Block “You need to format the disk” message in Windows

When you click on a drive letter of a drive with a RAW partition that has an assigned drive letter, you get the prompt "you need to format the disk in drive [letter] before you can use it. Do you want to format it?".

While that is a good thing if the drive is new and you want to start using it, it is not such a good thing if you have encrypted the drive.

Unmounted encrypted drives, using software such as TrueCrypt, VeraCrypt or other encryption programs, look to Windows just like new drives that need to be formatted so that they can be put to use by the user of the device.

you need to format the disk

Accidentally hitting format disk in this case would kill all data on the disk, and that is better avoided.

A click on cancel displays another prompt stating that the drive is not accessible, and that Windows did not find a recognized file system on the drive.

drive not accessible

A workaround for the issue

There are several workarounds for the issue, but the one that worked best for me was to remove the drive letter of the encrypted drive.

This won't touch the data on the drive, and it is still possible to mount the drive using the encryption software.

Note that another drive letter may be assigned to the drive when you mount it.

Here is how this works:

  1. Use the shortcut Windows-R to open the run box.
  2. Type diskmgmt.msc and hit the Enter-key to load the Disk Management interface.
  3. Right-click on the drive in question, and select "change drive letter and paths".
  4. Select remove when the new window opens. This removes the drive letter from the drive.
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You will notice that the drive is no longer listed in Explorer once you remove the drive letter. This prevents accidental access and formatting of the drive in Explorer.

A drive letter is assigned to the drive when you mount it using the encryption software, but that is only assigned temporarily. It is only available for the session.

A bit of discussion is going on over at Superuser about the topic. Removing the drive letter may not be sufficient in some cases.

What some suggest you do in that case is to use diskpart to change the partition ID of the drive in question.

list volume
select volume <your volume with the drive letter>
remove letter=<your drive letter you want to remove>
set id=<now set the partition type>

I suggest you back up the drive before you run any operations on it to avoid data loss.

Now You: How do you handle encrypted partitions on your computer?

Summary
Article Name
Block "You need to format the disk" message in Windows
Description
Find out how to block the "you need to format the disk" message in Windows Explorer when you accidentally click on encrypted drives.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Responses to Block “You need to format the disk” message in Windows

  1. Clairvaux November 10, 2017 at 1:54 am #

    If you hit that "format disk" button, there will be a confirmation box after that, won't there ?

  2. SCBright November 10, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    In case the encrypted drive is a usb drive, how to safely eject it if it does not appear in explorer?
    I believe that trying to solve an annoying situation creates another as annoying as the first ...

    • Mike November 10, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

      If the volume is not mounted in Windows there is no need to "eject" the device. The eject option is there to flush any potentially cached data on the mounted volume and avoid corruption. (you won't corrupt any file if they are not accessible by Windows at first)

  3. Lantro November 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    You are supposed not to have encrypted disks. Security is for corporations. Individuals who focus on security usually have something to hide. :-)

    • anonona November 11, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

      @Lantro

      I like how you slipped in "usually" into your comment, otherwise it would just usually sound like an utterly naive comment.

      Usually people who are oblivious of what's going on in the technology world and that usually dont read security advisories have similar naive views and display a total disregard about their privacy and data.

      So because these people dont care about their privacy or personal information or data, everyone else that does must have something to hide too, usually.

      You're hilarious.

  4. Franck November 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    Excellent !

  5. Anonymous November 10, 2017 at 10:30 pm #

    'I suggest you back up the drive before you run any operations on it to avoid data loss.'
    How, if you can't access the drive ?

    • anonona November 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

      @Anonymous

      You can backup any drive with Acronis True Image (Bootiso my preferred way) or Macrium, it should enable you to backup any type of partition without affecting the data contained. It may require a large destination for the backup big enough to hold a 1:1 state.

      You can also clone the disk to another disk with Acronis. probably the simplest way.

  6. anonona November 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    You can simply hide the drive from showing up in windows explorer while retaining drive letter

    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/555438

    if you make a backup of the existing regsitry structure prior to making changes, this will serve as a undo, should you need it in future.

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