Could a Virus Cause Your External Hard Drive to Need Formatting?


It is true we have made huge advances in terms of the development of versatile storage devices including smart external storage devices. External hard drives in particular have been a game changer for many years now and businesses and people continue to use them to store data while many use them as backups.

But they are generally not yet immune to challenges, especially those of malware and viruses. Having a virus enter your external hard drive can be the worst experience ever if you have highly vulnerable files in it. Besides, plugging an infected external hard drive into your computer will most likely infect the computer and spread the virus attack into your other files.

If your external hard drive says it needs to be formatted constantly, you might now be asking yourself whether a virus attack could be the cause. This article will be your companion offering you solutions when your external hard drive is asking to format. Further, you will get the right tips to help you fix external hard drive format errors.

Format Hard Drive Error Message?

Before we can deep dive into the if and the how, let us look at this common “Format your hard drive” error message. If you have been receiving this error message whenever you insert the external hard drive into your PC, you probably are a victim of factors causing your hard drive not to operate normally.

There are many reasons that are likely to cause this error. One is if you forcibly unplugged the external hard drive from the PC. Forceful removal of the hard drive has high chances of interfering with the file formats making them unreadable on the next plug in. The drive can also get damaged or even corrupted in the process. As a result, the PC will ask you to format the drive before you can use it again.

The other reason that can cause drive format error is a sudden power outage. This can also damage your PC and make your files disappear or become inaccessible.

Another reason is when your drive has bad sectors. Bad sectors may be as a result of physical damage to the external drive or due to file corruption. If you constantly receive error messages to format the drive, bad sectors can be a good reason.

Other than the reasons above, file system incompatibility is also a likely cause. When you have files in your external hard drive that are not compatible with the Windows operating system you are using, then you will not be in a position to use the drive again on the PC.

Finally, a virus attack is another good reason that can cause the format disk pop up error. It corrupts the file system making it unavailable.

So, could a Virus Cause Your External Hard Drive to Need Formatting?

We mentioned already in the sections above that there are particular reasons why you may constantly be getting “Format drive” error messages. If your system keeps telling you that your external hard drive needs to be formatted, then either of the reasons mentioned above could be contributing to the error.

It is therefore expressly true that a virus can cause your external drive to need formatting. In addition to viruses, the following will cause your drive to need formatting.

  • Sudden power outage when the drive is connected
  • If the drive is improperly pulled out or forced out
  • File system not recognized by Windows
  • Bad sectors in the drive

Do not however be worried as the problem can be fixed and you will still be able to recover lost data, if any. Also, you will be able to effectively recover data if you follow the right process of recovering data from external hard drives. In order to fix issues forcing your drive to require formatting, read on the tips we have provided below.

How To Fix the Disk Format Error on Windows Without Formatting the Drive

Tip 1: Try a Different Port

You may have been using an ineffective port on your computer. Trying a different port should help you understand whether the problem is in your external hard drive or the port used earlier.

Tip 2: Plug the Drive into Another Computer

In some cases, plugging the drive into another computer might diagnose the error. However, if the same error persists, try the other tips. If the error goes away though, then the issue lies with your PC.

Tip 3: Scan the Drive with an Antivirus

Running a virus scan when the external hard drive is connected is another way to fix the problem. This however helps you if a virus attack is the one causing the drive to need formatting. A robust antivirus should help you fix the error including offering your support to recover data from a broken external hard drive.

Tip 4: Use CHKDSK Command

The CHKDSK command is an effective way to establish if there are errors on a hard drive. Go to the Windows start menu, search for Command Prompt and open it. Tap on the “Run as administrator” to run the command.

While still in the command prompt Window, use the command CHKDSK x:/f replacing letter “x” with the drive letter. Tap enter to start the process. Once the process ends, disconnect the drive, and connect it again to check if the error has been fixed.

Tip 5: Use the Error Checking Tool

The Windows error checking tool will help you identify and fix the problem causing the formatting error. Open File Explorer to continue then right-click on the affected drive. Select properties on the open window and scroll to locate the “Tool” tab. Open the tab and tap the “Check” button followed by “Scan drive” to initiate the scanning process.

Tip 6: Use Third Party Apps

Data recovery software can also be used to rectify disk formatting errors. This is because the problem could be due to file corruption or other causes that require deep scanning. The Disk Drill developed by Cleverfiles is one such versatile tool you can use.


It is now clear that several factors contribute to the disk formatting error including a virus attack. To secure your hard drive, follow the tips discussed and you will be able to resolve the error without having to format the drive.

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