How To Recover Files from Unformatted / RAW External Hard Drive?

Position: How Tos - Data Recovery - How To Recover Files from Unformatted / RAW External Hard Drive?

In this page, we are going to talk about unformatted external hard drive, including symptoms, possible causes and a step-by-step guide to recover files from unformatted / RAW external hard drive in Windows 10/8/7. When external hard drive becomes RAW or unformatted, it is no longer accessible. If you are a user of external hard drive, you may encounter such issue anytime. Relax! It is not that complicated to recover files from unformatted or RAW partition, and here is the detailed solution.

DiskGenius - Quickly recover files from unformatted / RAW / corrupted external hard drive in Windows 10.

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Table of Contents

Symptoms of unformatted external hard drive

An external hard drive is one of the most popular storage devices, and it is widely received by users around the world. An external hard drive is portable device and it is much faster and reliable than a USB flash drive. Moreover, it has a variety of choices of brands (e.g. WD, Seagate, Samsung and more), size, capacity, speed, price, etc., which meets various needs of Users. External hard drive can be used to store all kinds of important files, such as working files, family photos, movies, music, backups and the like.

However, there is no fully perfect stuff in the world, an external hard drive might bring about trouble, for instance the unformatted external hard drive. When you connect your external hard drive to computer, you may find it shown as unformatted in Disk Management. The drive turns inaccessible and reports an error message when you attempt to open it, and the error message might be You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it. Here is one of such cases:

"Have no idea what is going wrong. I migrated Windows to an SSD and replace internal hard drive with this SSD. Then I put the internal hard drive into an external enclosure so that I can use it as a portable disk. However, when I plug it, it shows up in File Explorer without a file system label. I mean it only has a drive letter G. Disk Management shows it is unformatted! This internal hard drive was NTFS and worked without any errors. I removed the external enclosure and connected it to computer motherboard, and same result. What are the tricks to retrieve files from this unformatted disk without formatting or losing data?"

Tip: Do NOT format the drive to cause further damages if you want to restore files from this unformatted external hard drive.

Possible causes behind unformatted external hard drive

There are quite a few reasons that can lead to an unformatted/RAW external hard drive, and here we give a brief summary:

  • Improper operations: An unformatted/RAW partition means the file system part gets corrupted, and the logical file system corruption can be the result of improper actions, including but not limited to: remove external hard drive directly from PC when system is accessing it; sudden system shutdown, power failure, format the disk to an improper file system, corrupted partition table, etc.
  • Virus: Virus is able to corrupt external hard drive and cause many other issues and it can infect external disk via many ways: files you downloaded from the Internet may contain virus, external disk is connected to a public computer which is not protected by anti-virus software, etc.
  • Bad sectors: Both physical and logical bad sectors can lead to an inaccessible/RAW/unformatted drive on HDD, external HDD and other disks.
  • Physical damage: There might be something wrong with physical parts in the external hard drive, for example heads fail to works, the firmware gets damaged, etc.

The step-by-step guide: How to recover files unformatted external hard drive?

Note: Do not format the drive before all files are recovered. Although formatting process fixes file system corruption issue, it immediately removes everything in the drive, making it worse to recover lost data.

DiskGenius is the recommended software to recover files from unformatted external hard drive. This tool is included a specified function to rapidly retrieve files from corrupted NTFS partitions, which can load lost files with original name without any scanning. It does not matter if your unformatted external hard drive was not in NTFS format, for DiskGenius also works effectively to scan corrupted exFAT, FAT32 and EXT partition. Next, we are going to show you how to recover files from unformatted external hard drive using DiskGenius.

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Step 1. Install and launch DiskGenius from your computer. Select the unformatted partition in DiskGenius, and click Files tab.

In some cases, you can see all files of this drive in DiskGenius after clicking Files tab when the unformatted drive just gets slightly logical damage. If this describes your disk, you can simply copy wanted data to another partition to finish the partition recovery task; if not, continue with step 2.

recover files from unformatted external hard drive

Step 2. Select the unformatted partition again, right-click it and choose Load Current Partition Intelligently, as the picture below:

The function Load Current Partition Intelligently needs just a couple of seconds to display all files and folders of the corrupted NTFS partition if the drive is not damaged to a very bad extent. After that you can copy lost files to a different partition and complete the recovery process.

