Fixing the error : Unable to read from the source file or disk

  • You might be opening or copying a file in Windows when suddenly you get a “Cannot read source file or disk” error message.
  • This bug always disrupts your plans because you can’t copy, delete or transfer a file, and it usually happens at the most inopportune times.
  • This problem cannot be put off, it has to be solved here and now, and the chances of recovering your documents are high.
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On another old laptop running Windows 7, I have a CD of my important works, which are in zip format. Yesterday, I copied this zip archive to an external hard drive, which I used to connect to Windows 10 on my desktop computer. I thought the idea was good, but I received an error message: Can’t Read from the Source File or Disk. I’m not sure what’s wrong, so I’m wondering if anyone can help me figure out which step is the issue?”

The storage of digital files has become extremely reliable lately, but that doesn’t mean that it never goes wrong. Windows might give you an error message saying, “Cannot read source file or disk.” It’s like a Halloween prank when suddenly you can’t open or copy a file.

Sometimes, while copying the data files (Outlook PST) from any other storage device like USB Drive or hard disk, users encounter an error prompt ‘Cannot copy or move Outlook.pst file error; cannot read from source file or disk’. Well, it is an annoying error message that makes users concerned about the sustainability of their disk and the data items stored in it. There can be several reasons that can result in the occurrence of this error prompt. The file system mismatch is the most common reason for this. In this article, we are going to disclose all the possible reasons that causes Cannot copy or move Outlook.pst file error and cannot read from source file or disk and the respective solutions.

There are many ways to recover your data, even if it seems inaccessible, but you don’t have to give up!

If the document is lost, your plans are always adversely affected. This bug prevents you from copying, deleting, or transferring the document.

Windows 8 and Windows 10 use NTFS as their file system, whereas Windows 7 uses FAT32 or NTFS. These are the easiest problems to diagnose, but the most difficult to resolve as well.

Here are a few methods to choose from.


What causes the “Can’t read source file or disk” problem

What causes the "Can't read source file or disk" problem

This article will provide details about several of the causes that have been cited in detail for the error “Can’t read from source file or disk”.

  • There are bad sectors on the source disk. It is possible to read data from both the source file or the source disk when there are bad sectors on the disk. As a result, an error message is displayed, stating that data can’t be read. Data loss can result from bad sectors on any disk.
  • A corrupt partition or corrupt system file can create Windows system errors, resulting in an unreadable source file or disk.
  • Insufficient power supplies can also cause an error. Any power surge, whether it be an increase or decrease in power supply, can cause an error. The drive circuit board is also prone to power surges, so it may be causing the problem. The external hard drive will also need a power supply in order to perform functions such as copying, moving, and deleting data. This is because the hard drive will receive power from the device as well.
  • A bad connection between an internal or external hard drive (SATA or USB) can lead to a file or drive not being able to be accessed, preventing the file or drive from being used.
  • In addition to the “Can’t read source file or disk” error, file size limitation is also one of the causes. FAT32 files can support a file size of up to 4 GB, so you will get an error message if the file size is too big to copy. This file format will not allow the transfer of any data over this limit of 4 GB.
  • In addition to an error message indicating that the original file or drive cannot be read, an unsupported filename will also result in an error message. The operating system may encounter an error message if your device is unable to identify the file name during a file search.
  • There are a number of possible reasons why an error can occur. One of the most common reasons is a damaged source file. A damaged source file is inaccessible to the device’s File Explorer utility and will lead to the disk becoming corrupted as well as the partition.


To fix the “Cannot read source file or disk” error

Updated: March 2024

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Windows 10’s File Explorer can be accessed by double clicking This PC.

To fix the "Cannot read source file or disk" error

Fixing incompatible file systems

A FAT32 disk is limited to 4GB of files. If the file being transferred approaches 4GB, problems may occur. NTFS is completely different from FAT32 and can handle large files easily.

  1. If you want to copy a file, choose the disk on which it resides.
  2. The file’s properties can be accessed by right-clicking it.
  3. File systems should be identified.
  4. The destination disk should be processed in the same way.

Fix #2 is for NTFS file systems.

File separators can be used to split up large files into smaller pieces, but there have been instances when the file on the drive has become corrupted after using a file separator. Unlike Windows, which recognizes that the file has been split, Windows reads the corrupted or large file without realizing that it has been split.

Fixing bad sectors

The sectors on a hard drive are used to store individual files or to keep large files together in a single location, as part of the formatting process.

To determine if any sectors are damaged, follow these steps:

  1. Copying from a hard drive is as simple as selecting it.
  2. The Tools tab can be found by right-clicking, selecting Properties, and selecting the toolbar.
  3. After clicking Validate, click OK.
  4. Observe what happens.
  5. If you want to copy the files to another hard drive, follow the same steps.

As long as no damaged sectors are found, the disk check will alert you. However, tending to damaged sectors may result in damage to the file you’re trying to move.

Restore file permissions

  1. Then select Properties from the right-click menu.
  2. Then click the middle button, Change, on the Security tab.
  3. Select the middle button and click on it.
  4. Choose Check Names and enter the user name for your computer.
  5. The previous screen will appear once you select OK.
  6. You can select Full Control by checking the checkbox next to the user name in the top window.
  7. Then click OK to apply the changes.

You should no longer receive an error message such as “Cannot read source file or disk” when moving the file.


RECOMMENATION: Click here for help with Windows errors.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Connect the device to your PC.
  2. Type "Control Panel" in the search box.
  3. Click the "Administrative Tools" button.
  4. Click on the "Computer Management" button.
  5. Click the "Disk Management" button.
  6. Right-click the drive or device you want to format and click "Format".
  7. Select the file system and set the cluster size.

To fix this, you need to reboot your system and then boot into safe mode. Try copying the files in safe mode; if you still cannot copy the files, it means that the PST file is corrupt.

For Windows 10, here's how to do it: hold down the Windows key and press "r", type "cmd", then press "Enter", type "cd ... / ...", then press "Enter", type "tree" and press "Enter". This usually displays all the files on your hard drive.

Reboot your computer. If you can't read the source file or drive when copying in Windows 10, and this is the first time this has happened, try restarting your computer (don't turn it off or on, just reboot). Restarting helps the computer to handle these errors on its own and brings it back to its normal operating state.

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Mark Ginter is a tech blogger with a passion for all things gadgets and gizmos. A self-proclaimed "geek", Mark has been blogging about technology for over 15 years. His blog,, covers a wide range of topics including new product releases, industry news, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of your devices. If you're looking for someone who can keep you up-to-date with all the latest tech news and developments, then be sure to follow him over at Microsoft.