How to Fix an I/O Device Error

By Ron Price

I/O device errors are caused by minor issues, improper connections, obsolete device drivers or configuration errors. Fix by restarting or changing settings.

Since an I/O device error occurs when the Windows OS is attempting to use a transfer mode that is not available or not recognized to or from an input, storage or output device -- such as external hard disk drives, DVDs and CDs, SD cards and USB devices -- the errors can often be fixed by updating a device driver. Sometimes, the cause is a fault in the hardware, connections, or configuration of a device, and a few basic troubleshooting steps can identify it in most cases.

Step 1

Close the Warning box by clicking on the OK button.

Step 2

Click on Settings on the Charm Bar to access the Restart icon.

Display the Charm bar by moving the mouse pointer to the the lower-right corner of the screen or on a touchscreen, swipe your finger in from the right edge of the screen. Click or tap on the Settings icon.

Restart Windows to attempt to clear the I/O device error.

Click or tap on the Power icon, which displays a two- or three-item menu. Click or tap on Restart.

Step 3

Redo the same actions or activities you were doing when the error first occurred. If the error doesn't reoccur, the issue is solved. Otherwise, continue on to the next step.

Step 4

Check peripheral device connections for fit and orientation.

Since device I/O errors are commonly caused by issues with external drives or peripherals, check the connection, usually a USB connection, and make sure it's correct and snug. If the connection doesn't appear to be the issue, connect the external device to a different computer to see if the same error occurs. If so, the problem is with the device itself, the connecting cable or connector, or perhaps in the device driver.


If a Device I/O Error involves a DVD, CD-ROM or other type of removable media, the problem may be the medium itself. You should also verify the medium elsewhere, just to be sure it isn't the cause of the error.

Step 5

Another common error, especially on devices just installed or attached to a computer, is the DMA or PIO settings. Check the documentation for the device you suspect is causing the problem to verify what its transfer mode settings should be.

Typically, DMA is turned on automatically during installation for those devices (DVD, CD-ROM, external hard disks) that support it. However, during the installation or as a result of a system fault, DMA or PIO may not be configured correctly.

Not all devices support DMA; check the documentation for the configuration settings.

Open the Device Manager by clicking on Control Panel, clicking System and Security, and clicking Device Manager. Double-click on IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers to display the devices in this group. Right-click the device you suspect is causing the issue and click on Properties. Using the device's documentation, set the device's configuration as recommended.

Step 6

Device drivers are unique to a combination of OS versions and hardware model.

Should the failing device not be a storage device or if the DMA/PIO settings are correct on the storage device, it could be that the device driver is faulty, the wrong version or, especially if you have just changed your operating system, incompatible. In the Device Manager, right-click on the device name and click on the Update Driver Software ... option on the pop-up menu. Follow the prompts to update the device driver, if a newer one is available.