How to Fix "Delayed Write Failed" in Windows

by Dan Stone
Korovin/iStock/Getty Images

When your computer says "delayed write failed," it means that a hard drive is being overloaded somewhere down the line. The "delayed write failed" error is strongly associated with older operating systems like Windows XP over modern contemporaries, but it is still possible to produce the error on a modern system. Operating system improvements and significantly faster hardware have eliminated many of the root problems associated with the error; running either legacy hardware or legacy operating systems can stir up this old problem.

Step 1

Open the Charms search bar, enter "Device Manger" and select the "Device Manager" from the results. The Device Manager is a program that lets the user see what hardware is installed on the computer and make adjustments to hardware settings. Legacy operating system users can access the Device Manager by pressing "Windows Key-R," typing "devmgmt.msc" and pressing "Enter."

Step 2

Expand the "Disk drives" tree, right-click on the hard drive and select properties. Your hard drive may be listed as a seemingly random collection of letters and numbers followed by the text "ATA Device." The Device Manager will display more than one hard drive icon if your computer has multiple hard drives.

Open the "Policies" tab, uncheck the box next to "Enable write caching on the device" and click "OK" to disable the feature. This will ensure that the computer always writes to the hard drive immediately, eliminating the error at the cost of slowing down the hard drive. If you have more than one hard drive, repeat the process for each device.


  • Windows uses delayed writing to improve hard drive performance; it involves the system holding on to writable data during hard drive read access time until the hard drive goes idle to improve performance.
  • Microsoft acknowledges that someone could produce a "delayed write failed" error on a Windows 8-based or Windows Server 2012-based sever when running a data access stress test on the system. Turning off write caching on a server could produce an undesirable performance drop, so Microsoft released a hotfix that can be manually installed to alleviate this issue (see Resources).
  • If you're using a legacy IDE hard drive, you can trip the "delayed write failed" error if the device is using a 40-pin cable instead of an 80-pin cable. You can fix the problem by using the proper cable.
  • Symantec reported users experiencing the error when using the company's DLO backup service with Outlook's PST files. Outlook PST files have a reputation for growing to massive sizes. Large file transfers are prone to "delayed write failed" errors.
  • According to PC Magazine, delayed writing can cause externally connected storage devices to continue writing data even though Windows says the process is complete. Instead of disabling write-caching, you can right-click on the USB device's icon on the Taskbar and "Eject USB Mass Storage Device" before removing the device to ensure that the write process has been completed.


Photo Credits

  • Korovin/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Dan Stone started writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company and previously worked in television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in communication studies from Northern Illinois University.

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