How To Recover Files From Raw External Hard Drive

A hard drive may turn RAW due to various factors such as malware infections, file system errors, corrupt file, system crash, etc. A Raw external hard drive indicates a logical volume with an undefined or unsupported file system. With no known file system, a RAW external hard drive becomes inaccessible— one that can neither be accessed nor be used to store data. In several cases of a RAW drive, the drive may contain partitions that are not recognizable.

Raw External Hard Drive

WARNING: In Windows, when you connect the RAW external hard drive, it prompts you to format it. NEVER click ‘Format Disk’ if you see such prompt. When you format a RAW drive, the data that is inside the drive is also lost.

Format Disk

To check a RAW drive, open the ‘Disk Management’. Further, find the drive’s partitions file system and check if any of them has turned into RAW, unallocated, or free.

Also, when you attempt to access such partition on the hard drive, you may encounter an error message stating, ‘Disk in the drive is not formatted, do you want to format it now’ or ‘Location is not available.

Location is not available

If that’s the case with your drive or a partition, probably your drive is corrupt or has a damaged file system. However, the data remains on the drive unless you format it. And to retrieve your data from such drive, you can try repairing the drive with CHKDSK scan. It fixes logical and file-system errors on the drive, and make it accessible.

Repair File System Errors with CHKDSK

When a RAW or corrupt external drive is connected, it’s recognized as a drive with an unsupported file system. It may or may not show in the file explorer. However, in both the cases, you won’t be able to access the drive and the data stored within.

You can run CHKDSK scan/repair if the system throws an error when you connect the drive. But if it doesn’t, then you need to assign a drive letter to your RAW drive or partition via Disk Management tool.

To run chkdsk and repair the corrupt drive, follow these steps:

  1. Press ‘Windows+S’ and type ‘cmd.’
  2. Right click on Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator.
  3. Then find out the drive letter of the RAW or corrupt drive and type chkdsk /f /r X: where X is the drive letter.
  4. Press the Enter key to begin the scan.
  5. After the scan is finished, re-connect the drive and try to access it via File Explorer.

If the drive is still inaccessible, you will need a data recovery software that supports recovery from a RAW drive. One such software is Stellar Data Recovery Professional.

What’s nice about the software is that it natively recognizes and facilitates recovery from a RAW drive and missing partitions. In just 3-steps, you can recover data from a RAW or corrupt drive.

Quick, 3-Step Data Recovery From a RAW External Hard Drive

Connect the external hard drive and install Stellar Data Recovery Professional software on your Windows PC.

Free download

Then launch the software and start with the 3-step data recovery process, as follows:

  1. Select the data you wish to recover and click ‘Next.’
  2. Select the RAW volume or the corrupt drive listed under ‘Connected Drives’.
  3. Click ‘Scan’ and then select recovered data you wish to save at your desired location.

Also, you can preview the recovered files after scan, sort & filter the scan results, and use search to locate and recover the critical files quickly. The scan results are displayed in the left ‘Tree View’ pane by default. You can click ‘File Type’ to sort the data according to the file type.

Further, when you click the ‘Recover’ button after selecting the files, it provides ‘Advanced Settings’ option that can be used to save recovered files in one or multiple compressed folders. This saves significant storage space and comes handy when you are running on low storage.

Additionally, the software lets you save the scan results information (usually in a few KBs) that you can load in the software at a later stage to resume recovery. Again, it comes handy when you have low storage and less time as data recovery can be a time-consuming process.

So there you have it, a seamless way of recovering file from a RAW external drive.


  1. To prevent a drive from becoming RAW or getting corrupt, always eject the drive before removing or disconnecting it. Especially, when you are running an I/O operation on the drive such as cut/copy/paste or accessing data from it.
  2. Use a S.M.A.R.T. analysis tool to keep an eye on the drive’s health. The recovery software we discussed comes with disk-monitoring tool that keeps you updated about your connected drive’s health on the go.
  3. Do not format a RAW drive and keep its use at minimal. Try CHKDSK repair or use a data recovery software to access or retrieve your data


Sometimes a RAW drive can be easily repaired with the help of Windows proprietary error checking tools such as CHKDSK. However, the tool can only handle and repair minor logical drive errors within the file system. Therefore, when chkdsk fails to repair, you need to act immediately and use a data recovery software such as the one we discussed in the post.

The software Stellar Data Recovery Professional supports recovery from RAW and severely corrupt drives. Besides, it comes with a built in disk-monitoring tool that monitors both internal and external hard drives for errors.

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