How To Fix External Hard Disk I/O Device Errors?

Summary: One of the common causes of data loss in external hard drive is the I/O device error. In this guide, you’ll find the common causes of these I/O device errors and 7 ways to resolve the issue. Sometimes, the I/O device error is caused by physical problems in the external hard drive. In such cases, you’ll need professional data recovery services to get back your data. We’ll also explain why this happens, and why DIY methods don’t work in case of physical issues with the drive.

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i/o device error external hard drive happen when the computer cannot access a drive.

You plug in your external hard disk and attempt to open it when you see the following message:

I/O device errors

It reads, “The request could not be performed because of an i/o device error.”

There is no reason to panic, even though they can cause your files to be deleted.

This article will show you exactly how to fix I/O device errors and also what to do if you can’t fix them.

Table of Content

Through the course of this article, you will learn the following things:

  1. What Is An I/O Error?
  2. What Can Cause I/O Device Errors?
  3. How To Fix I/O Device Errors?
  4. What To Do If You Don’t Manage To DIY Fix Your I/O Device Errors?
  5. Why Stellar?
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

And without further delay, let us jump right into I/O device errors.

इस पोस्ट को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहां क्लिक करें।

What Is An I/O Error?

To begin with, what is an I/O error?

I/O, standing for Input/Output, represents a fundamental concept in computer operations. 

An I/O device error occurs when Windows encounters a problem that prevents it from reading from or writing to a device. 

This issue isn’t limited to external hard disks. 

It can affect a variety of storage mediums such as internal hard drives (HDD or SSD), USB flash drives, SD cards, and even CD/DVDs.

What Can Cause I/O Device Errors?

Really quickly, let us look at some I/O Device error hard drive scenarios.

Here are the most common causes of I/O device errors.

  • A faulty USB port
  • Loose Connection Wires
  • Driver Issues
  • Drive Letter Conflicts (OS Problem)
  • The Hard Drive Has An Incompatible Format
  • Physical Damage To The Hard Drive

Any combination of the above causes could lead to the “The request could not be performed because of an i/o device error.” message.

Additional Reading: Recover Data From Hard Disk Drives

Next up: How to fix I/O device error messages.

How To Fix I/O Device Errors?

This section will teach you 7 easy ways to fix I/O device errors.

1. Connect Your Hard Drive Directly, Not Through USB Hubs

Most times, io device error external hard drive are caused by faulty connections.

If your hard drive is plugged into a USB hub, it may not be receiving adequate power.

Even “powered” USB hubs can cause I/O device errors.

Disconnect it from the hub and connect it directly to your computer.

Restart your computer and see if the I/O device errors have gone away.

2. Try A Different USB Port

If you still encounter io device error external hard drive, try a different USB port on your computer.

  1. Eject your external hard drive.
  2. Then power off your computer.
  3. Connect your hard drive to a different USB port this time.
  4. Next, restart your computer and try to reaccess the hard drive.
  5. If you still come up against the I/O errors, try changing the connector cables. These can usually be found for cheap on Amazon, Flipkart, or at your local store.

If the I/O device errors still persist, try connecting your drive to another computer.

3. Reinstall/ Update Your USB Drivers

I/O errors can also be caused by outdated drivers

  1. Hit the Windows key and type in “device manager.”


  1. Scroll all the way down to “Universal Serial Bus Controllers.”

Universal Serial Bus controllers

  1. Navigate to your external hard drive in the list and right-click it. Sometimes, your hard drive may show up as a “USB Mass Storage Device.”
  2. Click on “update drivers” and let the computer check for any new drivers.

Restart your computer, and check to see if your I/O errors are still showing up.

So far, these were the three most common ways to fix these types of I/O errors.

Next, we move into some slightly more advanced fixes.

4. Update Your SATA Controller Drivers- I/O Device Errors

This step is only if you are using a SATA to USB adapter to connect your hard drive.

Some people also connect their external hard drives using SATA connections because it is much faster than USB.

If you are doing so, undoubtedly, the only way is to use a SATA to USB adapter.

Modern hardware has separate controllers for USB and SATA. To update SATA drivers, we follow the same process as USB controller driver updates.

  • Open the device manager and look for “storage controller.”
  • Click on anything that says “SATA controller.”
  • Right-click and select “update driver.
  • Click on “Search the web.

Now, even if you have used a USB, but a SATA adapter is connected, the data transfer is offloaded to the SATA controller.

5. Use The CHKSDK Function

If you still come up against I/O errors, then we can be fairly certain that the problem lies with your drive, not the computer.

Next, we will try to use the chkdsk command to try and fix our external hard drive.

  1. Press the start key and type in “cmd”.

search for command prompt in the start menu

  1. Select the “run as administrator” option.
  2. In the “Allow this program to make changes” dialog box that shows up next, click “Yes.”
  3. The command prompt (admin) window will now open. Key in “chkdsk H: /f /r /x” without the quotation marks.
Note: the “H” is to be replaced with the drive letter of your external hard drive. If your external drive letter was “D,” then the command would have been chkdsk D: /f /r /x.

The chkdsk utility may take a fair amount of time to run.

It depends on various factors such as how old your drive is, if it is corrupted or not, how much data it has, how powerful your computer is, etc.

