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Can’t read from the source file or disk – How to fix

by | Apr 21, 2021

Webmasters and website managers often receive the error “can’t read from the source file or disk” while trying to copy certain files to or from an external hard disk.

As a part of our Server Management services, our Support Engineers work to fix disk-related errors regularly.

Let us today discuss the possible reasons and how we tackle them.

Causes for can’t read from the source file or disk error

The “can’t read from the source file” error can happen due to a number of reasons. The top reasons that our Support Engineers noticed include:

  • External hard drive appears offline for short periods of time – Due to unstable HDD controllers or faulty power supply over USB, it is possible for the external hardisk to appear offline for short period. Windows may not be able to resume reading even after the disk becomes available again.
  • Insufficient space on local machine – This error could trigger when there is not enough local space to copy the file to a local hard disk.
  • Bulk source file/folder contains bad sectors –While we copy a corrupted file/folder that contains corrupted sectors, it may trigger this error.
  • The hard drive is overheating – If we are trying to copy a very large file while using an older HDD, the issue might occur due to overheating.


How to fix “can’t read from the source file or disk error”

The solution for this error varies based on the exact reasons that trigger the error. Let us now look at some of the common steps that our Support Engineers follow to solve this error:

Compressing the file

One method to fix the error is to compress the file to a .zip format before attempting to move it. We either use the built-in compressor or a third party utility.

  1. Navigate to the location of the source file that we are trying to move. Once we get there, right-click on it and click on Send to > Compressed (zipped) folder.
  2. Once the procedure is complete, simply move the file compressed file (.zip) into the location where we want to move it. If the .zip file is moved successfully, simply right-click on it and choose Extract All.


Running the Check Disk utility to fix “can’t read from the source file or disk error”

Our Support Engineers resolve this issue at times by running a CHKDSK (Check Disk utility) scan. This tool’s basic function is to scan the integrity of the file system and fix any logical file system errors that it manages to find.

  1. Type “cmd” in Run prompt and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open an elevated Command Prompt window. When prompted by the UAC (User Account Control), click Yes to grant admin privileges.
  2. Inside the elevated Command Prompt, type the following command and press Enter to scan and repair for both logical errors and bad sectors:
chkdsk D: /r

Once the scanning is complete and the errors are repaired, reboot the system and see if the issue is resolved at the next startup.

Check the file name

Changing the file name is justified when the file was created in one OS and its use occurs in another. We may not be able to read from the source file or disk while deleting after using this file on the command line. If this is the situation, be sure to rename the file properly and restart the computer after that.

If all the files cannot be opened on the disk

Shaping may be the solution for the disk, but the files will be lost. If we do not need these files, but we want to use the disk, we can format it and then use the disk “from scratch”.

If we cannot allow all files to disappear at once, first restore them and make a backup.

[Need any further assistance in fixing Disk errors? – We’re available 24*7]


In short, this error triggers when trying to copy certain files to or from an external hard disk. Today we saw how our Support Engineers fix it.



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