Full solutions to "can't read from the source file or disk error" are available here. Try them one by one to fix "can't read from the source file or disk" while copying from external hard drive in Windows 10/8/7. 

Can’t Read from the Source File or Disk

Sometimes, when you try to copy files to another location like external hard drive, you receive “can’t read from the source file or disk error” like shown in the picture below. Even you try again and again, this error persists.

copy file

By searching on the internet, we find that many users had the experience of suffering and struggling with this error. Here is a true example that states more from Geekstogo.com: Video Files Can Be Played Well but Cannot Be Copied.


I’m trying to copy some old files from one of my external hard-drives, onto a more recent one with bigger memory. I’ve had no problem so far, I’ve moved about 70GB with no problems, but now there are 2 files which keep giving me this error. I can’t copy it from one hard-drive to the other, I can’t create a copy on my desktop, I can’t create a copy on the original hard drive. The only thing that I can do, is “delete” the file and have it sent to the Recycle bin, and I tried moving it to my desktop from there but got the same message, and can only restore it to its original location. They are videos files (.avi) and I watched them all the way through with no issues so the files aren’t corrupt. I’m running Windows Vista, with admin permissions. If there’s any more info you need to know, please ask.

Do you know what does “can’t read from the source file or disk while copying” indicates, and how can you remove this error? Please read on.

Possible Reasons and Solutions to This Error

In this article, we list 5 possible causes and corresponding solutions to help address hard disk can’t read from source file or disk. Please try them one by one and see whether a solution is helpful.

1. Possible Bad Sectors

If you’re using an external drive to your local computer, please try plugging in the external drive into another computer and see if you get the same error. If so, that means you could possibly have some bad sectors on the hard drive, which is causing the problem.

And to verify whether there is a bad sector, use MiniTool Partition Wizard to do the test. MiniTool Partition Wizard is a professional disk partition manager that can deal with most disk partition management issues. With well-designed interface, Partition Wizard can finish surface test in the most user-friendly way. And, Partition Wizard supports mainstream OSs such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10, etc.

MiniTool Partition Wizard FreeClick to Download100%Clean & Safe

Then do the followings:

Step 1. After installing Free Partition Wizard on your computer, Run it to get the main interface. Then click the partition where the file rejects to be copied and select “Surface Test” from the Check Partition group.

surface test

Step 2. Then a new smaller window appears where you can click the “Start” button to begin surface test. Note the disk block without read error is marked with Green and disk block with read error is marked with Red.

surface test process

In case there are some bad sectors on your drive, you can do these 3 solutions to deal with this issue.

① Use Chkdsk to Fix Error

You should scan the hard drive using a tool like chkdsk. If there are any errors, it will go ahead and fix them. Just do the followings:

Step 1. At the command prompt (possibly needs to be run as administrator), type “chkdsk n: /r” (note that “n” should be replaced with the correct partition number from which you want to copy files.)

Tip: If this is an OS drive, it will ask to run at next boot time. Answer YES, then reboot. You can then find the results of chkdsk in the “Event Viewer”.

Step 2. Restart your computer and retry file copy.

② Use Partition Wizard to Copy

Also, it’s a good idea to use some third-party programs at this point to copy the files off forcefully even if they have errors. When you copy files and it stops at bad sectors saying “can’t read from the source file or disk”, MiniTool Partition Wizard can help you copy files regardless of bad sectors after running “chkdsk”, which will not hang, freeze or fail.

Step 1. Launch MiniTool Partition Wizard and enter the main interface. Then click the partition which holds the files you want to copy and choose “Copy Partition” from Partition Management group.

copy partition

Tip: If you want to clone a whole drive, this How to Clone Hard Drive Windows 10 may help you to a certain degree.