If it finds anything wrong with your drive, like bad sectors, it will attempt to fix those automatically.

This should be able to fix the “the request could not be performed” i/o error you have been facing so far.

6. Change The Drive Letter

Sometimes, your system could be reading the drive letter wrong, which could also cause these I/O errors.

Changing the drive letter might help.

Here is how to do it.

  1. Hit the Windows Key and “X.”
  2. Next, Click on “Disk Management.”

select disk management from windows power menu

  1. Right-click on your external drive.
  2. Select “Change Drive Letter And Path”.

select change drive letter and paths

  1. Click “change” and select an option from the menu.

click change to modify the drive letter

  1. Click “apply,” then click “yes” when a pop-up dialog box appears.

Restart your computer with the drive still attached, then see if your I/O errors have gone away.

7. “Clean Boot” Your Computer

One final option that we can try to remove our I/O device error hard drive scenario is to perform what is called a “clean boot.”

Here is how to go about it.

  1. Hit the Windows key + R and type in “MSConfig” without the quotes. Hit enter.


  1. Navigate to the window labeled “services”. On some machines, this may be called “administrations”.
  2. Click the “Hide All Microsoft Services” checkbox. Again, on some machines, this may be called “Hide all Microsoft Administrations.”
  3. Next, click on the “disable all” toggle. Remember to hit “Apply” after.
  4. Next, click on the “startup” window and select “Task Manager.”
  5. Navigate to the “startup apps” pane in Task Manager.
  6. Right-click all services that say “enabled.” Click on “disable”.
  7. Repeat this process for all apps in the list.
  8. Return to the System Configurator.
  9. Click “OK” and Restart your computer.

A clean boot only allows essential Microsoft services to launch upon startup.

Therefore, If any third-party applications were causing your hard disk I/O error, it wouldn’t be allowed to run.

What To Do If You Don’t Manage To DIY Fix Your I/O Device Errors?

So far, we have verified that your hard disk I/O error is not caused by any of the following:

  • third-party apps,
  • faulty cabling,
  • a malfunctioning USB port,
  • data corruption, or
  • outdated drivers.

What this means is that the reason for your “the request could not be performed” i/o error lies in your drive’s hardware.

Think of it this way: your hard drive is a warehouse. Your data is the goods stored inside that warehouse. All that has happened is, you’ve lost the key to the warehouse door.

Similarly, all your important data is likely still intact in your malfunctioning hard drive. Simply call in someone who can get into that door, like a locksmith.

In your case, the locksmith is a data recovery service, like Stellar Data Recovery.

Unlike a software problem, we do not recommend trying to DIY fix hardware errors.

Watch the video on “how to fix external hard disk i/o device errors?”

Simply put, it’s a waste of time, and it’s risky. It is wiser to go the data recovery service route.

Why Stellar Data Recovery Service?

As far as data recovery goes, Stellar is in a class of its own.

With over 30 years in the industry, Stellar Data Recovery has the experience needed to salvage any type of hard drive.

On top of that, we have branches in no less than 14 major Indian cities. This means that the turnaround times for a Stellar data recovery service are much lower than the competition.

Also, the Stellar brand has a presence in over 190 countries across the globe, with more than 3 million satisfied customers.

The Stellar data recovery service team operates in an ISO-certified “Class 100 clean” room. Basically, the room only has 100 microparticles per cubic foot.

When dealing with sensitive hard drive components, this is a key factor to the success of our data recovery service.

Lastly, Stellar Data Recovery has a dedicated team of over 100 trained R&D engineers who provide our data recovery service.

Additional Reading: Why Trust Stellar Data Recovery

Frequently Asked Questions- I/O Device Errors

1. Can I/O device errors cause permanent data loss?

In most cases, I/O device errors don’t lead to permanent data loss. The data is often intact but temporarily inaccessible. However, if the error is due to physical damage, there’s a risk of data loss.

2. How long does it typically take to fix an I/O device error?

The time varies depending on the cause. Simple fixes like changing USB ports or updating drivers can take a few minutes. On the other hand, more complex issues like repairing physical damage might require professional assistance and take longer.

3. What's the difference between using CHKDSK and professional data recovery services?

CHKDSK cannot fix hardware issues. It can only do basic scans and fix low-level errors. For anything complex, professional data recovery services are the way to go.

4. If my device has a warranty, should I try fixing an I/O error myself?

Attempting self-repair might void your warranty. It’s advisable to check with the manufacturer or warranty provider first.

Additional Reading: How to Claim a Hard Drive Replacement in Warranty Period

5. What if an external hard drive repeatedly causes I/O errors?

Frequent I/O errors could indicate an underlying issue with the hard drive itself. This would that it may be nearing the end of its lifespan and needs urgent replacement.

6. Could a clean boot affect my personal files?

Performing a clean boot is a standard troubleshooting step. It does not affect personal files in any way whatsoever. It merely restricts the startup of non-essential applications, which can help diagnose the cause of the error.

7. Are I/O device errors more common in older external hard drives?

Yes, older hard drives are more prone to experiencing I/O device errors. This is due to wear and tear, outdated technology, and potential incompatibilities. Also, I/O errors are more rampant among low-RPM hard drives, which could also be a factor.

And with that, we come to the end of this article on I/O device error problems. We hope that you found it useful, and we’ll see you in the next one.

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