How to Recover Files from Your Ruined External HDD

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An external hard disk drive is an excellent storage device. You can basically take almost all of your files from your computer and carry it anywhere. However, having all of your data stored in one place can be risky. Any damage, physical or digital, taken by your external HDD can corrupt all of your files.

Just like any storage medium, an external HDD can be vulnerable. No matter how much you protect your data, there will always be something that can corrupt the contents of your HDD. If you’re unable to protect your external HDD and end up with corrupted data, we’ll show you many ways to recover them.


Reasons Why Your External HDD Is Corrupted

When you notice that your computer cannot detect your external HDD, you might think that the worst has happened. Your external HDD is corrupted, and now, you are unable to access your data.

Your external HDD has the same components as the one that is in your computer’s system unit. Being a portable device makes it even more vulnerable to physical damages. On top of that, your external HDD will also get more malfunctions as it reaches its lifespan.

Physical damages aside, your external HDD can be corrupted. When a device has data stored in it, expect that there is a plethora of malware, viruses, and Trojan horses waiting to feed off of them. Your external HDD can get infected when you plug it in many end devices, especially public computers.

Reasons Why Your External HDD Is Corrupted

In order to recover your data from a corrupted HDD, you must understand the underlying problem. So here is our list of some reasons why your external HDD gets corrupted.

  • Accidental Dropping – as previously stated, an external HDD is just the same as your computer’s HDD. They are highly sensitive that even the slightest smack can cause problems. Dropping an external HDD will absolutely break its internal parts, thereby causing multiple types of errors.
  • Formatting Errors – when you plug your external HDD on an infected computer, it is instantly infected. Virus, malware, Trojans, and even computer worms make the firmware malfunction as well as damage the file system. This will lead to formatting errors that will prevent you from formatting your HDD.
  • File System Corruption – there are two types of file systems: FAT32 and NTFS. These file systems are ways on how files are named and where they are stored logically for retrieval and storage. When your file system gets corrupted, the computer may not be able to detect your drive. This can make you lose access to your data permanently.
  • Head Crash – the read-write head directly hovers nanometers above the platter. When your external HDD gets damaged physically, the read-write head will get into contact with the spinning platter. This tampers with the regular functioning of your external HDD.
  • Other Errors – there are a lot of unknown errors that can pop out when using your external HDD. Here are some of the error messages that you can see when plugging in your HDD:
    • Hard drive isn’t formatted, format it first.
    • The type of the file system is RAW
    • <drive letter> isn’t accessible

Aside from these issues, an external HDD may need to be recovered even though it can still be accessed. Instances such as getting infected with a shortcut virus, as well as accidental formatting, can be rather common at times. The latter will need special tools that can recover deleted files which is a more complicated process.


Troubleshooting and Recovery

After identifying the cause of your external HDD’s corruption, you will know which application to use for data recovery. Common issues can be fixed with the use of command prompt. However, if you are experiencing a bigger problem, there are tons of software you can use to recover data from a corrupted HDD as well as those that were deleted.


Using Command Prompt

Using Command Prompt

Command Prompt, also known as cmd.exe, and officially as Windows Command Processor, is a command line interpreter application for Windows computers. This tool enables you to control the computer and devices connected to it as long as you know the right commands.

Even though there are only a few command lines for data recovery, cmd.exe is powerful enough to fix common issues with your external HDD. To open Command Prompt, press the windows key and then ‘R’. Afterward, type “cmd” in the search bar.

You can use cmd.exe for recovering data from a virus-infected HDD or corrupted HDD’s with bad sectors and also recover files that are inaccessible due to having a RAW file system. Below are some of the commands to use when recovering data from an external HDD.

  • The “chkdsk” Command – if your external HDD has bad sectors, you can recover your files with the “chkdsk” command. On the Command Prompt, type in “chkdsk <drive letter>: /r/f”. For example: “chkdsk c: /r/f”.
  • The “diskpart” Command – when your file system becomes RAW, you can use “diskpart”. After pressing enter, you will notice that you are opening diskpart.exe rather than cmd.exe, and instead of seeing “C:\User” on the window you will see “DISKPART>”. Type in, “rescan” and hit enter.
  • The “attrib” Command – when your external HDD, or even a flash drive or memory card, gets infected with a virus, you can use “attrib” to recover your files. You may have encountered this already because of the dreaded shortcut virus that infects almost every storage device. To recover your files, open cmd.exe and type in “attrib -h -r -s /s /d <drive letter>:\*.*”. For example: “attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:\*.*”.



Using Data Recovery Software

The Command Prompt is a useful application; and yes, it can solve the common problems that you can have with your external HDD. But what if your data cannot be retrieved with a few simple command lines? That means that you will have to use a third-party software. But don’t worry, you can find a wide selection of data recovery software on the internet. There are free applications with limited features that are enough to give you what you need. However, if you want to prepare for a worse situation, it’s ideal to invest in premium versions to protect and save your data.


EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a data recovery software that specializes in hard drive recovery, raw recovery, format recovery, and partition recovery. You can also use the software for recovering permanently deleted data. As stated on their website, the software is easy to use and can be downloaded for Windows and Mac OS. You can download it for free on their website,, or buy the full version.

In any data loss scenario, EaseUS is relatively easy to use. A few mouse clicks are all you need to recover your data right away. Below are the steps on using EaseUS to recover data from a corrupted external HDD or from any storage device.

  1. Connect your external HDD to your PC and open EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.
  2. Select the corrupted disk and click “Scan” to search for all files, including the lost ones. The quick scan will start first by clicking the button.
  3. After the quick scan, a deep scan will automatically begin to search for more files.
  4. After the deep scan, you can select the lost files found by the data recovery software. Click “Recover” to recover and retrieve the lost data selected.
  5. Save all recovered data on a different drive or storage device. This way, you avoid overwriting data and also protect the recovered files in case of data recovery failure.

Aside from being available on Mac and Windows PC, as well as being easy to use, EaseUS can recover files on all types of external HDD and other storage media from many brands. This includes Seagate, Apricorn, Lacie, Sandisk, Toshiba, Western Digital, Transcend, iStorage, and many others.


ReclaiMe Data Recovery Software

ReclaiMe Data Recovery Software

ReclaiMe is, according to its website (, a “data recovery software for all occasions”. It is just like any other data recovery software – a tool to recover corrupt or lost data. You can also download a free RAID recovery addon that is capable of recovering files from a RAID array. However, this application is only specific to Windows computers. In order to recover a Mac storage device, you need to connect it to a Windows PC.

ReclaiMe has a lot of great reviews from tech forums as well as high ratings from many websites that distribute software. It has a five-star rating from and a 4.2 out of 5 stars from Mike Williams from wrote that ReclaiMe is a “comprehensive undelete tool which remains generally easy to use.”

Using ReclaiMe to recover data from an external HDD is simple. Here are the steps to do just that.

  1. Open ReclaiMe File Recovery software and look for the external drive that you want to retrieve data from. Usually, this can be found under “USB devices”.
  2. Double click the drive to begin file recovery.
  3. After recovering, the lost files will be displayed. Select the files you want to recover and click “Save” on the toolbar. You can also click “Save” and choose “Save All” from the menu.

If your external drive is not seen in the ReclaiMe window, that means your HDD has a damaged enclosure or faulty internal parts. You can still access your external HDD by following these steps.

  1. Extract the disk from its box and put it into another.
  2. You can also use a SATA-to-USB adapter or even connect it directly to your PC’s SATA port after removing the disk from its enclosure.
  3. After connecting it to your PC, check if your drive is functioning. If Windows asks you to format the drive, don’t do it. Follow the data recovery steps as previously mentioned to get your corrupted data.

Many users have stated that using ReclaiMe to recover data takes a long time. For them, as long as it gets the job done efficiently and effectively, they can be patient. Moreover, based on 2015 statistics ReclaiMe has a success rate of 94%.

Also, if you’re interested, ReclaiMe has many tutorials on how to use their software as well as other data recovery techniques. You can even have free data recovery training from their website designed for those who “want deeper knowledge in data recovery”.


Prevention Is Better Than Cure

When your external HDD gets corrupted, it could mean that your drive has reached its lifespan. It is advised that you never use the drive again when the same problem persists after recovering data from it and fixing it. What you need to do is get a new external drive and transfer all data from your old one into it. Now that you’ve had an experience with a corrupt external drive, you should do your best to prevent such problems in the future. Below are some of our tips and tricks to extend your external HDD’s lifespan.

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s manual on safe handling and using of the drive.
  2. Avoid banging or moving the drive too much as it can damage the moving parts.
  3. Avoid extreme temperatures as they can impair the electronic parts of the system.
  4. Have a good, uninterrupted power supply (UPS or battery backup) for your computers. A power surge can lead to hard disk failure.
  5. When using the external HDD, it must be placed on a flat surface.
  6. When removing the external HDD, always use “Remove USB Device”. Doing otherwise will increase the risk of electrical damage.


Recovering Data from an External Drive Is Simple

As long as you know what you are doing and which tools to use, recovering lost and corrupted data from an external HDD is simple. However, knowing how to recover data does not mean you can be careless about your external drive. We highly suggest that you take good care of your drive; however, if you cannot avoid it, you can follow our various methods of recovering data. Knowing how to recover data from an external HDD can be a life-saver, especially when your life’s work is stored on your drive.

By the way, if for any reason disk drive recovery isn’t working – time to by a new drive. Check out Best portable hard drive list

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