Taking Steps to Recover Formatted External Hard Drive

Formatting a hard drive is essential for its proper function with your operating system. The command doesn’t just delete the icons of the files you had there. It tests the hard drive to see if it’s fully compatible and ready to be used.

While it’s an important thing to do, sometimes people initiate the command accidentally or choose the wrong drive. This may cause all your data to disappear, and if there was something important, you may think you’re in trouble.

But are the files actually lost? Can you recover the formatted external hard drive?

Recover Formatted External Hard Drive: Backup/No Backup and Undetected Drive

First of all, your files are still there, they won’t be removed unless you overwrite them with new files. That’s why the first step, in any case, is to stop using the HDD right away. The operating system just loses access to the data, but using the right tools you can still recover files from an external hard drive after formatting.

File Recovery with a Backup

It’s important to have a backup in case you need to add a formatted external hard drive. Make sure to update the backup as often as possible, especially if you have lots of dynamic files there.

In case the backup is safe and sound, it becomes quite easy to restore formatted external hard drive:

  1. Identify what you want to restore;
  2. Find and pick the correct (the latest or the last without errors) backup image. In some cases, recovering the older versions is wiser, but that’s still something;
  3. Initiate the process using a backup or recovery tool and don’t interrupt it;
  4. Upon completion, check the list of files and see if there’s any damage control to be done;
  5. If yes, try to revive the damaged files by recovering their older versions.

File Recovery without a Backup or If the Drive Is Not Detected

disk drill

Some never back up their files, or the available version may be too old or damaged. Recovering an undetected external hard drive maybe even more complicated, and simple system manipulations might not help here. In either case, it’s time to use a secret weapon. No, it’s not the time to call a specialist or hire a file recovery company to work on your disk. Instead, use specialized software.

But before using any kind of software, you have to make sure it’s completely safe:

Step-by-Step Video Tutorial


An effective wizard of your choice may recover files from an external hard drive that is not detected. Also, remember that if your hard drive can’t be detected, that might mean:

  • Physical damage
  • Logical mistake
  • Human error

The first type is direct damage of the hardware, power surge, non-safe removal, port damage, etc. In this case, you have to go to a professional for diagnostics and repair.

In case of a logical mistake, recovery software will be able to restore at least a part of the files. Some of them may come out damaged, though.

Human error includes plugging the HDD in the wrong port and similar mistakes. Even professionals do it sometimes, so don’t hesitate to check such simple things before trying anything else.

Be careful before formatting any disk, a hard drive, a USB, an SD card, etc. Check whether you have the correct target, and consider backing up your files more often.

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