Recover Data From External Hard Drive That Isn’t Detected

An external hard drive is a mechanical device that is prone to damage and corruption like other storage drives. In one such case, user’s hard drive is not being detected by the computer system when connected. If you are also facing such difficult situation, stay calm and use the DIY methods described here to safely recover your data using Stellar Data Recovery software.

Restore Data from External Drive that is not detected
Figure 1: Restore Data from External Drive that is not detected

We often come across questions on technical forums where people describe that their external hard drive isn’t detected on their machines. For example-

My computer isn’t detecting my external hard drive. This is surprising since everything was working fine until an hour ago. My machine shut down unexpectedly while transferring some data from the drive and now, it isn’t showing up on my PC. There’s a lot of important data on the drive. Can anyone give me a hint as to what the problem is and how I can get a hold of my files?

Such situations though alarming, aren’t uncommon. An external hard drive is just another mechanical device that is prone to damage and corruption like other storage drives. Thus, you must be aware of the ways to deal with unexpected problems like the one described above.

Most of us use an external hard drive for storing data backups; however, hard drives can often be unreliable. That’s why experts suggest we should maintain multiple copies of our crucial data, that too, at different locations and on different storage devices.

Nevertheless, knowing why a hard drive isn’t detected on a computer plays an important role in rectifying the problem.

Why Hard Drives May Become Undetectable?

  • After sudden power surge while the hard drive is in use.
  • If the drive suffers any physical damage resulting from mishandling or dropping.
  • Due to abrupt system shutdown while the external hard drive is connected.
  • Due to a virus/malware infection.
  • Owing to wear and tear of the hard drive due to excessive or prolonged use.
  • Deletion of hard drive system files, drivers, or OS corruption.

When a hard drive isn’t detected on a system, you might not see anything happening on the system after connecting it. No sound, no Auto-Play pop-up, and the drive might not even appear in Disk Management tool.

Alternatively, you may see a message, “You need to Format disk Drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it now?” flash on the screen on connecting the external hard drive (see screenshot).

You need to Format disk Drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it now?
Error Message: You need to Format disk.

[Caution]: Don’t click ‘Format disk’. This will erase all the data on the drive. Formatting the hard drive appears an ideal and may be the only option available. However, it is common knowledge that formatting erases all data on the drive.

So what can one do to make the drive usable again, without losing the data that is already present on the drive, but isn’t recognized by the system?

You need to Format disk Drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it now?
Error Message: You need to Format disk.

Common Fixes You Can Try Out

Before you decide on giving up or running to a service center, here’s what you should try out:

1) Try plugging in the hard drive into another USB port. If it works, that means the problem is with your system’s USB port.

2) Try connecting the hard drive to another computer.

3) Reassign drive letter to the hard drive. For this:

  • Press Windows+R, type diskmgmt.msc in the box and click ‘OK’.
diskmgmt.msc
Step 1
  • In the window that opens, take note of all the letters already assigned to drives.
diskmgmt.msc
Step 2
  • Now right click on the external drive, select ‘Change Drive Letter and Paths…,’ and in the window that opens, click on the ‘Add’ button.
Change Drive Letter and Paths
Step 3
  • Choose a drive letter from the drop down and click ‘OK
Choose a drive letter
Step 4
  • Restart the PC or reconnect the drive to the computer and see if you can access it via File Explorer.

The last fix should make the drive recognizable and accessible to an extent. However, you might get a prompt message to format the drive to use it again. In such a case, hit ‘Cancel.’

However, if you have already clicked ‘Format’ after such prompt, stay calm. You can get back your data even after formatting.

Recovering Data from Unrecognized or Formatted External Hard Drive.

Important Note: Immediately stop using the external hard drive if it is formatted to avoid overwriting. Do not store any data or attempt to access the hard drive. All your previous files are recoverable unless overwritten by new data.

You can recover the lost data from a formatted and unrecognized (RAW) drive or volume by using a professional data recovery software like Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Windows. Below are the steps that you must follow to get back your crucial data:

Videos Tutorial: Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Windows
  • Install and launch Stellar Data Recovery Professional software on the system.
Free download
  • From the main screen, click ‘Recover Data.’ A new window will appear.
  • From ‘Select What to Recover’ screen, choose the file types you want to recover and click on ‘Next’.
Stellar data Recovery Professional
  • Then choose the external formatted or RAW (Unrecognized) drive from the options under ‘Connected Drives’.
stellar-data-recovery
  • Turn on the ‘Deep Scan’ toggle at the bottom and click ‘Scan.’
stellar-data-recovery
  • During the scan, you can turn ON/OFF the file preview.

