Fix: Windows was Unable to Complete the Formatting

As you might have guessed, this error appears when trying to format your drive inside This PC, after right-clicking the drive. The error prevents users from formatting the drive (deleting everything on it) or changing the file system the drive uses which can be important in many different applications.

Windows was Unable to Complete the Format

The causes for this problem vary and it can even include physical damage to the disk. If you can normally access files on the drive, the problem shouldn’t be physical and it should be resolved by one of the methods we have prepared below. Good luck!

What Causes the Windows was Unable to Complete the Format Error?

The error is caused by a variety of different reasons and the whole troubleshooting process depends on how the problem actually started to occur in the first place. Here is the list:

  • Simple bugs preventing you from formatting your drive normally inside This PC.
  • Lack of permissions meaning you need admin access to format drives inside This PC. This can be resolved by using Command Prompt or Disk Management.
  • Write protection for your drive may have been turned on, preventing you from formatting it.

Solution 1: Using Disk Management

The first solution on our list is more of a workaround you can use if a simple bug is preventing you from formatting the drive you want using the disk list in This PC. This method involves using Disk Management, a helpful utility preinstalled into Windows which deals with everything disk-related. Follow the instructions below!

  1. Open the Disk Management utility by searching for it in the Start menu or the search bar and clicking the first option.
  2. The alternative is to either use the Windows Key + X key combination or right-click on the Start menu and choose the Disk Management option in order to open its console.
Opening Disk Management
  1. Locate the partition you want to format by checking out its name under the Volume column or by checking under for it. Right-click on it and choose the Format option from within the context menu which will appear.
Formatting the drive using Disk Management
  1. Confirm any dialog prompts and confirm your changes. Restart your computer and check to see if the “Windows was unable to complete the format” error message still appears.
  2. If this method doesn’t work out for you, right-click on your device and choose the New Simple Volume option from the context menu.
New Simple Volume
  1. This will open the New Simple Volume Wizard which will guide you throughout the partition if your drive. Follow the instructions on-screen and your drive should be formatted properly.

Solution 2: Using DISKPART

DISKPART is an amazing utility you can access using Command Prompt and you can use it to easily manage your partitions and volumes. This time, we will use it to make the drive your want to format active and then we will format it using the same utility.

Users who haven’t been able to format their drives using This PC or Disk Management have reported that this method yielded success!

  1. If your computer’s system is down, you will have to use the installation media used to install windows for this process. Insert the installation drive you own or which you have just created and boot your computer.
  2. You will see a Choose your keyboard layout window so choose the one you want to use. The Choose an option screen will appear so navigate to Troubleshoot >> Advanced Options >> Command Prompt.
Command Prompt in Advanced options
  1. Otherwise, simply search for Command Prompt, right-click on it, and choose Run as administrator. At the command prompt window, type in simply “diskpart” in a new line and click the Enter key in order to run this command.
  2. This will change the Command Prompt window to enable you to run various Diskpart The first one you will run is the one which will enable you to see the complete list of all available drives. Type this in and make sure you click Enter afterwards:
DISKPART> list disk
Selecting the proper disk in DISKPART
  1. Make sure you choose your drive carefully, depending on which number is assigned to it in the list of volumes. Let’s say that its number is 1. Now run the following command in order to select your required drive:
DISKPART> select disk 1
  1. A message should appear saying something like “Disk 1 is the selected disk”.

Note: If you are unsure about which drive number belongs to your USB device, the easiest way to do so is to check its size at the right pane. Additionally, it’s the same number which appears in the “Where do you want to install Windows?” window where the error originally occurs.

  1. In order to clean this volume, all you need to do is to type in the command displayed below, click the Enter key afterward, and stay patient for the process to complete. The process should now be successful for a change. This set of commands will also create a Primary Partition and make it active so that you can format it without problems.
Clean
Create Partition Primary
Active
Using the commands above to create an active partition
  1. Finally, this last command will format the drive in the file system you choose. When considering the file system, the rule of thumb is to choose FAT32 for drives up to 4 GB of storage and NTFS for larger volumes. Let’s say you chose NTFS! Type in the following command and tap Enter afterwards:
format fs=fat32
  1. Exit Command Prompt and check to see if your device has been successfully formatted!

Solution 3: Changing Write Protection

Several users have reported experiencing the problem because write protection has been turned on for their drive. This is usually the case for SD cards and USB drives. The problem can be resolved by removing the write protection physically. Look for the lock on the drive and switch to unlocked mode.

If you are unable to flip the switch or if there is none, you can use the software approach and edit the registry in order to remove the write protection.

  1. Since you are going to delete a registry key, we recommend you check out this article we have published for you to safely backup your registry to prevent other problems. Still, nothing wrong will occur if you follow the steps carefully and correctly.
  2. Open the Registry Editor window by typing “regedit” in either the search bar, the Start menu, or the Run dialog box which can be accessed with the Windows Key + R key combination. Navigate to the following key in your registry by navigating at the left pane:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies
Creating the required key in registry
  1. If you fail to locate this key, right-click on Control in the right-side navigation menu and choose New >> Key. Make sure you name the key
  2. Click on this key and try to create a REG_DWORD entry called WriteProtect by right-clicking at the right side of the window and choosing New >> DWORD (32-bit) Value. Right-click on it, and choose the Modify option from the context menu.
Creating the WriteProtect registry entry
  1. In the Edit window, under the Value data section change the value to 0 and apply the changes you have made. Confirm any security dialogs which may appear during this process.
  2. You can now manually restart your computer by clicking Start menu >> Power button >> Restart and check to see if the problem is gone.
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: Windows was Unable to Complete the Formatting

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