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I/O device errors indicate a problem with storage media you're attempting to read from or write to. I/O device errors should not be ignored.

I tried to copy a file to my flash memory, while I was copying this error message appeared "Cannot copy (file name): the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" and I don't know why?

Well, it's hard to say exactly why it happened, though of course I have theories.

The real question is what to do next. In the case of a flash drive, the answer's fairly clear. In the case of other types of media, there additional options.

"I/O" stands for Input/Output, so an "I/O Device" is the Input/Output device you happen to be using at the time. An "I/O Device error" means that some kind of unrecoverable error happened on that device.

"... flash drives wear out, and cheap ones wear out most quickly."

The device, of course, could be either the device that contains the file you're copying - in other words an error reading the file - or the device you're copying the file to - in other words an error writing the file.

If you can copy the file anywhere else - like perhaps a different hard disk - then the problem is likely to be writing to the destination, which in your case is the flash drive.

As I've written about before, flash drives wear out, and cheap ones wear out most quickly. When they begin to fail they start showing errors exactly like what you're seeing.

When this happens you really have only one option: copy off all the data you might want to preserve from that flash drive, and replace it with a new one. Simple, and hopefully effective if you do it as soon as the flash drive starts showing problems.

If the problem happens with a traditional hard drive, regardless of whether you're reading or writing the drive, it's typically due to a bad sector on the hard drive, and you have a couple of options:

CHKDSK /R, or Check Disk, is a drive maintenance utility that comes with Windows. The /R option locates bad sectors and attempts to recover readable information. (If this is your system drive, CHKDSK may require that you schedule the operation for the next reboot of your computer.)

SpinRite is a commercial product drive maintenance utility that, for lack of a better description, does a kind of low-level format of your hard drive without losing your data. In fact, SpinRite can often recover the contents of bad sectors that other utilities, including Chkdsk, cannot. The result is that a drive can often be recovered, repaired and then safely used again.

Of course if the data cannot be recovered, and the drive cannot be repaired, then you'll need to replace it and restore from your backups.

The bottom line, though, is that an error like this should not be ignored. Depending on what device is actually exhibiting the error, you may have an immediate problem, or you may have a warning sign of a disaster yet to come.

Article C3840 - August 16, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Gigi
August 18, 2009 8:18 AM

I/O error means that the PC cannot interface with the device due to a hardware error. So either the USB socket was defective or the stick is dead and gone.
If it gives the same error when plugged in another pc then the stick and it's data are irretrievably gone.
Next time make sure you have a backup.

Walter Duczeminski
August 18, 2009 8:23 AM

I was getting an I/O Error when trying to copy photos from one computer to another.....The problem appeared to be in a USB hub (D-Link in my case). I plugged the flash drive directly into the computer and everything transferred. Whatever, the D-Link works for everything else....what can I say.

Joao
August 18, 2009 4:18 PM

There is another scenario: I have had this problem with more than one DELL computer. The CD or DVD drive returns this kind of error and will not let me copy info from a CD or DVD... but when I use another CD/DVD (have a couple of external ones) the CDs, DVDs, images, docs, etc., all copy without ANY problem whatsoever. I never had any problems with flash drives... Also, there are programs out there (I think one is called CopyAnyWay or something like that) that will attempt to copy a file, disk, etc., regardless of any errors in the file(s) and sometimes will let you open the file after it is on your HDD. I have had limited success with those. My choice is SpinRite. Have been using it for years and works like a charm --- although it is not easy to use for people who are not tech inclined (or at least adventurous...)

Dave Edwards
August 19, 2009 6:36 AM

I was having the exact same error on my relativly new 4gig flash drive....but only on the one computer! It performed perfectly on any other computer i care to insert it into. And i tried all my usb ports on my pc and hub.
There is loads of stuff about this on Google, i ran some of it on my pc and now all is well. Not a thing wrong with the flash drive.

BryanL
November 23, 2009 9:33 AM

I have over 700 photo-files (jpg 1.5mb average)to move from one computer to another. Several come up with this problem. Different size/makes of USB stick have been used, to no avail. All the photos send or copy to CD or DVD, but will not transfer from there either to a USB stick! I have a 7 year old laptop and a 3 year old desktop, both running XP-3. These files were shot on different cameras, but shots taken within minutes of each other copy OK or fail. I can't see any reason for this; it's always the same ones, indicating a faulty file. Yet they open in any viewing program, and transfer to optical media!

ric
March 3, 2011 10:06 PM

It's possible the middle of the file was written in a bad sector.

I have several 26GB avi files. I was able to copy all of them -- except one. The integrity of the file seemed ok. This movie file plays, but in the middle portion, it staggers. Sometimes it hangs, sometimes it just stalls for a moment then continues.

When copying, it starts out well, but I get the I/O device error in the middle of the process, and the operation fails.

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