Note: This function is available for DiskGenius Professional Edition, and you need to register the software to Pro edition so as to copy found files.

If this function does not work on your external hard drive, move on to Step 3.

recover files from unformatted external hard drive

Step 3. Right-click on the unformatted partition and click Recover Lost Files, as follows:

recover files from unformatted external hard drive

Step 4. Click Start button to run a full and deep scanning for the unformatted drive.

recover files from unformatted external hard drive

Step 5. Preview found files to check scanning quality.

After scanning, all recoverable files are listed in the software, and you can preview them to verify recovery quality in advance. Double-click a file to preview it on a pop-up window which shows file content in its original size. If the file can be previewed without errors, that means the file is not corrupted.

recover files from unformatted external hard drive

Step 6. Copy wanted files to a different partition.

Select files and folders you want to restore in scanning result, right-click mouse button and select "Copy To". Then you will be prompted to specify a location to save recovered data.

Note: You need to register the software to a proper edition so as to copy large files.

recover files from unformatted external hard drive

The video tutorial of recovering files from RAW/unformatted drives

Tips on unformatted external hard drive recovery

Data recovery quality can be affected by many factors, and that's why we cannot get the best result in some cases. Here are some dos and dons on unformatted external hard drive to help you get a better recovery result.

  • Do not format the unformatted USB drive even though Windows prompts to do so. If you've hit the Format button by mistake, try not to reformat the drive again and do not store new stuff on the drive. Otherwise, lost files will get overwritten.
  • Do not run disk check (chkdsk) for the unformatted drive. The Windows built-in function is provided to repair errors instead of recovering lost data. Hence, the repairing usually gets your drive repaired without recovering your data. What's worse, it may damage original directory structure.
  • Do not fragment the USB drive. When you run a defrag, system will rearrange bits of data on the disk so that files can be orderly organized. In doing this, sectors contain lost data might get overwritten, decreasing the chance of recovery.
  • Do use effective recovery software and act fast. An expertized recovery software guarantees that the recovery process is effective and the result is satisfactory.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can RAW files be recovered?

RAW drive is usually caused by corrupted file system, which does not immediately wipe all data from the drive. Thus, lost files can be recovered from RAW partition using proper recovery software. For detailed steps of RAW drive recovery, you can refer to this guide: RAW partition recovery: How to recover data from RAW drive?

2. How do I know if my hard drive is unformatted?

You can check if hard drive is unformatted in Disk Management: Right-click on Start menu and select Disk Management > locate the hard drive in question. Then you can view the file system status clearly.

Apart from Disk Management, you can also use DiskGenius to view if the hard drive is unformatted: launch DiskGenius and select the corrupted drive. The word "Unformatted" will be marked on the partition after the partition gets corrupted.

3. How do I recover files from a RAW hard drive partition?

You can use DiskGenius to easily recover files from RAW hard drive partition. Two functions are recommended to help you recover data from RAW partition: Load Current Partition Intelligently and File Recovery.

4. How do I fix an unformatted external hard drive?

A quick formatting can repair unformatted external hard drive and make it accessible again. One should be noted that files in the unformatted drive should be recovered before the formatting:

Step 1: Open File Explorer by double-clicking This PC icon on desktop.

Step 2: Locate and right-click on the unformatted external hard drive and choose Format.

Step 3: Select a proper file system type and click Start button.

5. How can I recover data from hard disk without formatting?

DiskGenius can help you recover data from hard drive without formatting, and the recovery process is read-only and does not affect the disk.

Step 1: Launch DiskGenius and select the drive where lost files are stored and click File Recovery button.

Step 2: Click Start button to run a complete scanning for the drive.

Step 3: Preview files and copy files you want to a safe location.

Final Thoughts

At this point, you should be able to recover files from unformatted external hard drive on your own. Unformatted / RAW drive does not mean that you lose data permanently! With an effective tool, you can deal with it easily. Should you need any help on unformatted / RAW partition recovery, feel free to ask.

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