Data recovery on external hard drive: 11 Best Tools to Recover Files from External Hard Drive (2023)

11 Best Tools to Recover Files from External Hard Drive (2023)

The convenience of external hard drives is undeniable. They allow us to carry terabytes of data everywhere we go, they can be easily shared among many devices, and their installation could hardly be any simpler. Because of their ubiquitous nature, we have come to rely on them so much that we seldom consider just how fragile external hard drives are.

How many people know how to recover files from external hard drives and how many would simply panic, not knowing what to do? If you know how to recover data from external hard drives, you have much better chances to prevent the worst from happening and turn what could be a disastrous situation around.

The goal of this article is to explain common hard drive issues and the different ways how they can be solved with the help of external hard drive recovery software tools.

Before You Perform External Hard Drive Data Recovery

Before you go online and download the first data recovery tool you come across pause for a minute and let us explain some of the most common causes of hard drive failure to help you successfully solve the underlying issue.

By using the wrong hard drive recovery tool, you could make your problem worse and lose any chance to recover your data. But before we get to the most common causes of a hard drive failure, we first need to touch upon how hard drives work.

How Do Hard Drives Work?

Inside every external hard drive is an assortment of sensitive components that record data as a magnetic pattern formed by groups of magnetized metal grains. These grains cover circular platters that spin at 7,200 rpm, at least on consumer drives. Each platter has its own reading head, which hovers several nanometers above the platter’s surface, writing converting strings of bits onto the disk using electrical current fed through an electromagnet.

Attached to the bottom of the hard drive is a circuit board, which houses the main controller chip as well as many other electronic components that control the operation of the headers. One of these electronic components is a small memory chip that stores the firmware, which is permanent software that provides the necessary instructions for how the hard drive communicates with the other computer hardware.

Diagnosing Common Types of Hard Drive Failure

Hard drive failures can be categorized into two broad categories: software failures and hardware failures.

#1 Software Data Loss

Software data loss is most commonly caused by badly written software applications or unfortunate user errors. Every day, important files are lost because someone decided to empty the Recycle Bin without first checking whether it doesn’t contain something important.

The one thing that most cases of software data loss have in common is recoverability. There are many capable data recovery tools that you can use to recover external hard drives after a software data loss without any expert knowledge. In the next chapter, we recommend our top 11 favorite tools for recovering external hard drives.

Solution: Use Hard Drive Data Recovery Software

#2 Hard Drive Isn’t Spinning

This often happens after a sudden voltage spike. Inside the hard drive are special diodes that act as fuses. A voltage spike may cause these diodes to blow, making the hard drive seem as if it were dead and all data were lost. Usually, it’s enough to replace the printed circuit board (PCB), which can be done in a normal environment without opening the hard drive enclosure.

Solution: Hard Drive Data Recovery Service

#3 Clicking or Beeping Noises

Clicking sounds are often an indication of serious hard drive damage. They occur when a hard drive is unable to return the rear/write head to its home position. The head may be stuck on a platter, scratching it violently as the disk controller attempts to move it. A scratched platter usually means an irreversible data loss.

A hard drive may make beeping sounds when it’s trying to spin the platters, but it’s unable to do so. This can happen because of something that’s known as stiction. Because the gap between the hard drive heads and platters is so small, they can literally stick to each other. A hard drive recovery service center with a well-equipped, dust-free lab should be able to solve this problem, for a hefty price.

Solution: Hard Drive Data Recovery Service

#4 Hard Drive Inaccessible

When your computer recognizes your hard drive, but you’re unable to access the files stored on it or boot into the operating system, it often means that the file system has been damaged. The damage can be extremely localized, perhaps affecting only the boot sector, or it can be widespread. The good news is that data recovery tools such as Disk Drill can easily recover data from inaccessible hard drives and help you spot growing file corruption before it gets out of hand.

Solution: Try Manual HDD Recovery Fixes or a Recovery Tool

#5 Hard Drive Not Detected

When your computer is unable to detect a hard drive which you know is otherwise in a good working order, it could mean that the hard drive is not compatible with your motherboard. This shouldn’t happen when dealing with regular desktop hard drives connected to regular desktop computers, but it can happen when dealing with exotic server equipment or older hardware.

Solution: Try Manual HDD Recovery Fixes

#6 Malware Infection

During the Windows XP era, there were many computer viruses designed to inflict as much damage as possible by deleting the data stored on hard drives. Fortunately, this type of malware, short for malicious software, is much less common today, but malware still remains a huge threat. In recent years, ransomware has emerged as one of the biggest causes of data loss, encrypting important data and demanding a hefty ransom of its decryption.

Solution: Use Hard Drive Data Recovery Software

#7 Data Corruption

Software programmers still make many of the same mistakes as they did several years ago. The same, of course, also applies to computer users. As such, it’s fairly common for files to suddenly become corrupted and, as a result, unreadable. In some cases, corrupted files can be repaired using readily available and easily applicable tools and techniques, but that’s not always the case.

Solution: Try Manual HDD Recovery Fixes

#8 Physical Hard Drive Destruction

Even the latest and greatest hard drives are not immune to physical damage. While modern SSDs are far more reliable than their traditional spinning counterparts because they don’t have any moving parts, it still takes just one blown transistor for a perfectly healthy hard drive to turn into a useless brick. Because DIY repairs of physically damaged hard drives rarely deliver the desired results, it’s best to contact professionals right away and hope for the best.

