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How to Recover Files From External Hard Drive (6 Best Ways 2021)

author Lois Green
date Thursday, September 16, 2021

Except introducing how to recover files from external hard drive using command prompt, this post rounds up five best data recovery tools for external hard drive data recovery. Among which, FonePaw Data Recovery performs best.

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 an external drive data recovery tool. In this guide, we will round up 6 methods for you to recover files from external hard drive after formatting, erasing or when the external hard drive is not detected.

How to Recover Files 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".

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

Recover Data Using Command Prompt

If you have tried this method to recover files from external hard drive using command prompt, but it doesn't work on your computer. You can resort to an external drive data recovery tool. In the following, we round up 5 best data recovery tools for external hard drive recovery.

Top 5 Data Recovery Tools to Recover Files from External Hard Drive

Top 1. FonePaw Data Recovery

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

FonePaw Data Recovery (opens new window) 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.

tips Note
  • 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

Top 2. AnyRecover

AnyRecover is another desktop hard drive recovery service. It's available for Windows and Mac. User can use it to recover data from any internal and external devices. If you want to recover data from hard drive, you can try AnyRecover. It can restore various types such as documents, videos, audios, pictures. Files deleted a long time ago can be recovered. But it's a little bit complicated for beginners.

Top 3. EaseUS Data Recovery

EaseUS Data Recovery is a powerful tool for external hard drive recovery. After a long-time using, we find that this hard drive recovery service does do a good job on external hard drive recovery. It's easy-to-use but slow. As for the price plan, it's also expensive for single users and more suitable for a team or business users. If you don't care the speed of recovery scan, you can choose EaseUS Data Recovery.

Top 4. Recuva

Recuva is a trusted data recovery tool for Windows users. It's a popular data recovery program that comes with some advanced tools which includes a formatted drive scanner, an overwriter and virtual hard drive support. It has a free version and pro version. The users of the pro version have the permission to use the virtual hard drives but this feature is not very useful. You can use this tool to recover files from hard drive because it scans very fast and draws very little processing power. But the deep scans take a long time and the user-interface is not so user-friendly.

Top 5. Wondershare Recoverit

The last one we introduce is Wondershare Recoverit. It's a data protection software that you can use it the back up your important data. It offers a free version for users to have a try. It offers various backup options and can repair multiple files simultaneously. But for beginners, its interface may be hard for users.

Tips for Increasing Hard Drive Data Recovery Success Rate

It's not always successful to recover files from hard drive. In the following, we give you some tips to increase hard drive data recovery success rate.

1. Use the right recovery tool. You need to choose the suitable tool in case of your files size, configuration and supported file format. Considering this, we recommend FonePaw Data Recovery because of its perfect performance on external hard drive recovery and high compatibility.

2. Minimize the risk of overwiritng. Once the files was gone, you'd better stop any operation and unplug the hard drive until you're ready to start the recovery. Once they become overwritten, their recovery stops being possible.

3. Start Recovery as soon as possible. You need to start the recovery as soon as possible to increase the success rate. So download and begin your external hard drive now!

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 (opens new window), USB drive (opens new window) and more.

Frequently asked questions about recover files from external hard drive

How Do External Hard Drive Works?

External Hard Drive is actually a kind of computer storage medium, composed of one or more disks, using head reset energy-saving technology and multi-head technology. It can be divided into solid state drives (SSD), mechanical hard drives (HDD), hybrid hard drives (HHD) three kinds.

The physical structure of a hard drive includes heads, tracks, sectors, and cylinders. Among them, the magnetic head is the most critical part of the hard disk, and it is the "pen tip" for the hard disk to read and write. Each disk surface has its own magnetic head. If the magnetic head is compared to a "pen", then the disk surface is the "paper" under the "pen".

When the hard disk reads data, the disk surface rotates at a high speed, so that the magnetic head is in a "flying state" and is not in contact with the disk surface. In this state, the magnetic head will not wear out on the disk surface, and the purpose of reading data can be achieved.

Why Do External Hard Drive Goes Wrong?

In many situations, the pop-up window with “You need to format the disk before you can use it” will show up, which means there's something wrong with your external hard drive, here are some of them.

  • Reading/Writing issues: For some traditional spinning hard drives, anything from regular wear and tear to minuscule debris floating inside the hard drive enclosure can result in read/write issues and cause external hard drive errors.

  • Software bugs lead to data loss: Even files stored on a healthy hard drive can become corrupted because of badly written software applications. Fortunately, in most cases, software data loss is recoverability. There are many data recovery tools that you can use to recover files from external hard drives after a software data loss without any expert knowledge, such as FonePaw Data Recovery mentioned above.

  • Damage caused by Virus and Malware: Some viruses and kinds of malware will corrupt data and cause as much damage as possible by deleting important files or encrypting personal data stored on external hard drives.

  • External Hard Drive itself has bugs: Hard drive manufacturers sometimes make mistakes and release a hard drive that requires a firmware update to work properly. Maybe you should check online whether there is an update available for your hard drive.

  • Physical Destructions: Normally, external hard drives require certain operating conditions to work properly. However, it is difficult to 100% avoid physical damage in daily life. Excessive heat, high humidity, electrical surges etc. can significantly reduce their lifespan or instantly cause damage.

People also read: How to Recover Deleted Files in Windows 10 (6 Proven Ways)

What are Symptoms of a Damaged External Hard Drive?

If you learn to recognize early signs of a damaged external hard drive, maybe you can successfully avoid recovering files from external hard drive before it's too late.

  • External Hard Drive not Recognized or Inaccessible: When you connect your external hard drive to your computer, but your computer is unable to detect it instantly, it might be corrupted, and you should back up your files and data as soon as possible. Also, when your computer recognizes your hard drive, but you’re unable to access the files stored on it, it often means that the file system has been damaged.

  • Strange Noises: Do you sometimes hear clicking or whirring noises when using your external hard drive? If so, they are often an indication of serious external hard drive problem. The head may be stuck on a platter, scratching it violently as the disk controller attempts to move it.

  • Capacity of the external hard drive decrease sharply: If your external hard drive is missing an unexplainably large amount of storage capacity, there’s probably something wrong with it.

  • Unreadable or Lost Files: You can use software solutions like CHKDSK that can scan your entire external hard drive and detect damaged files and folders.

Tips: How to Avoid External Hard Drive Data Loss

The problem of data loss in external hard drives can be avoided in the following ways:

  • Don’t plug it into too many systems to prevent it from infecting viruses.

  • When it is still writing or reading, please do not unplug it.

  • Pay attention to the storage conditions of the external hard drive

  • Avoid using it too frequently to update files.

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