Tip: Turning file preview OFF boosts the scanning speed.

  • After the scan, you’ll see that the files/folders get listed under ‘File Type’, ‘Tree View’ and ‘Deleted List.
Stellar Data Recovery Professional
  • Select the desired files that you want to recover from the scan result, and click on the ‘Recover’ button.
  • Click ‘Browse’ and choose a save location.
save recovered data
  • Click ‘Start Saving’ to save the recovered files at your desired location.
Stellar Data Recovery Professional

In addition to external hard drive recovery, Stellar Data Recovery Professional efficiently performs photo recovery; email recovery, CD/DVD recovery and hard drive image creation.

Try out its free version to test the software’s data recovery capabilities. You can scan and preview recoverable files with the demo version. Once satisfied, you can buy the full license to save the recovered data at your desired location.

Final Words

Always remember to maintain at least two backup copies of your crucial data. Moreover, avoid meddling with the hard drive while it is being used.

Do not disconnect it while in use, and always safely remove the drive after use. However, if you still find yourself in a difficult situation, like the one described in this article, stay calm and use the methods described in this post to safely recover your data.

Comments(141)
  1. saad May 26, 2019
    • Satyeshu Kumar May 28, 2019
  2. Jon Bartell February 24, 2019
    • Satyeshu Kumar February 25, 2019
  3. Luiz Mauricio Matos dos Santos February 19, 2019
    • Satyeshu Kumar February 22, 2019
  4. Sun krishna January 28, 2019
    • Satyeshu Kumar January 30, 2019
  5. Lisa Roberson January 17, 2019
    • Satyeshu Kumar January 18, 2019
  6. Ravi June 12, 2018
    • Isha Rikhi June 14, 2018
  7. World Techpedia May 16, 2018
  8. Kane Benson April 25, 2018
    • Jyoti Prakash April 26, 2018
  9. Nje February 5, 2018
    • Jyoti Prakash February 6, 2018
  10. Chandra January 10, 2018
    • Jyoti Prakash January 12, 2018
  11. manju January 3, 2018
    • Jyoti Prakash January 4, 2018
  12. Neha December 8, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash December 20, 2017
  13. Brent1123 November 7, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash November 22, 2017
  14. Jaidul October 26, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash October 31, 2017
  15. Fadzil September 27, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash September 29, 2017
  16. Vishal T September 22, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash September 25, 2017
  17. Aamir Hussain September 9, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash September 11, 2017
  18. Dipankar Sen September 1, 2017
  19. shibam August 14, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash August 17, 2017
  20. Aakash gupta August 6, 2017
  21. Hemant Birare July 30, 2017
  22. Roger July 28, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash August 14, 2017
  23. Renars July 21, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash July 22, 2017
  24. venkata ramana July 11, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash July 11, 2017
  25. SOHAM ROY June 29, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash June 30, 2017
  26. Galen June 28, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash June 29, 2017
  27. David June 12, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash June 13, 2017
  28. madhav sawale June 12, 2017
  29. Henry Lewis May 17, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash May 19, 2017
  30. Mohamed May 15, 2017
  31. Mark Robinson April 27, 2017
  32. rishi April 26, 2017
  33. Sam April 25, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash May 11, 2017
  34. Jordan Clinton March 28, 2017
  35. Phelia soh March 23, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash May 11, 2017
  36. Karen Hill March 21, 2017
  37. Vishakha March 18, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash May 11, 2017
  38. John Henry February 23, 2017
  39. Kevin Smith February 14, 2017
  40. Douglas Clark January 23, 2017
  41. JIGNESH January 13, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash January 23, 2017
  42. Vivienne January 11, 2017
    • Jyoti Prakash January 11, 2017
  43. Maria Green January 10, 2017
  44. Sarah Campbell January 9, 2017
  45. Mark Robinson December 29, 2016
  46. Marry Young December 21, 2016
  47. Arijit Biswas December 20, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash December 22, 2016
  48. Mark Anderson December 15, 2016
  49. Jose Brown December 14, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash December 15, 2016
  50. T Patrick December 14, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash December 15, 2016
  51. Lewis Chamber December 2, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash December 6, 2016
  52. Foster Brown November 30, 2016
  53. Rishi November 1, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash November 3, 2016
  54. Simon September 30, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash October 3, 2016
  55. David September 27, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash September 30, 2016
  56. Frank Taylor September 26, 2016
  57. Riley Thompson September 23, 2016
  58. Edward September 14, 2016
    • Jyoti Prakash September 14, 2016
  59. Cheryl Devoy September 9, 2016