Solution: Hard Drive Data Recovery Service

How to Recover Data from an External Hard Drive

Let’s take a closer look at how to recover files from a hard drive that has suffered one of the common types of hard drive failure described in the previous section of this article. As long as you select the right recovery method, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to reunite with your files.

Option 1: Try Hard Drive Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software is your best bet when it comes to recovering data from logically damaged hard drives. In this article, we list our top 11 favorite HDD recovery tools, and we encourage you to make your own choice. For the purposes of this recovery guide, we are going to focus only on the number one hard drive recovery tool we know: Disk Drill.

Download Disk Drill data recovery app Download now

Disk Drill runs on Windows and macOS, and the free version lets you preview an unlimited number of lost files. Because Disk Drill has a modern, intuitive user interface, it’s suitable even for inexperienced users whose understanding of data recovery is limited to the information provided in this article.

Here’s what you need to do to recover files from an external hard drive using Disk Drill:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on your computer. Make sure to install it on a different hard drive than the one you want to recover.
  2. Launch Disk Drill, select your external hard drive, and scan it by clicking the Search for lost data button.
  3. Wait for Disk Drill to finish scanning. Depending on the size and speed of your drive, the process may take some time, so be patient.
  4. With the help of Disk Drill’s search results filters and search feature, analyze the scan results and select all missing files.
  5. Click the Recover button and select a suitable recovery destination for your files.

As you can see, data recovery with Disk Drill is a matter of three simple steps, so you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of, especially considering that Disk Drill can preview all deleted data for free.

Option 2: Hard Drive Data Recovery Service

Unfortunately, not all data loss situations can be addressed at home with DIY data recovery software. In some cases, such as when dealing with physically damaged hard drives, it’s necessary to contact a data recovery service center like SalvageData and let professionals with state-of-the-art equipment and plenty of experience take care of the recovery for you.

Most data recovery centers have a similar workflow:

  1. You initiate a work order.
  2. Pack and ship your media.
  3. Receive an expert estimate.
  4. Approve the price quote.
  5. Wait until your data is recovered and securely delivered to you on a DVD, a flash drive, or an external hard drive.

Contrary to what many people believe, professional data recovery doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. In fact, most legitimate companies charge only for recovered data and offer, so you don’t need to worry about spending hundreds of dollars and achieving nothing at all.

Option 3: Try Manual HDD Recovery Fixes

Especially when dealing with data loss caused by file system corruption, it’s often possible to recover lost data using manual HDD recovery fixes. We’ve described many effective fixes in the past in relation to SD card and Mac hard drive recovery, so we won’t list them all here. Instead, here are just three manual HDD recovery fixes that are most likely to deliver the desired results:

Fix 1: CHKDSK Command

All Windows computers come with a utility called CHKDSK, whose purpose is to verify the file system integrity of a volume and attempt to fix logical file system errors. Even though CHKDSK doesn’t have a graphical user interface, using it is surprisingly simple:

  1. Type “cmd” in the search box on the taskbar and select Run as administrator.
  2. Enter the following command and press Enter: chkdsk X: /f (make sure to replace X with the letter assigned to the HDD you want to fix)
  3. Wait for CHKDSK to finish.

Fix 2: First Aid in Disk Utility

Mac users can’t use CHKDSK to fix corrupted hard drives, but they can use something even better: the First Aid feature in Disk Utility. As its name suggests, the purpose of the First Aid feature is to diagnose and fix storage devices that are not working correctly. Since it has a nice user interface, it’s fairly self-explanatory, but here’s what you need to do in a nutshell:

  1. Go to Finder > Application > Utilities and launch Disk Utility.
  2. Select the hard drive you want to repair from the list on the left and click the First Aid button.
  3. Confirm that you want First Aid to check the partition for errors.

Fix 3: Driver Reinstallation

Even pros sometimes make a mistake and that also applies to the software developers responsible for hard drive drivers. A faulty or corrupted driver can make your HDD unusable or inaccessible, but reinstalling it takes just a few minutes:

  1. Type “device manager” in the search on the taskbar and select the Device Manager option.
  2. Go through the available categories and look for your external HDD. You will most likely find it under Portable Devices.
  3. Right-click the SD card and select Uninstall device.
  4. Restart your computer.
  5. Wait for the right driver to be automatically reinstalled.

11 Best Tools to Recover Files from External Hard Drives

External hard drive data recovery is easy when you know what the best data recovery tools are. Based on our experience, user reviews, and features, we’ve selected the top 11 best tools for recovering external hard drives.

1. Disk Drill

Disk Drill is the most versatile, most user-friendly, and most feature-complete data recovery solution on the market, which is why it’s at the very top of our list.

If you have Disk Drill, you don’t really need any other software tool to recover data from your external hard drive. You can download Disk Drill for free from its website and instantly test just how quickly and effortlessly it can recover your lost files.


  • A single license lets you install Disk Drill on Windows and Mac
  • The free Windows version can recover up to 500 MB of data
  • Disk Drill can restore the original folder structure and file names
  • Loaded with extra data management and protection features
  • Intuitive user interface with smart session management
  • Can preview recoverable files and filter scan results

🙁 Cons:

  • No phone customer support

Download Disk Drill data recovery app Download now

To recover deleted files from an external hard drive:

  1. Connect an external hard disk to your PC
  2. Launch Disk Drill for Windows or Mac
  3. Select your external drive from the list
  4. Click Search for lost data
  5. Preview files that Disk Drill can retrieve
  6. Select the files for recovery and click Recover all button

Disk Drill also includes helpful hard drive management utilities that cover everything from data backup to hard drive health monitoring. Even though Disk Drill is the tool of choice for many IT professionals, it still manages to be just as accessible and easy to use as data recovery tools aimed at complete beginners.

