How to Fix: The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Terrel W. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I installed Windows 10 on my laptop about 2 months ago. Just recently the laptop has been extremely slow; whenever I click on anything, the cursor will spin for literally 3 to 5 minutes before I am able to do anything. Any action I take on the computer - whether it's a right click on the desktop, or launching the browser - results in the same spinning. This is not normal behavior! I have tried the Windows 10 Reset but it gives me an error. Can you help? "

My response:

I asked Terrell if he'd like me to connect to his system using my remote desktop service, and he agreed. Sure enough, almost every single action I took on his system resulted in a spinning cursor for minutes at a time. I did however manage to download the Windows 10 ISO and installed a new copy of Windows 10 for Terrell, keeping his old Windows installation in place on the hard drive.

After the new Windows 10 was installed, the system appeared behave normally - that is, until I attempted to free up 30GB of space by deleting the Windows.Old directory; the system simply refused to delete certain files. At first, I tried using Crap Cleaner (ccleaner) to delete the files, but the files remained. That is not normal. I then tried Windows Explorer to delete the files, and it would just quit without any warning, leaving the files in place. Again, that is not normal. I then opened an Administrative Command Prompt to delete the files manually, which is when I came across the following dreaded error message: "the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error".

How to Fix: "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error"

Whenever you see a message such as "the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error," it usually means you have a dirty file system, or you have a hardware error. In this case, the error appeared when I tried to delete some files manually from the hard drive, so I knew it was the hard drive that was reporting the I/O error.

Interestingly enough, I ran chkdsk (check disk) on Terrell's system before I installed the newest copy of Windows 10 in order to ensure that it would install properly. Surprisingly, the hard drive did not report any file system errors.

Since I knew the drive had an I/O error and since the operating system reported nothing wrong, the next option was to scan the hard drive for bad sectors. For this task I used Macrorit Disk Scanner, because it is a very simple and easy-to-read freeware utility to scan for bad sectors. In Terrell's case, I let the system scan the drive and it took almost two hours to complete on a 120GB hard drive. It's also important to note that if you cannot download and run Macrorit Disk Scanner because the system is not usable, it is recommended that you take the hard drive out of the laptop and attach it to a PC, then scan the laptop drive that way.

In Terrell's case, the result was not good. Macrorit Disk Scanner reported bad sectors all over his hard drive (taking up 1.2% of the drive) - that is pretty much a catastrophic failure. The reason why I was able to install Windows 10 the second time - without it failing - was most likely because the old Windows 10 installation laid over top of the majority of bad sectors on his hard drive.

As for the spinning mouse cursor: the reason that happened was because the hard drive attempted to read data from a bad sector (repeatedly), and this effectively locked up his system. Eventually the data would read or the operation would abort, and return back to the operating system. Unfortunately, his data was too far corrupt to perform a Windows Reset, which is why that feature didn't work.

What to do: Step By Step

If you ever receive a "the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error," here's what you should do:

  1. Scan the drive for a dirty file system. To do so: click Start, and go to My Computer / This PC. Right click over top of the C drive, then select Properties from the dialogue menu. A new window will appear; go to the Tools menu option and then under the Error Checking heading, click the 'Check' button.
     
  2. If Windows reports there are no errors on the drive, it is recommended to scan for bad sectors using a third party utility, such as Macrorit Disk Scanner. If you have bad sectors, you should backup the drive immediately, replace the drive, then reinstall Windows from scratch (or a working backup). If you need help backing up the drive, you can contact me for remote desktop support - simply email me with your concerns.
     
  3. If there are no bad sectors from Macrorit Disk Scanner, the next step is to open an Administrative command prompt and scan the operating system for errors. To do so: click Start, then type in "cmd" (no quotes); wait for CMD.EXE for Command Prompt to appear in the list, then right click it and "Run as Administrator". Next, highlight the command with your mouse below:

    sfc /scannow
    Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth
    echo this is a dummy line
     
  4. Right click over the above text, then select Copy from the dialogue menu. Go to the Administrative command prompt window you opened up in Step #3, then right click in the middle of the window and select Paste from the dialogue menu. The text you copied should now be output to the command line. Please note that this process will take a while; look to see if you have any errors reported during this time. If none, you should be OK, though I would be concerned if you receive another I/O error in the near future; in that case, I suggest you backup the drive immediately - if you don't know how, email me. If you do have errors in the operating system, you can refer to this article for SFC errors, or optionally contact me for remote desktop support.

In Terrell's case, his only option was to purchase a new hard drive. I was able to backup his document files and send them onto the cloud (onedrive) so he could access them later. Following that, Terrell had to install Windows 10 clean on the new drive, then access his documents by connecting back up to onedrive (by signing into his Microsoft account through Windows 10).

I hope that helps.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Comments

RMS's picture

Dennis,

I'm noticed you've responded to several issues where the problem turned out to be a dying hard drive. You need to check out SpinRite at www.grc.com. You've never mentioned this product. It is an excellent tool for hard drive recovery. As far as I know it is the only product of it's kind in the inexpensive price range ($89). Much much cheaper than sending a drive off to a recovery service and spending $0000's of dollars. And it also works for SSD's

Bob

Dennis Faas's picture

I've tried Spinrite on one of my Western Digital 2TB EARS drives which had a major catastrophic failure - it had 244 bad sectors. I let spinrite run for hours and it never progressed. For $89 I would rather buy a new hard drive than to let more bad sectors creep up on the drive and kill my data. That's just my opinion.

PS: I would never spend thousands of dollars on data recovery because I have a RAID system at home that will rebuild my data automatically if a drive dies. Simply insert a new drive and the data comes back.

lelandhamilton's picture

Once you have a disk drive reporting IO device errors, stop using it IMMEDIATELY. If you are lucky you will be able to save your data. If the system is currently running consider looking at the disk drive SMART data and system error logs to get an idea of how serious the problem is. Then shut down the system.

Probably time to retire the drive before it fails completely.

If you have another system that you could temporarily install the suspect drive you can use that system to back up any important files that have not been backed up, before attempting any disk repairs. If you can't use it in another system, create a Bootable Linux Cd, DVD or USB using another computer, as you don't want to cause any more damage. Boot the Linux media (you may have to fiddle with BIOS parameters). Use the DD command to copy the disk to a partition on another drive or a program that can save an image online. A USB multi terabyte drive could be used. A full image backup may be important if [when!] the drive later dies.

Seriously consider getting a replacement drive. If you are lucky you can use the disk manufacturer's utility to clone the failed drive to the replacement drive. If the cloning process has a lot of errors you will have to restore from your latest good backup preferably from before the IO errors started (you have been making and testing your backups?!) You might be able to pull updated files from the defective drive or later backups.

If you are cautious like me don't clone the defective drive to another drive. Instead place your latest known good backups from before the errors on the new drive and cautiously copy irreplaceable files that are not backed up or have changed since the backup. Don't forget photos, contacts, documents and emails, although you should really already have photos backed up in several locations including removable media or drive and one or more online sites.

Now you can boot the new drive to look at the system logs and SMART data on the bad drive to get an understanding of the scope of the problem.

I would then install updates including OS and applications on the new drive and back up the drive.

Got it all backed up? If the errors are few and far between you can choose to fix file system errors and reallocate bad blocks. This may take a long time if there are a lot of errors remove the bad drive and save it just in case you missed something, and don't use it.