How to Recover Files From an External Hard Drive


external hard drive data recovery with disk drill

Is it Possible to Recover Files From an External Hard Drive?

It certainly is possible! If you suddenly realize you have accidentally deleted files from a removable hard drive, don’t panic. Data recovery software can retrieve files from an external hard drive. Windows hasn’t really deleted your files, just made them unavailable. Until they are overwritten by new data, you can undelete them. The key is not to overwrite the files you want to recover. Stop using the drive immediately to give yourself the best chance of recovering your deleted data.

external hard drive data recovery via disk drill

External hard drives offer a great way to extend the storage capabilities of your computer or share data with other users. They are just as susceptible to data loss as any other type of disk-based storage media. If you make extensive use of portable drives, there is likely to be a time when you need to perform an external hard drive data recovery. When faced with lost or deleted files, recovery software offers a viable way to restore them.

Solution: Perform External Hard Drive Recovery via Disk Drill

Disk Drill for Windows offers a flexible and effective method to recover data from an external hard disk.

To recover files from an external hard drive you need to:

  1. Download and install the program on your Windows machine.
  2. Connect the external hard drive to your computer and launch Disk Drill.
  3. Select the portable drive from the app’s list of accessible disks.
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to start scanning the drive.external hard drive data recovery
  5. Preview the recoverable files and choose those that you want to to recover files from external hard drive
  6. Click the Recover button to retrieve the files to the location of your choice.external hard drive recovery

That’s all there is to it. In the space of a few clicks, you can restore data that has disappeared from an external hard drive.

The Main Reasons for External Hard Drive Data Loss

Data loss on an external hard drive can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common issues that lead to lost or deleted files and cause you to recover files from an external hard drive.

  • Human error – The number one reason that data is lost from any type of storage media is human error. It’s is very easy to accidentally delete files or format a partition of an HDD inadvertently. You have probably emptied your Recycle Bin and then wondered if there was anything in there that you may need just a second too late. It happens all too often to even the most careful user.
  • Environmental factors – Exposing your portable hard drive to too much moisture or heat can cause it to crash, resulting in data loss. You might leave a drive in a parked car and return to find it has overheated. In some cases, the device may be irretrievably broken and your only course of action is to engage a professional data recovery service. If you value your data, take care of your external hard drive and keep it in a cool and dry location at all times.
  • Malware and viruses – Another major cause of data loss is infection by a virus or malware application. Some of these nefarious programs may randomly delete information from your machine, leaving you searching for an explanation for those missing files. The best protection against this type of data loss is to keep your computer’s antivirus software updated to minimize the chance of a successful attack against your machine. You should also take care when connecting an external drive to unfamiliar computers, as this introduces another potential entry point for malicious software to gain access to your data.

Common Fixes You Can Try in Case Your Hard Drive is Undetectable

Problems with your operating system not recognizing your external drive are usually caused by physical connectivity or drive naming issues. Try these fixes if you can’t connect to an external drive.

Fix #1

Physical connectivity – The first thing to do is to try the drive in another port if one is available. You want to eliminate the possibility that the problem is with the interface and not with the drive. It also might be that the cable is bad. Try swapping cables. It just might solve your connectivity problem.

how to recover data from external hard disk by swap cable

Fix #2

Drive naming – The drive needs to have a unique drive name for Windows to recognize it in File Explorer. If the drive has not been assigned a letter or is trying to use the same name as another drive, you need to use Disk Management to resolve the issue. Once the naming conflict is addressed, try accessing the drive again. You should be successful this time. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open Windows Disk Management.
  2. Locate the drive whose name you want to change. If you are unsure, right-click and select Explore to verify the data on the drive before you rename it.
  3. After verification, right-click the drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
  4. Choose Change and select a name for the drive in the Assign the following drive letter drop-down box.
  5. Click OK and the Yes when warned that some programs may not work correctly with the renamed to retrieve files from external hard drive with drive letter

How to Protect Your Data on External Hard Drives

Based on the main causes of data loss described previously, these are the most important steps you can take to protect data on an external hard drive:

  • Keep the drive away from excessive heat or moisture. Keep your external drive out of the sunlight and out of hot parked cars.
  • Always maintain strong antivirus protection with a quality commercial application. Periodically running a scan on the external drive is a good idea to keep it free of malware.
  • Take care when deleting files or formatting partitions. Make sure you have specified the target correctly. Check your work before pressing that button!

Disk Drill – Powerful External Hard Drive Recovery Software

Disk Drill uses advanced scanning technology to recover deleted files from external hard drives or any other type of disk-based storage device. It can restore lost and deleted photos, videos, music, and documents in over 400 different formats. The tool can recover data for users with any level of computer knowledge, from data recovery professionals to general users, with an intuitive and user-friendly interface. As demonstrated above, with a few simple clicks you are on your way to external hard drive recovery.

Disk Drill can be downloaded and tried for free to recover up to 500 MB of data.

how to recover data from external hard disk

Once you are satisfied that the app works as advertised you can easily upgrade to the full version. The tool comes with extra data protection features such as the ability to create byte-level backups for recovery purposes. The proprietary Recovery Vault acts as a supplemental Recycle Bin that allows you to designate important files or folders to protect from accidental deletion. It’s a comprehensive solution to data recovery and protection.

how to retrieve files from external hard drive

Reasons to Use Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software is a cost-efficient alternative to sending your hard drive to a professional data recovery service. The application works as an extractor and recovers data from storage locations marked as unavailable to the operating system. It’s the only way to retrieve files from a mass deletion or an accidentally formatted external hard drive.

Backing up your computer is a best practice that should be followed by all users and provides protection against data loss. But many times a data loss scenario occurs before the affected files have been backed up. In these cases, data recovery software offers the only hope of restoring the lost information.

Did You Know?

The first 1-terabyte capacity hard drive was introduced by Hitachi in 2007. The drive was introduced at a price of $399. The drives consisted of five platters which each held 200 GB of data and was suitable for external or internal use. This illustrates how far storage prices have fallen in the ensuing 12 years. Today you can obtain a wide range of 1 TB hard drives for around $50, which makes saving all those videos more affordable.


Q: How much does external hard drive data recovery cost?

Disk Drill enables you to recover up to 500 MB for free. After that, it’s less than a hundred dollars to get your lost photos back. It’s a small price to pay for restoring those irreplaceable memories. Going to a data recovery service will entail the cost of shipping the drive and the variable prices charged by the vendor.

Q: Will I get lost files back safely?

Yes. To ensure the files are recovered safely, specify a recovery location that is not on the original drive. This will protect them from corruption as they are being restored.

Q: Is it possible to recover data from a formatted hard drive?

Yes it is. When a hard drive or partition is formatted it is made available for use by the operating system. Until the space is used and the previous data is overwritten, you can use data recovery tools to restore the files.

Jeff Cochin is a data management and recovery professional, who has been with Pandorarecovery for nine years and has always been an essential part of the team. Jeff also works as a technical writer at Macgasm, being a first hand in testing, trying and writing about big and small tech software.