2. TestDisk

This open-source data recovery software can help you recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again. TestDisk runs under DOS, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, SunOS, and macOS. The tool is part of many popular system rescue CDs such as CAINE, GParted LiveCD, and Parted Magic. TestDisk runs in the command line, which is why we can’t recommend it to casual computer users. That said, if you are comfortable with the command line environment, TestDisk is a fantastic, lightweight alternative to graphical external hard drive recovery tools.


  • Open-source and completely free
  • Runs on all major operating systems
  • Can recover lost partitions and fix boot issues

🙁 Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a graphical user interface

3. Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery

Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery can recover deleted data from Internal and external hard drives, help you retrieve lost data from inaccessible partitions, and do all of this in just a few minutes and with 1 GB of lost or deleted data for free. The software supports most file formats and storage devices, and it has already been downloaded by over 2 million customers. Unlike Disk Drill, which runs on Windows and macOS, Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery runs only on Windows, as the name suggests.


  • Recovers up to 1 GB of data for free
  • Modern user interface with file preview capabilities
  • Supports BitLocker-encrypted drives

🙁 Cons:

  • Runs only on Windows

4. PhotoRec

Multimedia file formats, such as JPG, PNG, AVI, or MP3, represent a majority of data computer users store on their hard drives. Understandably, it’s much easier to accept the loss of a PowerPoint presentation than the pictures from the graduation ceremony of your only child. PhotoRec is an open-source data recovery utility designed to recover pictures, videos, and other common file formats from hard drives, memory cards, and digital cameras. It recognizes over 480 file extensions from about 300 file families and runs under DOS, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Sun Solaris, and macOS. Just like TestDisk, PhotoRec is a command-line utility with no graphical interface.


  • Open-source and completely free
  • Runs on all major operating systems
  • Recognizes hundreds of file extensions

🙁 Cons:

  • Isn’t nearly as intuitive as its competitors

5. R-Studio

R-Studio is a family of data recovery tools designed to solve just about any data recovery scenario. R-Studio can recover data from all major file systems, perform raw file search, fix startup issues, perform data recovery over LAN, and much more. Its intended audience are technicians and network experts tasked with recovering data from corporate networks and business computers.


  • Runs on all major operating systems
  • Can scan many different file systems
  • RAID reconstrution capabilities

🙁 Cons:

  • Too complex for beginners
  • Only a few file formats can be previewed

6. EaseUS Data Recovery

EaseUS Data Recovery is a well-designed application that can help you recover files from any hard drive with a few clicks. The free version recovers up to 2 GB of data, and you can always purchase a PRO license to enjoy unlimited recovery. Regardless of which version of EaseUS Data Recovery you use, you can always preview lost files before recovering them, which helps recover only important files and leave everything else behind. Over 100 real-life data loss scenarios are supported, including RAW HDD recovery and other trickly situations.


  • Recovers up to 2 GB of data for free
  • Sleek, modern user interface
  • Delivers good results in most scenarios

🙁 Cons:

  • Expensive paid licenses
  • Slow recovery speed

7. Wondershare Recoverit

Wondershare Recoverit is a popular hard drive data recovery tool with a sleek design and excellent usability. It runs on Windows and macOS, boasting the ability to recover over 1,000 (yes, that’s correct) file formats. The paid version of this capable data recovery tool can even scan, gather, and match the fragments of your corrupt videos, piecing them back together so you can play them again. The recovery process itself consists of just three steps, and you should be able to easily complete it without any prior data recovery experience.


  • Support for over 1,000 file formats
  • Modern user interface with file preview capabilities
  • Can repair damaged video files

🙁 Cons:

  • Can’t scan entire disks
  • Unreliable recovery time estimations

8. Recuva

Recuva is a venerable data recovery tool for the Windows operating system that has been around for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s also been a long time since it was last updated, but that doesn’t change anything about the fact that it can still reliably recover lost data from internal and external hard drives alike. Best of all, the free version of Recuva offers unlimited recovery, so it doesn’t matter if you need to recover 1 MB of data or 1 TB. The Professional version adds support for virtual hard drives and automatic updates, but neither of these two features is very useful.


  • Can recover an unlimited amount of data for free
  • Two modes of operation
  • Translated into many languages

🙁 Cons:

  • Mediocre recovery results
  • Hasn’t received a major update in a while

9. Data Rescue 6

Developed by Prosoft Engineering Inc, Data Rescue 6 is a versatile HDD recovery software solution designed to meet the needs of home users and professionals alike. The free version can find all lost files and recover them on a pay-for-what-you-recover basis, with pricing as low as $19. The Professional version offers unlimited recovery and unlimited activations, but it requires an annual subscription, so it’s not as cost-effective as HDD recovery software solutions that charge a one-time license fee.


  • Two modes of operation
  • Fairly high scanning speed
  • Extra backup and repair features

🙁 Cons:

  • Outdated user interface
  • Lackluster data recovery results
  • Supports only the English language

10. DiskGenius

DiskGenius is an all-in-one hard drive management tool that can perform data recovery, back up important files, and partition internal and external hard drives. The tool is regularly updated, and you can download it free of charge from its official website. Just keep in mind that the free version is limited, so you may need to spend some money to unlock the features you need. The good news is that DiskGenius comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.


