How To Fix ‘can’t read from the source file or disk’ Errors

Moving files from drive to drive or computer to computer is a common task in both office environments and on recreational PCs. Windows users that regularly transfer large files (particularly multi-gigabyte files) are no stranger to an error message that reads ‘can’t read from the source file or disk.’ This message can appear for three different reasons. The most common reason is a mismatch in the file systems on different drives or devices. Other common reasons for this error include corrupt disk sectors and file permission problems. This article discusses how to resolve ‘can’t read from the source file or disk’ errors so that you can get your file transfers running smoothly.

How To Fix ‘can't read from the source file or disk’ Errors

The error most typically arises when moving a large file between two disks, whether between two internal drives or between an internal and external drive. The error can crop up on small files, but that is less common. It’s usually big files that cause the problem.

How to fix can't read from the source file or disk errors2

Fix #1: Mismatched file systems

Mismatched file systems are the most comfortable scenario to diagnose, but the hardest to fix as well. If you’re using Windows 8 or Windows 10, chances are your file system is NTFS. If you are using Windows 7, it could be FAT32 or NTFS.

NTFS is entirely different from FAT32 and can easily handle larger files. FAT32 is an older file system. If the disk you are transferring from is FAT32, the maximum file size it can handle is 4GB. If the file you are moving is even close to that size, it can cause issues.

  1. Select the hard drive with the file you are copying.
  2. Right-click the file and select properties.
  3. Identify the file system.
  4. Repeat for the destination disk.

If both file systems are NTFS, move on to Fix #2. If one disk is FAT32, read on.

Usually, you cannot copy large files onto FAT32 in the first place, but there have been instances where someone has used a file splitter to break a file into smaller pieces, and then the file became corrupted on the drive. Windows OS does not recognize that the file was broken down and just reads either a large or corrupt file.

If you see this, find a program that splits a file into smaller chunks and try the process again. You can Google ‘file splitter’ and find a wide variety of splitters, or you can just use GSplit, which is 100% free and full-featured application. Either way, install the program, split the file on the drive, move it as initially intended, and then rebuild it.

Fix #2: Bad sectors

A sector is a piece of storage. When formatting a hard drive, part of the process is dividing the hard disk drive (HDD) into individual sections to use independently to store data or to store larger files collectively.

Bad sectors are simply software errors that mean your computer cannot read the piece of data on that sector. They can be caused by actual physical damage, but that is less common.

To check for bad sectors:

  1. Select the hard drive you are trying to copy from.
  2. Right-click and select Properties, then the Tools tab.
  3. Select the Check button.
  4. Allow the process to complete.
  5. Repeat for the destination disk.

The disk checking tool is self-contained and will tell you if it finds bad sectors, and it will be able to repair them in the majority of cases. However, this process may damage the file you are trying to move. So, be aware of that before doing it.

You can also run disk checks from the command prompt if you prefer.

  1. Open a CMD window as an administrator.
  2. Type or paste ‘chkdsk D: /f’ and hit Enter. Change ‘D:’ to the hard drive letter in question.
  3. Let the process complete.

If there were bad sectors and they successfully got fixed, Windows may be able to move the file.

Fix #3: File permissions

Sometimes, Windows gets confused with file permissions and has trouble letting go. It can also occur if you get sent a file by someone and Windows doesn’t give you ownership of that file. It can cause ‘can’t read from the source file or disk’ errors.

It is an easy one to fix though.

  1. Right-click the file you are trying to copy and select Properties.
  2. Select the Security tab and then click Edit in the center.
  3. Select the Add button in the center.
  4. Type your computer username in the box at the bottom and select Check Names.
  5. Select OK. This will take you back to the previous screen.
  6. Select your username in the top window, then check the box next to Full Control in the bottom box.
  7. Select Apply and then OK.

Windows should now allow you to move the file as you need without producing the ‘can’t read from the source file or disk’ error.

10 thoughts on “How To Fix ‘can’t read from the source file or disk’ Errors”

Bee says:
I’m trying to copy from a backup (3 files won’t copy, they range in size) on an external (NTFS) drive to my game folder on my new internal Windows 10 SSD and I get this error. I’ve tried all 3 solutions above, with no success.

I’m certain it’s a physical error because when I click properties on the file it takes about 2 minutes for the properties box to appear.

How can windows say there is an error copying a file but then not find any errors when checking the disk for errors?

I don’t care about losing the 3 files as I have a second external backup drive with the files on there, but what I am concerned about is not having those sectors marked as bad and having corrupt files in future backups on this drive.

Is there some other solution? Is there a way to mark the sectors as bad and continue to use that drive with any level of reliability that my future backups will be readable? I don’t want to spend the money on another external backup drive if I don’t have to.

Steve Larner says:
It could be a corrupt sector or drive on the source end of things. Yeah, you can get properties without an issue at times (part of the indexing section of the disk I believe) but the file can still be corrupt. Disk checks, especially Windows, LOL, don’t always find the errors. Sometimes, after a few runs, it might. You can try the command SFC scannow /f after trying scandsk. You can also scan the source drive with certain partition management/defragmenting programs depending on the program. Often, a thrid-party partition manager or defragmenter can tell the disk to skip bad sectors when writing data. Another possibility is to try HDD monitor like Hard Disk Sentinel. It will also mark bad sectors.
Bee says:
Thanks for your reply. The file wouldn’t have been corrupt prior to backing it up to that external drive because it backed up fine to the original backup drive. I usually do a backup to an external drive, then I copy the entire backup to another external drive (which is the one I am now experiencing issues with). The original files on the first backup drive are fine and I’ve restored the files from there, but the ones on the 2nd backup drive are somehow corrupt.

I’ll try your suggestions and see what happens.
Thanks again.

Bharat says:
I have same exact issue but i have with . Pck file extension always.
Steve Larner says:
Goto Properties, Security, Advanced, Owner (change to your profile or administrator if you are one).
Steve Larner says:
If I understand you correctly, you may need to go into the file permissions and make changes.
Jer says:
Hi, I’m trying to backup my Music folder, and I keep encountering this error when I get to certain specific files; I can MOVE the files around my PC just fine, but when I try to COPY them, I get this error message, whether it’s to another folder on my PC or to an external HD. I tried the third method you mention, and all the check boxes in the Full Control section are greyed out and won’t check/uncheck. The problem is definitely ONLY with certain specific files, as when I tried to zip the entire folder up with WinRAR, I encountered problems with the exact same files. Can you or anyone else who might see this offer any advice? This is very frustrating!
KR says:
I had the same problem, the error also happens to recently added files.
Asking in forum and googling didn’t help at all. I contacted the manufacturer (Seagate) and they recommended me a long HDD test process, the process is too complicated and I can’t follow.

In the end I just bought a new harddrive, moved all the files (found many errors and lost the files), and reformatted it just yesterday, Hopefully reformatting solves the problem.

Rayu says:
Did Reformatting solved the problem

Comments are closed.

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