Error 0x80071ac3: What It Means and How to Fix It

"Dirty bits" doesn't mean clean your computer

Error 0x80071ac3 can be confusing because the language that accompanies it seems to imply there is dirt or dust inside the computer. For example:

  • Error 0x80071ac3: The operation could not be completed because the volume is dirty.

What does it mean when a drive is dirty? Dirty, in this context, suggests that a certain file is corrupted. Here's how to clear dirty bits and fix error 0x80071ac3.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

A pile of broken computer parts
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What Causes Error 0x80071ac3?

Error 0x80071ac3 in Windows refers to dirty bits, not the physical state of the computer. With every block of memory in a computer, the processor needs to know whether the memory has been modified, whether it has been stored, and whether it should be deleted. The dirty bit is what the CPU relies on to carry out this process. Think of it like a switch: Error 0x80071ac3 informs you the switch on a particular drive is jammed.

There are a number of causes for this error:

  • Bad sectors on the hard disk. You can't read or write to these areas of the hard drive.
  • Specific files may be corrupted due to suddenly removing the drive or unplugging the power source without properly shutting down the computer.
  • The external drives may have a problem due to incomplete or uninstalled drivers. 
  • A drive may be at the end of its life cycle and worn out.

After you fix the dirty bit, there are a number of things you can do to avoid this error from reoccurring:

  • Always safely eject drives and other data storage devices before disconnecting them.
  • For drives that have their own power source, plug them into a surge protector to prevent sudden power outages or surges from damaging the drive.
  • Fix or replace frayed wires and loose switches as soon as possible.

How to Resolve Error 0x80071ac3

Try these steps in order until you no longer see the error message:

  1. Check the external drive for physical damage. Cables can also lose effectiveness over time, so swap out any cords used by the drive.

  2. Remove write protection. Some drives have a physical lock switch that makes it impossible to copy to or remove files from the drive. This switch can be left in the locked position or get stuck.

  3. Use Windows System Restore to return to a previous restore point. If you installed a new drive for your computer, run System Restore and use the earliest restore point available.

    Restore the system to its current version if the error is not resolved. Otherwise, the system may be vulnerable to attacks and other errors.

  4. Scan the hard drive using Error Checking. The built-in error-checking tool can identify and resolve many common Windows errors.

  5. Run the chkdsk command. If you're comfortable using the Command Prompt, the chkdsk command provides more options for troubleshooting errors. See further details in the section below.

  6. Format the drive. This erases all the data on the drive and reconfigures it to work with Windows, so back up files you want to keep. If the primary hard drive is not functioning, boot from a USB device or an external hard drive.

    Use the format command if you only have access to the Command Prompt.

How to Clean Dirty Bits With Chkdsk

To troubleshoot error 0x80071ac3 using the Command Prompt:

  1. Open the Command Prompt as an administrator and run the following code:

    fsutil dirty query [drive letter]:

    You will be informed that the drive is dirty or not dirty. Repeat the command for each drive until you find the dirty one.

  2. If the drive is dirty, enter the following:

    chkntfs /x [drive letter]:

    This ensures that the drive does not boot on startup, allowing the computer to start normally.

  3. Reboot the computer with the drive connected and reopen the Command Prompt or PowerShell. Enter the following to run the full chkdsk utility on the drive.

    chkdsk /f /r [drive letter]:
  4. Enter the following code again:

    fsutil dirty query [drive letter]:

    The disk should come back as not dirty.

  5. If you run the dirty query script and it comes back as not dirty, you can make it dirty. This forces the computer to check the disk automatically. To mark it as dirty, enter the following in the Command Prompt:

    fsutil dirty set [drive letter]
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