  • Advanced features
  • Fast scanning speed
  • Good NTFS, exFAT, and FAT32 recovery performance

🙁 Cons:

  • Very complicated user interface
  • Inconvinient file preview feature

11. Windows File Recovery

Windows File Recovery is Microsoft’s own data recovery tool for Windows 10 version 2004 and later (including Windows 11). It was first released in 2020 to give the users of the Windows operating system a completely free and unlimited way to recover files that have been permanently deleted from internal and external storage devices that use the following file systems: NTFS, FAT, exFAT, and ReFS. Unfortunately, Windows File Recovery doesn’t support many file formats, and it also doesn’t have a graphical user interface, making it not suitable for inexperienced users.


  • Completely free
  • Downloadable from the Microsoft Store

🙁 Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a graphical user interface
  • Limited file format support
  • Isn’t regularly updated

Tips for Increasing Your Hard Drive Data Recovery Success Rate

The hard drive data recovery software applications listed in this article can deliver great results, saving the day when dealing with many different kinds of hard drive failure. As effective as they are, you can increase your hard drive recovery success rate even more by following the few simple tips below:

  • Don’t delay the recovery process: The sooner you install hard drive data recovery software on your computer and use it to scan the storage device on which the lost files were located, the more likely you are to get your files back.
  • Use the best software available: Not all hard disk recovery applications perform the same. Some support only a few file formats, while others can recover just about any file and sometimes even repair files that have been corrupted. That’s why you need to do your research and use the best software available.
  • Minimize the risk of overwriting: Permanently deleted files can be recovered only while they’re still physically present on the hard drive. Once they become overwritten, their recovery stops being possible. As such, you should do as much as you can to minimize the risk of overwriting, like unplugging the hard drive in question until you’re ready to begin the recovery process.

These three simple tips can be the difference between partial data recovery and complete data recovery. Of course, the best way to ensure 100% successful recovery is to back up all important files on a regular basis and keep the backups someplace safe. That way, you’ll be able to recover even after experiencing a total hard drive failure.


Can an external hard drive be recovered?

Yes, it’s possible to recover an external hard drive. Even if you’ve formatted the hard drive or if it is damaged or corrupted, there is a high possibility of successfully restoring all of the missing files.

How much does it cost to recover data from an external hard drive?

It depends on the severity of the issue and your external hard drive condition. If it is not physically or logically damaged, you should be able to recover the files by yourself with the help of specialized data recovery software. Otherwise, you’ll need to send your hard drive to an in-lab professional service center, which will cost you between $300 – $3000.

How do I recover an undetected external hard drive?

If you want to recover files from an external hard drive but it is not showing up on your computer, you can use a third-party data recovery tool to complete the recovery. Follow these steps to recover an undetected external hard drive:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Launch the application.
  3. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  4. Choose your external hard drive from the list.
  5. Click the Search for lost data button to scan the drive.
  6. Click Review found items to view the files.
  7. Choose the files that you wish to restore and click Recover.

External Hard Drive Data Recovery in 2023 (Free Guide)

Is it Possible to Restore Files From an External Hard Drive? Yes. You can recover files from external hard drives if they have been accidentally deleted. External hard drive recovery is possible even after formatting or if the hard disk is damaged. Due to the way modern operating systems handle file deletion and disk formatting, the files are still physically available even when logically inaccessible to the system. Through the use of data recovery software, the drive can be recovered, allowing you to restore the lost files.


Want to skip the introduction and jump straight to the data recovery part? Click here.

The ability to recover deleted files from an external hard drive can be extremely important in a variety of situations. Many computer users use an external HDD as the media on which to store their system’s backups. Loss of the data residing on this storage device could potentially destroy years of data backups.

Another popular use of external hard drives is to provide extended storage to augment the capacity of your system’s internal disks. Common uses include storing photos, music, and video collections that occupy too much space on the internal drive. These collections can comprise materials in which you have a financial or emotional investment. Losing them to accidental deletion or realizing you have inadvertently formatted the wrong disk can be devastating.

You also may need to retrieve files from a logically damaged or corrupted disk. In all these cases, data recovery software can save the day.


Update notice Previous visitors to this page will notice some changes and improvements. We often revisit our pages in an attempt to cover the topic and subject matter more complex. We have added more detail to our solutions as well as more extensive information regarding the problems that can plague external hard drives. There are also some data recovery solutions that may help you get your files back without recovery software. Hopefully, you’ll find what you are looking for regarding external hard drive data recovery.

How to Recover Data from an External Hard Disk That is Not Detected by Windows

Before getting into the specifics of data recovery, let’s talk about what to do if Windows does not recognize your device. There are several actions you can take to try to resolve the problem of an external hard drive not showing up on your computer.

🔗 Check the connection and cables

Make sure your device is plugged in and powered on. Check the cable and replace it if it looks worn. Trying a different cable is not a bad idea even if it looks alright.

🔌 Try a different port or computer

It may be that the USB port is no good. Trying a different port on the machine or locating another compatible computer to use can resolve this issue.

🩺 Update device drivers

Use this link to update your USB device drivers manually. Outdated drivers can impact the ability of your computer to detect attached devices.

✏️ Format the drive

Corrupt or RAW disks may need to be formatted to be recognized by your OS. This can potentially destroy some of the data on the disk so should be done with caution.

Can an External Hard Drive Be Recovered?

Yes, it is possible to recover files that have been lost due to deletion or the formatting of an external hard drive. This can be accomplished because of the way modern operating systems handle data deletion on hard drives.

