How do I fix an IO device error?

If you've encountered an I/O device error on your Windows computer, you're probably aware of just how confusing and frustrating this particular problem can be. An I/O device error is commonly defined as a problem that occurs when a computer's operating system can't complete the appropriate Input/Output tasks on a drive or disk currently being used. Although this may seem like a complex hurdle to overcome, you can begin to resolve your I/O device error using a few simple steps.


Checking Your Connections

It's possible that your I/O device error could be caused by something as simple as a faulty connection or cable. Power down your computer and take a close look at all of the cables and ports on your computer, ensuring that the connections are secure and don't display visible signs of damage. In doing so, you can start isolating the problem in order to determine whether it's caused by external hardware or an internal drive.


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Troubleshooting Your I/O Error Issues

One of the best steps you can take when diagnosing your I/O error is to shut down your computer and restart it in what is known as a "clean boot state." In order to do this, you'll need to log on to your computer with Administrator privileges. Once you've logged on, access your Run window dialog and type "msconfig" before pressing enter. This will open your System Configuration window.


Within the System Configuration window, click the "Selective Startup" option and deselect the "Load Startup" items option. Once this is complete, click on the "Services" tab at the top of the window. This will allow you to turn off all nonessential operations on your computer during a boot. Select the "Hide all Microsoft services" button and then press "Disable All." After completing this, you should be able to launch a "clean boot" and further diagnose your problems. If, after restarting your computer, the error doesn't appear, slowly begin re-initiating services you disabled to see which particular item triggers the I/O error.



Analyzing Your Drivers

Your I/O error could also be caused by outdated drivers. Do a thorough examination of your computer's drivers in order to determine whether this is the source of your problem. If you do locate obsolete drivers, consider replacing them promptly in order to ensure that your computer has the appropriate tools to ensure maximum functionality. Keep in mind, however, that a driver could be just one element of a larger I/O issue affecting your computer. With that in mind, continue to check the other topics mentioned here in order to ensure you've fully resolved your issue.

You may get the message: “The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error” while attempting to access the contents of an external hard drive or initializing the drive.

It’s likely an issue with the driver or the transfer configuration. Fixing these issues is easy and only requires a few minutes. For more troublesome causes, you’ll need more technical solutions, which we have mentioned in detail in this guide.

Table of Contents

  • What Causes External Hard Drive I/O Device Error in Windows
  • Solutions for External Hard Drive I/O Device Error in Windows
    • Change Device’s Transfer Mode
    • Use Check Disk Utility
    • Update Device Drivers
    • Reinstall Device Drivers
    • Check Event Viewer
    • Boot in Safe Mode
    • Perform Clean Boot
    • Troubleshoot Issues Preventing Disk Initialization
    • Format External Drive (Command)
    • Repair/Replace Hard Drive

What Causes External Hard Drive I/O Device Error in Windows

Here are some of the reasons for I/O Device errors for external hard drives in Windows:

  • Incompatible transfer mode configuration.
  • Corrupt or damaged I/O Device.
  • Improper connection between your PC and the device.
  • Issues with drivers.
  • Malware infection.
  • Power failure while initializing/accessing the hard drive.

Solutions for External Hard Drive I/O Device Error in Windows

There are a few preliminary checks you can carry-out before trying anything else, such as:

  • Check cable connections.
  • Try alternative ports.
  • Check using a different external drive.
  • Connect the hard drive to another PC.
  • Restart your computer while connecting/disconnecting the device.

For further troubleshooting, carry out the solutions listed below depending on whether your PC or the drive is at fault.

Warning: Executing the methods in this guide may cause you to lose the data on the hard drive. So, use recovery software to retrieve the files from the drive beforehand.

Change Device’s Transfer Mode

There are two main device transfer modes for external drives, Programmed Input-Output (PIO) and Direct Memory Access (DMA). Your system usually sets the transfer mode for the external device to Ultra DMA by default. However, not all computers support this mode.

Get in contact with your computer manufacturer’s technical support and check which transfer mode your system supports. 

Then, check the current transfer mode for your external hard drive and alter it if required. Follow the steps below to do so:

  1. Launch Run command (Win + R) and enter devmgmt.msc. It will direct you to the Device Manager.
  2. Expand IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers and look for the channel that the external drive is connected to.
  3. Right-click on it and select Properties.
  4. Go to the Advanced Settings tab.
  5. Set Transfer Mode to the one supported by your computer. If your PC doesn’t support UDMA, set it to PIO only.

Use Check Disk Utility

The CHKDSK utility in Windows checks the integrity of the drive, and fixes any logical partition errors and bad sectors. To use this tool to fix the I/O device error,

  1. Open Run command.
  2. Type cmd and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter. It will load the elevated Command Prompt.
  3. Enter the command: chkdsk X: /f /r /x while replacing X: with the drive letter. 

