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How to Recover Data from External Hard Drive (Step-by-Step Guide)

By Lois Green, Thursday, May 17, 2018

As a portable drive, the external hard drive makes storing and transferring data easier. However, accidental formatting, hardware failure, or virus attack will lead to data loss on an external hard drive. When you need to recover data from a formatted, dead or damaged external hard drive, you can try to run "cmd.exe" command or make use of a free data recovery tool.

Follow this guide to recover data from external hard drive after formatting, erasing or when the hard drive is not detected.

People also read: Best Photo Recovery Software: Recover Deleted Photos from Computer

Solution 1. Recover Data from External Hard Drive Using Command Prompt

Command prompt can be used to recover files from external hard drive.

STEP 1. Plug the external hard drive into the USB port on your Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP.

STEP 2. Press down "Windows" and "R" on the keyboard to activate the Run box.

STEP 3. Enter "cmd" in the Run box, and then, click "OK".

STEP 4. In the "cmd.exe" window, type " attrib -h -r -s /s /d [drive letter]:\*.* ", and then, hit "Enter".

Recover Data Using Command Prompt

Solution 2. Recover Data from External Hard Drive with External Hard Drive Recovery Tool

You can also use an external hard drive recovery program to retrieve data from external hard drive.

FonePaw Data Recovery has the ability to recover files from both of local hard drive and external hard drive, supporting hard drive recovery, partition recovery, memory card recovery, and so forth. 

Easily recover photos, videos, documents, audios from an external hard drive that is formatted, erased, dead or corrupted.

Support external hard drive recovery for Seagate, Sandisk, Western Digital, Toshiba, Apricorn, Lacie and more.


Do NOT delete, move, or add data to the external hard drive until you recover your needed data. Since any operation on the hard drive may overwrite the lost old data on the drive.

DO NOT download the program on the external hard drive. You can download the program on the computer.


STEP 1. Select Recovering File Types

After successfully install the program, launch it and you will see an easy-to-understanding interface. What's more, when your external drive has been plugged into your computer, the program will automatically detect your device listed on "Removable Drive". In the first step, you should select out the file types you need, for example, image, audio, video, email, document, and so on. Next, click on "Scan" button.

Select Recovering File Types

STEP 2. Preview Lost Files

When the scanning is finished, data on the external hard drive will appear in the Type List. In this step, you can tick the checkboxes of the files you need.

Note. If target files are not shown up, you can try "Deep Scan" mode to have a deeper scanning on the external hard drive. But this might last for several hours.

Preview Lost Files

STEP 3. Recover Selected Files

After choosing all the target files, just simply click on "Recover" button. After a while, the data on your external hard drive will be retrieved to your computer.

Recover Selected Files

With FonePaw Data Recovery, it's not a tough task to recover data on external hard drive. What's more, the program also supports local hard drive data recovery. Therefore, download FonePaw Data Recovery and have a try when you lose the data on your computer drive, SD card, USB drive and more.


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