When you delete a file on a Windows system, logical access to the data is removed but the data remains physically on the disk. The space occupied by the deleted item is marked as available for future use by the operating system. Eventually, that space will be reused as new data is saved to the disk.

Until the original data is overwritten, data recovery software can repair the logical links and make the files and folders accessible by the OS and your applications. These specialized software tools scan the disk for deleted items and make them available again.


The key is to stop using the external hard drive as soon as you suspect you have lost data. You need to prevent the operating system from overwriting the deleted items with new information. Unplug the external drive and don’t use it again until you are ready to perform the data recovery.

How to Recover Deleted Files From an External Hard Drive Using Data Recovery Software

Here are the simple steps that will get your deleted files back from an external hard drive using Disk Drill Data Recovery. We like Disk Drill because it supports all major file systems, has an excellent scanning speed (which is important for large external hard drives), and an excellent recovery rate. And the best part is that it lets you recover 500 MB of data for free.

Download and install the tool

Download and install Disk Drill for Windows on your computer. Provide system level credentials during the installation and grant the program permission to make system changes if prompted.

Connect your external HDD and launch the app

Connect the external hard drive to your machine and launch Disk Drill. You will be presented with a disk list displaying all available devices. Select the external drive from the list.

Scan your device for deleted files

Click the Search for lost data button to start the scanning process. You can choose the type of scan to be performed, although the best recovery results will be achieved by allowing Disk Drill to run all of its scanning procedures automatically in the optimal order. You will see a status bar indicating the progress of the scan which can be paused and restarted at any time. Data can be recovered before the scan completes when the process is paused. Scan results can also be mounted as a virtual disk to make recovery even easier.

Preview the recoverable data

Preview the files found by Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms. The recovered data will be nicely organized in folders for Pictures, Video, Audio, Documents, and Archive files. Select the files you want to restore as well as a safe location to store them. Do not use the original external disk to avoid overwriting the data you want to recover.

Finalizethe recovery

Click the Recover button to restore the selected files to your designated storage location. When the process completes you files will be available to your operating system and their original applications.

Disk Drill – A Reliable Professional External Hard Drive Recovery Software Solution

We regularly test software solutions in our daily work and were impressed with Disk Drill. The tool has enabled us to recover from a variety of data loss scenarios and the data protection features let us rest easy that our data is safe.


Curious about Disk Drill? We’ve prepared a comprehensive review of its functionality and scanning results, along with an analysis of its safety.

Disk Drill is a professional data recovery solution that is available for Windows and Mac systems. The tool can restore lost and deleted files and folders from virtually any kind of disk-based storage media.

At the heart of Disk Drill are powerful scanning algorithms that enable you to undelete files from any storage device, including an external hard drive. These algorithms can recover files in over 400 different file formats by searching your drive on a sector-by-sector basis and reconstructing items from their file signatures.

Here are some of Disk Drill’s outstanding features:

  • Multiple scanning modes recover as much data as possible from your external hard drive.
  • An intuitive and user-friendly interface enables you to recover lost data with a few simple clicks.
  • You can pause and restart scans and recoveries at your convenience.
  • Free data protection utilities safeguard important files and folders.
  • Free disk imaging functionality creates byte-level backups of failing disks.
  • Virtually all disk-based storage devices including external hard drives, memory cards, and flash drives.
  • External disk drives from Toshiba, Western Digital, Seagate (including Seagate Backup Plus), LG, Hitachi, LaCie, Samsung, and all other major manufacturers including more niche ones, such as Iomega or BUFFALO.
  • FAT32
  • exFAT
  • NTFS
  • HFS/HFS+
  • APFS
  • EXT2/3/4
  • Images – JPEG, NRW, NEF, RAF, GPR, BMP, TIFF, PNG, Photoshop, and many others.
  • Video – WMV, WebM, AVI, MOV, CRM, MP4, FLV, and many more.
  • Audio – AA, MID, MP3, WAV, WMA, and all other popular formats.
  • Document – APK, DOCX, EMF, DWG, XLS, and many others.
  • Archive – CAB, DMG, TAR, RAR, and ZIP among others.

Both Windows and Mac users get all the free data protection tools and the ability to preview recovered files before upgrading to the paid software. Windows users can restore up to 500 MB of data without upgrading to the paid application. This lets you test-drive the app and see how it can help you recover from unexpected data loss.

Alternative Data Recovery Methods

Here are some other methods you can try to recover lost data from an external hard drive.

#1 Use the Windows command line and CHKDSK

Running this command will recover deleted files to a temporary folder created on the external drive. This is less safe than saving the restored files to a new storage location as you can do with recovery software. See the FAQs at the end of this article for a full description of how to use this command.


Read also: How to Undelete/Recover Files Deleted by CHKDSK

#2 Make sure you are not currently under attack from a virus by using antivirus software and scanning your computer and the external drive

Removing any infections may resolve issues with data access caused by the malware. Once the computer is virus-free, you can run data recovery software to get back the files that may have been deleted by the virus attack.


Read also: Recover Files Deleted by Avast Antivirus & Recover Norton Deleted Files

#3 Use the Windows System File Checker to fix corrupted files

This tool will scan the disk and attempt to fix corrupt files. When the process completes, you will receive messages detailing its ability to find and fix your files.

#4 Recover from previously made backups with your storage media or by connecting to your cloud backup provider

Using this method will only restore to the system state when the backup was created. Data recovery software can restore deleted files that were not included in the backup.