Step 2. In the newly presented window, select where you want to copy the partition to. Please note that it must be an unallocated space and should be large enough to store all data on the source drive. Then click “Next” to continue.

place to create a partition

Step 3. Now you can customize the location of the new partition, and you want it to be primary or logical. If you are going to store more and more data to it, you can drag the arrow key rightwards to enlarge the partition. Or you can resize partition later. After that, click “Finish” to go back to the main interface.

edit partition

Step 4. See! There will be a new partition created on the target location. At this time, press “Apply” to start copying the partition.

apply the operation

When Partition Wizard finishes, just keep the useful files by deleting the unnecessary files in the target partition. In this way, you get a copy of the target files.

You can watch this video to get a more intuitive guide.

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③ Use Data Recovery to Restore Data

The third trying is to use data recovery feature in MiniTool Partition Wizard to help move it to another location. MiniTool Partition Wizard includes the Data Recovery function that can be used to retrieve lost data caused by various reasons. It is a read-only program that does no harm to your hard drive and you don’t even need to worry about privacy leakage.

You may wonder: why do I need this program? My data is not lost, I just can’t copy it. Note that in our example the user said: “the only thing that I can do, is ‘delete’ the file and have it sent to the Recycle Bin.” So you can delete the files causing “can’t read from the source file or disk” and then do the recovery. Please download this software to recover your data by hitting the button below.

Tip: MiniTool Partition Wizard Free and Pro Editions don’t support data recovery, but it’s pro ultimate and above editions support the function.

Now follow the steps below and try to work it out.

Step 1. After installing MiniTool Partition Wizard to your PC, launch it to the main interface and then you can see the Data Recovery at the top of the main page. You can choose the partition that your data is missing from, then click Data Recovery.

data recovery

Step 2. Immediately you can see all partitions are listed there. Remember in which partition the files used to exist? Just select it and choose Scan.

Tip: You can press the Settings button to choose desired file systems and file types before you start to scan.

scan the partition

Step 3. After some time, MiniTool Partition Wizard has scanned all data on the drive and listed them in another interface. Here you can unfold the folders and try to find the files that keep causing Windows reporting “can’t read from the source file or disk”.

Here Filter is another feature we recommend to quickly find the desired files. Finally, you need to click Save and choose a partition on the target drive to store these files.

Tip: You’d better choose another drive to save your recovered data in case the data is overwritten.

lost files

choose a drive to save the recovered data

2. System Error

Please keep this in mind: always try restarting the computer when an error occurs. Sometimes there are errors in the system, and restarting the system can solve the problem in a minute.

3. Power and Cables

In a few cases, the issue is related to other hardware factors. If you’re trying to copy to an external hard drive, make sure it’s got enough power. Sometimes if it’s connected to a USB hub, the drive may not get enough power for the writes and therefore it fails.

Also, try switching out the cable you are using to connect the external drive to your computer and see if that makes any difference.

4. File Size Limit

Another possible reason is that you are copying large files. For example, if one of your files is a huge 8GB movie file, then you won’t be able to copy it to an external hard drive that is formatted with FAT32 file system.

Most external hard drives and flash drives are formatted in FAT32 nowadays, which can only support up to a 4GB individual file. If this is the cause, then you should first of all convert the file system of your target drive to NTFS. Here we recommend using MiniTool Partition Wizard to do this job because it can finish this conversion without losing data. For more information, please refer to Convert FAT to NTFS.

5. File Name Problem

Sometimes it is the file name that plays tricks. If the file name is something that Windows doesn’t recognize, then Windows gives you an error while copying. For example, you can’t move files using Windows Explorer if the file name is ended up with a dot, like “test.”. this can happen if the file was originally copied from a different operating system like Mac, or is renamed by command prompt. etc.

Try to rename the file and see if that makes any difference. You may have to go into DOS and rename the file there if you are unable to do so in Windows.


In this post, we mainly talk about what cause “can’t read from the source file or disk error”, and what can we do if we encounter this issue. Hope these are helpful. In the daily usage of computer, if you can’t move files using Windows Explorer, or Windows can’t read from the source file or disk while copying from external hard drive, please try these methods out to see whether it works.

Besides, if you have any question or come up with a better solution, please leave it in the following comment area. If you have any question towards using MiniTool software, please don’t hesitate to email to [email protected]. Thanks in advance!

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