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

"Dirty bits" don't mean clean out your computer

A pile of broken computer parts

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Error 0x80071ac3 often confuses users, as it has language stating that the volume is “dirty,” implying there is dirt or dust inside their computer or hard drive. While this may be true, “dirty” in this context is a computer term meaning a file is corrupted in a specific way. Here's how to understand and resolve error 0x80071ac3.

What Is Error 0x80071ac3?

Error 0x80071ac3 is found in all current versions of Windows, and 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 the prompt the processor uses. Think of it like a switch: Error 0x80071ac3 is informing you the switch on a particular drive is jammed.

What Causes Error 0x80071ac3?

There are a number of causes for this error. 

  • Bad sectors on your hard disk, that is areas that you're unable to read or write to
  • Specific files may be corrupted due to suddenly removing the drive or unplugging the power source without properly shutting down your computer
  • Your external drives may have a problem due to incomplete or uninstalled drivers. 
  • A drive may simply be at the end of its useful life and worn out. This is rare but can happen, especially with older devices.

The best tool to avoid this error is to prevent it:

  • Always eject drives and other data storage devices before disconnecting them. They can be ejected by right-clicking on them in File Explorer and choosing Eject from the menu.
  • For drives that have their own power source, plug them into a surge protector or similar device. This will prevent sudden power outages or surges from damaging the drive.
  • Keep drives in good repair. Fix frayed wires and “soft” switches, especially power switches and lock switches.
  • Back up your files in more than one place. For sensitive information, retain hard copies or a digital duplicate kept somewhere secure.

How to Resolve Error 0x80071ac3

  1. Check your external drive for any physical damage or problems. Some drives, for example, have a physical “lock switch” that will make it impossible to copy to or remove files from the drive. This switch can be left in the locked position or even get stuck. Cables can also lose their effectiveness over time; swap out any data cables, such as USB cables, used by your drive. 

  2. Use Windows System Restore to return to a previous restore point, particularly if you've just installed a new driver for your computer. This full step-by-step guide will walk you through the process. Use the earliest restore point available to you.

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

  3. Scan the hard drive using Error Checking. If you're able to use File Explorer, right click on the drive and select Properties > Tools > Check (under Error Checking). You may receive a prompt stating that Windows has already scanned the drive and found no errors. You can run a second scan of the disk if you so choose from this pop-up as well.

  4. If you're unable to access the drive with File Explorer, you can run this utility with the Command Prompt in Windows 7 or PowerShell in Windows 8 and 10. This example uses Windows 10's PowerShell, which you can access with the Windows Key + X in Windows 8 or 10 and selecting PowerShell (Admin), and in Windows 7 by clicking Start > Accessories. Right-click on Command Prompt and click Run As Administrator

    You will need to be logged into an administrator account to complete this step. 

    Connect the drive and note which drive letter Windows assigns to it. In this case, the USB stick we're using is the D drive. Check if the disk is dirty using the script fsutil dirty query [disk letter]: In our case, the script would read “fsutil dirty querty d:” The drive letter can be capital or lowercase, it will have no impact on the script. You will be informed that the drive is “dirty” or “not dirty.” Repeat with each drive until you find the dirty one. 

    If the drive is dirty, enter the script CHKNTFS /X [drive letter]: This will ensure that the drive does not boot on startup, allowing your computer to start normally.

    Reboot your computer with the drive connected and reopen the Command Prompt or PowerShell. Enter the script Chkdsk /f /r [drive letter]: and the computer will run the full chkdsk utility on the drive.

    Repeat the fsutil dirty query [disk letter]: script. The disk should come back as “not dirty.”

    If you run the “dirty query” script on the drive you're getting the error from, and it comes back as “not dirty", you can make it dirty. This will force your computer to automatically check the disk. To mark it as dirty, use the script fsutil dirty set [drive letter]:, in our case “fsutil dirty set d:” Then reboot your computer. 

  5. If the device is still “dirty,” at this point, your only option to keep the device itself is to format it. This will erase all the files on the drive and reconfigure it to work with Windows. If you need to retain the files, do not format the disk.

To do this, right-click on the drive in File Explorer and select Format, then click Start.

If your primary hard drive is not functioning, you'll need to do this by booting from a USB stick or external hard drive.