Be Aware of Losing Data From Your External Hard Disk

There are many reasons that your external hard drive can experience data loss. Some of the most common are:

  • 🛑 Human error – This is by far the most common reason for data loss. It can occur through accidentally deleting files or formatting disks. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Windows cmd command and accidentally ran a script that deleted a bunch of files. You might realize it a split second after executing the command, but the damage is done.
  • 😔 Faulty upgrades – Occasionally a faulty system or application upgrade can impact your system. If an external hard drive was attached to your machine during the upgrade, it could have been negatively impacted and you may have lost some data from it.
  • Power surges – A power spike can cause damage to your drive and result in a broken storage device that requires data recovery software in order to recover its data. The drive can appear dead after being subjected to an extreme power surge.
  • 🔥 Extreme conditions – Leaving an external hard drive in a hot car or other location where it will be exposed to high temperatures can cause damage to the disk. Similar results will occur if you expose the device to high humidity or moisture.


IMPORTANT POINT These are just some of the causes of data loss that may confront you. A critical point to remember is to immediately stop using the external storage device as soon as you suspect data loss has occurred. Failure to follow this guidance can lead to the deleted data being overwritten before you have a chance to recover it. Put the drive to the side and fire up your data recovery software.

Why You Should Use External Hard Drive Data Recovery Software

The main reason to use external hard drive recovery software is its reliability and ease of use when faced with a data loss scenario. While you may be able to get your files back with one of the other methods we have described above, chances are good that at some point they will not be sufficient to recover your lost data.

Even if you are in the habit of backing up your computer every day, there is a chance you can delete files before you get the opportunity to back them up. Data recovery software may be your only hope in this kind of situation. Disk Drill offers free data protection tools and is well worth having on your computer for that eventual data loss. A little familiarity with the program will reduce the stress of coping with a real data loss situation.


Read also: How to Access the Recycle Bin on an External Hard Drive

Protecting the Important Files on Your External Hard Disk

Here are some tips to help protect valuable data on external hard drives.

  • Have more than one copy of data that is very valuable or that cannot be created. This may involve backing up your external drive to the cloud or making a full copy to another device of similar or greater capacity.
  • Label external drives to minimize the potential that you will accidentally format the wrong device.
  • Employ data protection tools such as Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery offered by Disk Drill.
  • Keep your external hard drives out of direct sunlight and do not subject them to extremes of temperature or moisture.

Getting into the habit of backing up your external hard disk is the best defense against data loss. There are multiple options available for creating backups. Here are some suggestions for reliable methods with which to back up your valuable data.

Windows users can use the Windows Backup facility built into the operating system.

Mac users can take advantage of Time Machine which comes installed on macOS systems.

Many cloud backup offerings are available that can be used with any or multiple operating systems. Some popular choices are IDrive, Carbonite Safe, and CrashPlan.

Look around for a plan that fits your budget and storage needs. You can also consider trying some 3rd-party backup solutions. However, you do it, start backing up your data today!

Other External Hard Drive Issues Worth Mentioning

Not all hard drive problems result in catastrophic data loss. However, some issues that may only be annoying at first can subsequently get worse and lead to bigger problems. Here are some signs that your external hard drive is experiencing some issues that may demand your attention. Ignoring them is not recommended!

  • 🔊 Scratching or clicking sounds coming from the drive are never a good thing and are often a signal that the physical components are wearing out.
  • 🐢 Slow response time when accessing the drive is another indicator that the drive is having problems.
  • ⏹️ System and application crashes when using the external drive may be caused by a failing or damaged hard disk.
  • 🧱 Unexplained errors when you are reading or writing to the disk can be caused by physical damage or disk corruption. We will look a little deeper into the issue of disk corruption in the next section.

If your external hard drive starts exhibiting any of these signs of looming problems, your best course of action is to create a byte-level backup of the device that can be used for potential data recovery. This type of backup only reads your device one more time and saves the drive from the physical activity required for a recovery procedure. Disk Drill provides this capability for free and the backup can be used to recover files that had been deleted from the external drive.

What to Do if Your External Hard Drive Becomes Corrupt

A corrupt external hard drive may still appear to be physically operational but may display problems with the data stored on the device. Corruption can occur due to many reasons including:

  • Software failures and system crashes.
  • Virus or malware infection.
  • Bad disk sectors.
  • Power loss leading to incomplete file transfers.

Your disk may be corrupt if you experience problems like lost files or unexplained system crashes. These issues can make it impossible to use the device without addressing its data corruption.


See also: Top 7 Best Hard Disk Repair Software for Windows

If the drive is recognized by your operating system, you should try to get the data off the device as soon as possible. Creating a byte-level backup using a tool like Disk Drill is one option, or you can simply copy the files to another hard drive. You can also use data recovery software to scan the drive for files that were deleted due to corruption.

Formatting the drive should eliminate the corruption and enable you to use the device normally again. Once the disk is reformatted, you can copy the data back to the original device.

Is It Possible to Recover Data From a Dead External Hard Drive?

The answer to this question is a firm “probably”. At the beginning of this article, we discussed how to get Windows to detect your external hard drive. If you are successful in this effort, you can recover the lost data using data recovery software. Your drive wasn’t really dead in this case, just temporarily stunned.

If you cannot get your operating system to recognize the drive, your options are pretty much limited to engaging a professional data recovery service to restore your data. They will use specialized hardware and software techniques to disassemble and clone the data on the drive.

Finding a Reputable Hard Drive Recovery Service

You can spend a lot of money trying to get your data back. What you want is a reputable and cheap external hard drive data recovery service. Here’s how using a quality data recovery service works.

