file to a .zip format before attempting to move it. You can either use the built-in compressor or a 3rd party utility of your choosing.

Here’s a quick guide on how to do this:

  1. Navigate to the location of the source file that you’re trying to move. Once you get there, right-click on it and click on Send to > Compressed (zipped) folder.

    Right-click on the source file and select Send to >> Compressed (zipped) folder
    Right-click on the source file and select Send to >> Compressed (zipped) folder
  2. Once the procedure is complete, simply move the file compressed file (.zip) into the location where you want to move it. If the .zip file is moved successfully, simply right-click on it and choose Extract All.
    Extracting the .zip file to the new location
    Extracting the .zip file to the new location

If the procedure does not allow you to circumvent the “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error, move down to the next method below.

Method 2: Using Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier 

A lot of the issues presented above can be circumvented with a copying tool called Roadkill’s Unstoppable Copier. Several users encountering the same issue reported that the copying procedure that was previously failing using the native copying tool was completed successfully using this 3rd party application.

This tool will allow you to recover files from damaged disk with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or reading error. Another advantage of using this tool is that it will also show you whether the bulk source file contains any bad sectors. It will also point them out to you so you can exclude them from your copying chore.

Here’s a quick guide on using Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier:

  1. Visit this link (here), select your Windows version and click the Download button.
    Downloading the Roadki's Unstoppable Copier tool
    Downloading the Roadki’s Unstoppable Copier tool
  2. Open the installation executable and click Yes at the UAC (User Account Control) prompt. Then, follow the on-screen instructions to install Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier to your system.
    Installing Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier
    Installing Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier
  3. Launch Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier and accept the Licence Agreement.
    Accepting Roadkil's Licence agreement
    Accepting Roadkil’s Licence agreement
  4. First, click the Browse button associated with Source and browse to the location of the file that is triggering the error message.
    Browsing to the file that needs to be copied
    Browsing to the file that needs to be copied
  5. Next, click the other Browse button – the one associated with Target. In the newly appeared Browse for Files or Folder menu, browse to the location where you want to copy the file/folder.
    Browse to the target location
    Browse to the target location
  6. Once both the Source and the Target have been set, simply click the Copy button and wait for the process to complete.
    Starting the copying process
    Starting the copying process
  7. Once the operation is successful, you’ll get a confirmation prompt. Upon clicking Ok, you will be able to inspect each copied element and see whether any errors have been encountered.
    Batch source file transferred successfully with Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier
    Batch source file transferred successfully with Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier

If this method wasn’t successful, move down to the next method below.

Method 3: Running the Check Disk utility

Several users encountering the same issue have reported that they were able to resolve the issue by running a CHKDSK (Check Disk utility) scan. This tool’s basic function is to scan the integrity of the file system and fix any logical file system errors that it manages to find.

Here’s a quick guide on how to run a Check Disk utility scan:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Then, type “cmd” and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open an elevated Command Prompt window. When prompted by the UAC (User Account Control), click Yes to grant admin privileges.
    Run dialog: cmd , then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter
    Run dialog: cmd , then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter
  2. Inside the elevated Command Prompt, type the following command and press Enter to scan and repair for both logical errors and bad sectors:
    chkdsk D: /r

    Note: This process can take up several hours to complete. Do not power off your machine during this time.

  3. Once the scanning is complete and the errors repaired, reboot your computer and see if the issue is resolved at the next startup.

If you’re still encountering the “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error, move down to the next method below.

Method 4: Using a USB-Hub with a separate power supply

As some users have reported, the issue can occur if you’re encountering the error with an external HDD that is powered by your computer – without a separate power supply. If that’s the case, it’s very likely that the error occurs because your computer isn’t able to power the HDD over extended periods of time.

Typically, if this is the reason why the error occurs, you’ll notice that the error will only occur with large files while small files will be copied just fine.

If this scenario is applicable to your current situation,  try to use a USB Hub that has a separate power supply, and see if it’s able to provide more power than your computer can.

Note: Another possibility to consider is that your HDD is overheating when having to copy a large file. If you see the error occurring at different intervals try to lower the temperature by installing an additional case cooler or keeping your external hard drive in a colder environment.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

Fix: Can’t read from the source file or disk

If the issue is with your Computer or a Laptop you should try using Restoro which can scan the repositories and replace corrupt and missing files. This works in most cases, where the issue is originated due to a system corruption. You can download Restoro by clicking the Download button below.

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