Restart your PC and check if you still receive this error while accessing the drive. 

Update Device Drivers

Outdated or buggy drivers responsible for managing external storage devices can also cause this error. Update the drivers to their latest version to avoid such issues. You can do so by following the instructions below:

  1. Open the Device Manager.
  2. Expand Disk drives and right-click on your external drive.
  3. Select Update driver.

  4. Click Search automatically for drivers.
  5. After updating the disk driver, expand Universal Serial Bus controllers.
  6. Update all the USB devices in the same manner.
  7. You can also update the Storage controllers and IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers.

After updating all these drivers, restart your PC and check if the error persists.

Reinstall Device Drivers

If the device drivers are fully updated, you can try reinstalling them to fix bugs present in the software. To do so,

  1. Launch the Device Manager.
  2. Expand to the devices (See the method above).
  3. Right-click on them and select Uninstall device.
  4. Click Uninstall.

Do so for all the devices, and then restart your PC. It will automatically install any missing drivers. Then, check if you can now access or initialize the external hard drive.

Check Event Viewer

The Event Viewer will record any errors you encounter along with the details on possible causes. You can check it to get more information on how you can debug this issue.

Here’s how you can check the Event Viewer:

  1. Open the Run dialog box and enter eventvwr.
  2. Expand Windows Logs and select System.
  3. Click on Filter Current Log from the right sidebar.
  4. Set Logged to the range of the time you encountered the error.
  5. Check Critical for Event level and click Ok.
  6. Search for the error while looking through the timestamp.
  7. Click on both General and Details to get complete information.
  8. Also, look for other errors that occurred at the same time.

You can hopefully debug the issues from this information. If not, seek help from Microsoft technical support personnel.

Don’t forget to provide them with the event log. Select the errors in the Event Viewer, right-click and choose Save Selected Events to save the log file.

Boot in Safe Mode

This error can also result from external interference due to third-party apps or services. You can boot your PC into safe mode and check if you encounter this error. To boot in safe mode,

  1. Open Run command. 
  2. Type msconfig and press Enter. It will load the System Configuration.
  3. Go to the Boot tab.
  4. Check Safe boot and Minimal.
  5. Click Ok and select Restart when prompted.

After restarting, check if you encounter the error again.

Perform Clean Boot

You should be able to access or initiate the external drive in safe boot mode if the culprits comprise third-party processes. However, the root cause of the problem will remain unfixed. 

Hence, perform a clean boot and check individual processes to determine the responsible party. Then, uninstalling or updating the program should fix this issue.

Troubleshoot Issues Preventing Disk Initialization

The I/O device error also occurs while attempting to initialize the external hard drive. So resolving issues that stop initializing a disk will be of help.

To find more information about this, check out our article on Drive Not Initialized.

Format External Drive (Command)

The final possible solution you can perform by yourself is to format the external drive. If the hard drive is not physically damaged, formatting should fix all such errors. The most convenient way to do so is through the diskpart command. Here are the steps for this method:

  1. Open the Run command.
  2. Type diskpart and press Enter.
  3. Type the following commands inside diskpart and press Enter after each of them:
list disk
select disk X (replace X with the disk number)
attributes cleared successfully
online disk
convert gpt (or convert mbr)
create partition primary
format fs=exfat quick (replace exfat with ntfs if you only want to use the hard drive with Windows)
assign letter = h (replace h with any letter you wish)

Repair/Replace Hard Drive

If none of the previous methods work, then chances are the drive itself is damaged. Take it to a hardware expert and ask if they can repair it. If not, you have no choice but to replace the hard disk itself.

What causes I O device error?

What Is an I/O Device Error? Input/Output device errors are quite common. They're usually a hardware issue, such as a faulty cable, a glitch with your hard drive or SSD, or a misconfigured driver.

What does IO problem mean?

What Is an I/O Error? I/O stands for Input/Output. An I/O device error is an issue with the device that stops Windows from reading its contents or writing on it. It can appear on the internal hard drive (HDD or SSD), external hard disk, USB flash drive, SD card, CD/DVD, etc.

What causes Io error in Windows 10?

Reasons for I/O Device Error This plugged storage device is incorrectly connected. PC cannot detect your connected device normally. The computer USB port or USB card reader is damaged or broken. The computer storage device driver is outdated, damaged or incompatible with your attached device.

What is IO error in disk?

The disk I/O error occurs any time the computer is unable to read a diskette, disc, or other disk in the computer. Method 1: If you have any external USB devices connected, then I would suggest you to remove those devices (except mouse and keyboard) and check.