  1. You contact the service and explain the problem.
  2. You ship the external hard drive to the recovery center.
  3. Technicians investigate the drive and determine if it can be fixed.
  4. You receive a firm price quote.
  5. Work begins once you give your OK.
  6. When recovery is complete, your data is shipped to you. If recovery is not successful, a reputable company will not charge you.

There are many reliable data recovery services available. Here are a few to get you started on your search.

  • CleverFiles Data Recovery Center
  • Secure Data Recovery
  • Gillware Data Recovery Services

Make sure that whatever company you engage with has a “no data/no charge” policy to avoid getting ripped off. Skilled recovery professionals will know after the initial evaluation if they can get your data back.


Read also: How Much Does Data Recovery Cost? Common Rates & Fees


Did you know?

The average cost to corporations suffering a data breach is $3.92 million. With the increase in the number of remote workers, the potential for valuable enterprise data to be copied to an external hard drive is greater than ever before. While your personal data may not carry as high a price tag, the files on your external drive are important to you. They are extremely easy to steal and require you to take protective measures to keep your data safe.


How to recover deleted files from an external hard drive?

Here’s a super-quick guide on recovering deleted files from an external hard drive:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Connect your external hard drive to your PC.
  3. Launch the app and choose the connected external HDD.
  4. Scan the hard disk and wait for the scanning process to end.
  5. Choose the files you need to restore and finish the recovery.

Is it possible to recover files from an external hard drive using the command prompt?

Yes, it technically is. You can access your data by fixing file system errors on your external drive. Follow these steps on a Windows 10 machine:

  1. Connect the External drive to your computer.
  2. Press Window key + R and type CMD in the search box.
  3. Type chkdsk Drive letter/f in the command prompt window and press Enter.
  4. Press Y until the command line starts again.
  5. Type the drive letter again and hit Enter. This restarts the command line.
  6. Type [Drive letter:/>attrib – h-r-s/s/d*.*]. This command will recover the file from the storage drive. It creates a new folder on the external drive with all the recovered files.

How do I format an external hard drive and why would I need to do it?

Formatting a disk is done to prepare it for use with a different operating system or to logically delete all of its data. To format an external hard drive in Windows 10 follow these steps:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  2. Open File Explorer.
  3. Right-click on the external drive and select Format.
  4. Choose a filesystem and give the drive a name if you desire.
  5. Select the Quick Format box to quickly prepare the drive.
  6. Click OK when the Format Complete message is displayed.

Why choose Disk Drill and not other products like “Easeus Data Recovery” or “Minitool Power Data Recovery”?

Disk Drill offers users sophisticated and advanced scanning capabilities that will recover more of their lost files than competing solutions. An intuitive interface and simple recovery procedure take the stress out of the process of recovering your lost data. The addition of free data protection tools to keep your information safe is just another reason to go with Disk Drill.

Robert Agar is the Content Writer & Managing Editor for Handy Recovery. Robert brings over 30 years of experience in data storage, security, compliance, backup, and recovery to the HandyRecovery team. Several years ago, he turned his attention from hands-on technical roles to develop a career as a freelance writer concentrating on technology and its impact on society. Areas of focus include the cloud, data recovery, artificial intelligence, and industrial automation.

Andrey Vasilyev


Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.

How to rescue and restore data on an external hard drive

If you accidentally delete data from an external hard drive, immediately cancel all data transfers to it and remove it. This reduces the chance of overwriting deleted information.

The hard disk space from which data was deleted is not overwritten immediately, but marked as free. Only when you write new data to the hard drive are the deleted files overwritten and can no longer be recovered.

Data deleted, how to get it back?

Recover deleted or lost data with Recuva

If you have lost data due to accidental deletion or system failure, the relatively simple Recuva program will help you. It looks for data marked as deleted but not overwritten.

Install Recuva on your computer and connect the appropriate hard drive. Open Recuva and select the required drive. The program will search for files that can be recovered. Now click on the files to restore them.

Data recovery with Recuva

Recuva alternative: Disk Drill

Disk Drill recovers accidentally deleted data on Windows or Mac devices.

Disk Drill handles a large number of file systems. In addition, it can recover data not only from hard drives, but also from SD cards, USB drives, and the like.

Open the program and select the drive and scan type. “Quick Scan” is naturally fast, but it won’t be able to find everything. “Deep Scan” works correspondingly longer, but searches more thoroughly.

Restoring files with Disk Drill

While scanning, Disk Drill will list all found files. If the data you are looking for was found, you can cancel the scan and restore it by clicking on the corresponding checkbox.

The only drawback of the free version is that it can only save files up to one gigabyte in size. For large files, you’ll need the paid Pro version.

A good option for external file storage is the roomy 2.5-inch Seagate 2TB hard drive.

The hard drive is physically damaged – what can you do?

If the hard drive makes a screeching or popping sound while booting up, unplug it immediately to prevent further damage. In this case, the reader is most likely scratching the hard drive, which can cause permanent damage.

In such cases, if there is important data on the hard drive, you should contact the service department, whose experts will help you recover the data.

The following article will tell you what to do if Windows does not recognize your external hard drive.

HDD recovery program Victoria

HDD malfunctions can occur if badly readable sectors and bad blocks appear on the disk. You can check the disk for errors or preserve unreadable blocks and restore the disk using the free MHDD or Victotia program.

In case your external drive failed and could not be restored, we recommend looking for a reliable replacement for it, for example, the ADATA HV300 SLIM we tested.

