Windows could not complete the format: Error and how to fix

If you have a Windows computer, you have probably seen the message “Windows could not complete the format” at some point. What is this error message and why does it appear on the screen sometimes? What is the solution so that it does not appear and what should we do when this message is shown on the computer? All the options and possibilities, what are its causes and how we can fix it.

The first thing you should keep in mind is that it is not a serious error in the computer, so you should not worry too much and we simply have to carry out a series of checks to see where the error is being caused.

Windows could not complete the format

What does this message mean and its causes

The message “Windows was unable to complete the format” may appear while formatting a USB drive or pen drive. It is a problem in which the computer warns that there is a problem or malfunction…

What are the main causes of this message on the computer? There are a number of common issues that can cause both the USB drive and USB port to appear as a one-off error in the operating system. The usual causes that we have to take into account are:

  • The USB drive we are using is writer-protected
  • The USB drive has some kind of virus or malware issue
  • The USB drive or flash drive is physically damaged
  • There is an error in the USB port of the computer
  • The drive is not properly connected to the USB port and it disconnects
  • There is a specific error in Windows
  • Etc.

Taking into account that these are usually the most frequent problems, we can take a series of measures to solve the error on the computer and not go any further. Frequent solutions that you should take into account whenever the message appears and before you become alarmed. It has a solution, it is simple and it is not usually serious.

How to solve

There are a number of steps or tips that we can follow to fix the “Windows could not complete the format” message. We can check that the USB drive is not damaged, we can check that it is correctly connected to the computer, we can check the drivers or updates or we can format it dghe manually to solve any possible errors that the device is having.

Check the USB connector

The first thing we should do is check the USB connector of our computer. We must first check that the pendrive or device is properly connected and that it is not continuously disconnected, causing this error to appear. We can also try another USB port on the computer to see if it is failing. Or we can try on another computer if we have a laptop, for example, or any other type of device that we have at home and that is compatible.

Try on another computer to find out where the error is. It may not be a problem with your computer but the drive is protected or has a virus. There may be malware or it may be physically damaged so we will not be able to access the content.

Virus acceso directo USB cómo eliminarlo

Update Windows or check for updates

Another of the main solutions that we must take into account is to update Windows. Check for a recent operating system update. It is likely that if our equipment is outdated we may experience problems…

In that case, the steps we must follow are simple because we will only have to go to the Windows Update section to check if there is something pending… We simply go to the configuration of our Windows computer and here we look for the “Update and security” section and we will see that At the top of the screen there is a button that says “Check for updates”. We must tap on this button to see what are the pending updates and we must update if one is available, for example. You will see a button or text that says “download and install” and you must follow the configuration steps to complete the process, which we will normally confirm by restarting the computer.

windows update

In addition, we can also see the “update history” that allows us to see all the times that the equipment has undergone changes: what version, on what date and what is new. This will allow us to see where the error started, for example.

Format the USB

If none of the above works, we can format the USB. We can format to eliminate any problem that there is in it. For example, that there are viruses or malware or simply that the format is not compatible. In this case, we must take into account the format that we are going to choose and then format the disk to check if this solves any compatibility problems or errors.

What to consider: Formats

Before formatting the USB we must bear in mind that there are different file formats that we can choose from when formatting. NFTS, FAT32 and exFAT. Each one has a series of characteristics and it is convenient to know how to differentiate between them. NFTS is the largest and has no file limits, but is mostly supported by Windows. It is one of the most advanced, it is fast and allows us to encrypt the content, but it does not work on many devices such as phones, televisions or consoles and it can cause writing problems on systems such as macOS or Linux.

file limit For…
FAT32 File limit Less than 4 GB For… All types of devices
exFAT File limit No limit For… All types of devices
NTFS File limit No limit For… Windows
HFS+ File limit No limit For… Apple
Ext2, Ext3 File limit Less than 16 GB For… GNU/Linux
Ext4 File limit 1 exabyte For… GNU/Linux

Also among the most popular are FAT32 and exFAT, both compatible with all types of devices and the second being an evolution of the first with fewer limitations and great compatibility between devices. It has great speed, allows you to store documents of several gigabytes and generally we have no problem if it is a USB that we are going to use in different operating systems or devices.

Format the USB

Once it has become clear to us what formats there are, we must know how to format a flash drive or format a USB but it will only take a few minutes and we can do it from any computer. In Windows, in macOS… What we will do is delete all the content that is in it and give it a new file system that can solve the aforementioned error “Windows could not complete the format”.

In Windows the steps we must follow are:

  • Insert the USB flash drive into your computer
  • Go to “This team”
  • Find the USB drive you want to format
  • Right click on it
  • Click on “Format”


In macOS we can also do it in a few minutes:

  • Open the Applications directory on the Mac computer
  • Go to the “Utilities” section
  • Choose “Disk Utility” option and open it
  • You will see a window where is the unit that we want to format
  • Select the disk that interests us
  • Check the “ Delete ” button
  • Choose the type of format from among those available

Keep in mind that there are formats that are only compatible with Mac computers, so it is not advisable if we are going to use USB in other devices.