How To Fix External Hard Disk I/O Device Errors in Windows

External Hard Drives are one of the most convenient storage devices, especially if the data stored amounts to or exceeds several hundred GBs. However, challenges occur when the Desktop or Laptop cannot recognize the external hard drive connected through the USB port. Such errors in device detections are termed I/O or Input/Output Errors. This post will share some checks and solutions to help you fix hard disk I/O device errors in Windows PC.

Possible Causes of Hard Disk I/O Error in Windows

  • Faulty External Device or Port: This error relates to the hardware faults of the External Hard Drive or the USB port it is connected to.
  • Corrupt or Incompatible File System: Corrupt file system or MBR (Master Boot Record) in the External Drive or the File System of the Device and the Windows OS in the computer not being the same can also be a possible cause of the error.
  • Outdated or corrupt USB Drivers: I/O errors can also occur if the USB drivers in the PC or laptop may be corrupted or outdated. For Windows to recognize the USB device, the drivers must be healthy and updated when attached externally.
  • Incompatible Transfer Mode: The mode of transferring the data from the PC/Laptop to the external hard drive should be correctly selected, failing which the I/O error might be inevitable.

The causes mentioned above are the ones that are most commonly encountered when the External Hard Drives are connected to the Computer through USB ports.

External Hard Disk IO Device Error in Windows

How To Fix External Hard Disk I/O Device Errors in Windows

Before we delve deep into the possible solution to the errors mentioned earlier, rebooting the computer may sometimes be good practice and resolve the issue in a few cases. However, if the problem persists, the resolutions below can be tried to fix the hard disk I/O device errors.

  1. Faulty External Device or Port
  2. Corrupt or Incompatible File System
  3. Outdated or Corrupt USB Drivers

You will need an administrator user account to execute these suggestions. Ensure you have a backup of all the data, and system restore.

1] Faulty External Device or Port

Since this error relates to the problems associated with the hardware devices, the External Hard Drive can be plugged into another PC or Laptop to check if it’s being detected in that particular system. If the drive is unrecognized in the other system, it can be concluded that the issue is with the device itself on the hardware part.

However, if the External Drive is detected when attached to a different system, the problem might be with the USB port to which the drive was initially attached. Similarly, changing the data cable can also help zero in on faulty hardware.

2] Corrupt or Incompatible File System

A corrupt file system or MBR of the External Hard Drive can contribute to the problem. In such cases, the error message that might appear would read—Disk Unknown Not Initialized or The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error.

In such cases, initializing the Disk by using either GPT (GUID Partition Table) or MBR (Master Boot Record) can be a possible solution as illustrated below:

  • Connect the External Hard Drive to the PC/Laptop.
  • Press the Windows Key and R to open the RUN window and type in diskmgmt.msc
  • The attached External Drive will show up in Disk Management. Right Click on it and click on Initialize Disk. Select the Disk that needs to be initialized and preferably select MBR as the partition style and click on OK to complete the process.Disk Management Initialize Disk Windows
  • Return to the Disk Management window to check and confirm whether the drive has been detected. Following the above steps should resolve the issue if the I/O error is encountered due to a Corrupt or Incompatible file system.

3] Outdated or Corrupt USB Drivers

After diagnosing the hardware aspects, attention can be turned to checking on the software part if the issue persists. Updating or reinstalling the drivers can be executed by following the below-mentioned steps:

  • Press the Windows and R key to open the Run window and type in devmgmt. msc to open the Device Manager window.
  • Right-click on the drive, and go to properties. Note down the OEM and Model number of the hard drive.
  • Right-click on the drive, and go to properties > Device. Choose to uninstall the device, and restart your PCUninstall Device Windows
  • Once you login back, Windows will install a generic driver
  • Finally, based on the OEM and Model number, go to the official website, download the driver or installer, and update the hard drive drivers.


The above troubleshooting steps can be followed to identify whether the problem is on the hardware part or the software. The steps above cover the fundamental and generic resolution. However, if the issue persists, consulting an expert is highly recommended.

Why is IO Device Error Named such?

They are named so due to the inability of the Operating System to perform any I/O operation with the externally attached device. Such errors prevent viewing, editing, and transferring the data to and from the devices to which it is attached.

Which Is a Better Option to Transfer Data? External Hard Drive or USB Drive?

External Hard Drives are one of the most convenient storage devices, especially if the data stored amounts to or exceeds several hundred GBs. Although Pen Drives offer the same advantage as far as portability is concerned, external hard drives do have the edge over Pen Drives as far as storage capacity is concerned. The drives are generally connected to the primary device (desktops, laptops, etc.) through the USB ports for transferring the data to and from both devices.

Sandip Basu
Sandip has worked as an IT solutions consultant for the last 15 years and specializes in troubleshooting software and hardware.


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