Read also:

  • What to do if the external HDD does not appear in Windows Explorer?=”content_internal_link”>

Photo: manufacturing companies, Andrey Kireev

Shot on Xiaomi Mi 8

external hard drive


Andrey Kireev

3 Easy Steps to Recover Data from External Hard Drive

According to storage data, external hard drives are becoming very popular every day due to their speed, cost and compactness. Along with this, there are many problems that many users face, including accidental deletion of data, hard disk damage/destruction, etc.

Thus method data recovery from external hard drive is important for many users of external hard drives. In this post, you will get a complete understanding of external hard drive recovery.

Part 1. Tenorshare 4DDiG – Best External Hard Drive Recovery SoftwareHot Part 2. Alternative Methods for Data Recovery from External Hard Drive

Part 1. Tenorshare 4DDiG – Best External Hard Drive Recovery Software

Tenorshare 4DDiG data recovery is the best external hard drive recovery software for Windows and Mac devices. It is very useful for data recovery in various scenarios such as formatting and deletion. With this tool, users can quickly recover data from a crashed external hard drive. Tenorshare supports recovery of various data files such as photos, videos, documents and more. With Tenorshare 4DDiG, you can recover not only hard drives, but also many media to support data recovery, such as flash drives, hard drives, memory cards, digital cameras, etc.

Free Download

For PC

Secure Boot

Free Download


Safe Boot

1. Why 4DDiG is a reliable external hard drive data recovery software

There are many reasons why 4DDiG is a reliable external hard drive data recovery software, but we are going to show with some important common factors. We know that secure data recovery is developed after facing many factors influencing it. Few users have problems with logical data, or some of them have experienced a spindle failure.

Of these, there are several common factors that will undoubtedly affect your hard drive. So they are listed below. And our 4DDiG has a lot of experience and is very well known for overcoming these factors professionally. Users can check all significant factors affecting their hard drive. All of them are listed below. Take a good look before extracting data from an external hard drive.

File system : We know that external hard drives can be formatted in various file formats, which include various file systems (FAT, NTFS, HFS+, EFS and XFS). It depends on other operating systems used. Including all these operating systems and various file formatting systems, 4DDiG can quickly satisfy all scenarios.

Hard disk size : More than 8 TB of external hard disks are on the market. Thus, recovering complete data from these hard drives is very difficult. But 4DDiG is very reliable to do it with experienced and highly trained engineers who are going to repair your hard drive. They should move on to the full disk data cloning process and then start restoring your hard drive. With this, all your data will be safe and secure.

2. How to recover data from an external hard drive using 4DDiG

If the user wants to recover data from external hard drives using 4DDiG, then this is the best and most professional way to recover them. Along with that, its user interface is so simple that it is easy to use for new visitors or users. Within a few clicks, the user can quickly fix the external hard drive problem. Users just need to carefully follow all the steps that are mentioned below.

  • Step 1: User needs to download and run Tenorshare 4DDiG data recovery software on PC or Mac. And then connect the external hard drive to your computer. Now launch the program, select your external hard drive and click on the option “ Scan ”.
  • Free Download

    For PC

    Secure Boot

    Free Download

    FOR Mac

    Secure Boot

  • Step 2: The recovery program will then scan the entire drive. The scanning process will end when the progress bar reaches 100 percent. This panel is present at the top of the screen.
  • Step 3: Once the scanning process is completed, the user will be able to see all the files present in the recovery process. Users can select a file by clicking on it, but users can also preview the complete file before restoring. After that, click on the “Recovery” option. After that, a pop-up window will appear on the screen. Users can select the location to recover external hard drive data, and then click on the “ Restore ”.

In just three quick steps, the user can successfully recover data from an external hard drive.

Part 2. Alternative Methods for Data Recovery from External Hard Drive

1. Run the CHKDSK utility

The CHKDSK utility is used to repair or scan a hard drive. Regardless of whether it is present in the computer or is an external hard drive. This utility can be used with the CMD command. Carefully follow all the instructions to learn the CHKDSK utility using the CMD procedure.

Click the Start menu on your Windows PC and type cmd. Now right click on Command Prompt > Run as administrator.

This will bring up the CMD interface on your screen. The user now needs to enter chkdsk g: /f . The letter g now represents the external attributes of the hard drive. Users can check the attributes of an external hard drive by going to File Explorer > This PC. The user then needs to press Enter.

The user now needs to wait a few minutes to complete the CHKDSK scan process. The duration of the scanning process depends on the size of the external hard drive.

After successfully completing the scanning process, the user needs to restart the computer and check again if the drive is working again or not.

After successfully completing step 4, the user can run the CHKDSK utility.

2. Data recovery services

If you are collecting really important data on your external hard drive and all the methods you used have failed and cannot recover your external hard drive. Then there is only one solution left: the user needs to contact the data recovery service. They specialize in data recovery from external hard drives. They also have a lot of experience in hard drive data recovery in the worst case. Carefully read all the steps related to data recovery services.

  • The user needs to contact an expert data recovery service and specify the exact problem.
  • The user then needs to send the hard drive to a Data Recovery Services location.
  • Now the experts begin to analyze your hard drive and determine the exact cost.
  • This is the decision of the user who agrees to the cost and moves on.


There are many reasons for losing data on an external drive. But we hope you can easily solve your external hard drive recovery problem. After reading this article, all the methods mentioned above will become hassle-free for you. And full credit goes to Tenorshare 4DDiG data recovery because its user interface is so simple and it only takes a few steps to recover your data from an external hard drive.