How to Fix 'Can't read from the source file or disk' Error

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Last week I connected my external hard drive and tried to copy MP3 files from PC to the hard drive. The copying stopped in the middle for about a minute, then I got a message saying can't read from the source file or disk. What does this mean and what is the fix?

Windows’ file system is complex and can be very delicate if things go wrong. Some situations, like if you install a new hard drive, can bring permission problems – this is just one instance where hard drives can be difficult. Windows users have reported that they got “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error while copying, deleting or moving files from one location to another. If you get the error, this article is going to tell you everything you need to know to fix it.

Can’t Read from the Source File or Disk” Error

1Reasons for 'Can't read from the source file or disk' Error

It’s natural to experience tech-related problems and question why they happen. Not only does it help us understand the problem and make it easier to fix, but it can also help us prevent reoccurrences in the future. The top reasons for this specific error are:

Not Enough Hard Drive Storage: If you’re copying an Outlook PST file from an external hard drive to your computer’s internal storage, make sure there is enough storage space. Without the necessary storage, this error is likely to appear.

Power Supply Issues: Windows includes power supply settings that the user can change at their discretion (to find a balance between performance and power usage). Some systems have conflicting power settings with external storage devices.

Hard Drive Bad Sectors: The problem could be with either the external or internal storage, and bad sectors make accessing storage a problem.

Faulty External HDD Connection: Depending on the type of external storage, it may have integrated power settings. If it powers off after a period of being unused, it can’t be accessed.

Note that the reasons above aren’t all that can cause “can’t read from the source file or disk” error, these are just the ones we see to be the most commons.

2Extract Data from the Hard Disk with AnyRecover

There are several fixes for "Can’t read from the source file or disk” error. But these fixes maybe cause data loss problems more or less. Before fixing it, our recommended solution is to use a third-party tool like iMyFone AnyRecover, which helps you extract data from the hard disk firstly.


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Features of iMyFone AnyRecover:        

Recover data from external hard disk drives and other storage devices (i.e. memory sticks).

Extract inaccessible data from deleting, formatting, partition loss, OS crash, virus attack, and other data loss scenarios.

Restore data from the recycle bin, hard drive, memory card, flash drive, DVD, digital camera, and camcorder.

Uses an extremely safe recovery technique that leaves original data intact.

Selectively recover external hard drive data, no need to recover every single file.

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Steps about how to extract data if you got "Can’t read from the source file or disk” error:

Step 1. First, download and install AnyRecover then launch it. The first page will prompt you to choose the location of your lost data which in this case would be the external hard drive, so select it and click “Start”.

select location

Step 2. Wait a few minutes while AnyRecover begins and process the scanning of your hard drive to detect all the data.

start scan 1

Step 3. Once the scan is over, you can seamlessly browse the detected files and select everything to recover. Complete the recovery by clicking “Recover” and choose a new folder to store the recovered data in.

scanned files preview

Overall, iMyFone AnyRecover is impressive (to say the least). This process goes to show just how simple this data recovery software makes it to recover data from problematic external hard drives, and you can do so without needing expertly help.

3Fix 'Can't read from the source file or disk' Error

Now that the recovery is out of the way, we can proceed to fix “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error. Our research has uncovered the 4 best solutions that users find effective.

1 Check Bad Sectors

If there are bad sectors on a hard drive, this means your computer isn’t able to read those sectors and it can result in this precise situation. Fixing bad sectors can be a hassle but using one of Windows built-in tools, we can check if either the internal or external hard drives have them.

Step 1. Open a file explorer window and go to the “This PC” folder.

Step 2. Right-click on the external hard drive and click Properties.

Step 3. Go to the Tools tab and below Error Checking, click the Check button.

Fix Bad Sectors

Step 4. Wait while the tool checks for bad sectors and, if there are, repairs them.

Step 5. Repeat these steps and then do the same thing for your internal hard drive.

2 Remove Bad File Permissions

Like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, bad file permissions can also be responsible for cannot read from the source file or disk error. Permissions can be tricky to deal with but here’s a quick and easy solution that may help out.

Step 1. Open the file explorer and go to your external hard drive’s folder.

Step 2. Right-click on the inaccessible file, click Properties, and click the Security tab.

Step 3. Press the Edit button and then click Add. Enter your Windows account name and click Check Names then OK.

Step 4. Click on your account name and provide the Full Control permission. Click Apply then OK to confirm the permissions change.

3 Fix Mismatched File Systems

Another solution is regarding the hard drive’s file system. In basic terms, every hard drive uses a type of file system and if you try copying a file from one system to a different type of system, there’s a good chance it won’t work. How can you fix this technical task?

Step 1. In the This PC folder, right-click on your hard drive and go to Properties. For each hard drive, check if each disk uses NTFS or FAT32.

If both hard drives use the same file system, move onto the next solution. If the disks are using different systems, continue with these steps.

Step 2. Download a “File Splitter” tool and use this tool to repair the file on the FAT32 system which is corrupted.

Step 3. After combining the file’s components, it should once again be accessible.

4 Format the Disk

If nothing else has worked and you still can’t read from the source file or disk, the final option you have is to completely format the external hard drive. This will obviously delete your personal data, but it will make the hard drive accessible once again. Only do this if no other solutions helped and you should recover all the data from the drive firstly. Then format it to permanently remove "Can't read from the source file or disk" error message.

Step 1. Open the Control Panel and go to the “System and Security” section.

Step 2. Next, select “Administrative Tools” followed by “Computer Management”.

Step 3. Click on “Disk Management” and on this window you must choose the hard drive you are going to format.

Step 4. Right-click on the hard drive, click “Format”, choose the “NTFS” file system, and follow the remainder of the instructions on-screen.


All of the processes we’ve explained in this article will help you to fix “Can’t read from the source file or disk” error, no matter how badly it has affected your hard drive. In the worst of cases, users will find themselves doing a format of the disk, but this won’t be something that every user has to worry about doing. The first step is to retrieve any files from the external hard drive that you don’t want to lose by utilising AnyRecover. After taking advantage of this amazing data recovery tool, you can proceed to use one of these fixes and repair your hard drive effectively.

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By  Simon Marcus , to Hard Drive Recovery

Updated on Apr 17, 2020

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