3 Ways | Fix a Corrupted External Hard Drive without Formatting

Find your external hard drive corrupted and want to fix it without formatting? This page will lead you to repair a corrupted hard disk without losing data.


by Lily Updated on October 30, 2023

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The scenario

I'm using 80GB external hard disk for my study use. When I brought it to my Uni's computer lab today, it was hang and without access. It showed the message ‘the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable’. Could you please let me know what the matter is with my hard disk? I don't have any backup. It's so awful for me to lose the information stored in my hard disk.... please... I need help....”

External hard drives can become corrupted or not accessible due to various reasons, such as file system error, bad sectors, virus attack, sudden ejection or other improper operations. Reformatting the hard drive can fix any non-physical errors on the drive. Nevertheless, all contents will be erased in the formatting process. Can we fix a corrupted external hard drive without formatting? Surely we can!

How to repair a corrupted external hard disk without formatting in Windows

To repair a corrupted external hard disk without formatting, you can try the three fixes offered below:

Fix 1: Connect to another USB port or a new PC

Sometimes a corrupted USB port can cause an external drive becomes inaccessible. You can easily fix it by connecting the external drive to another USB port or a new PC.

Fix 2: Change drive letter and paths

If fix 1 doesn’t work, try to change drive letter and paths to show up the external hard drive. Follow the steps below:

1. Hit Windows Key + X on your keyboard, and select Disk Management from the menu.

2. Right click the external drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.

Change Drive Letter and Paths

3. In the pop-up window, click Change.

Select Change

4. In the next window, choose a drive letter from the drop-down menu and click OK.

Assign Drive Letter

5. You will get a prompt that some programs might rely on drive letters to run properly. Click Yes to continue as long as the drive letter you assign here is not occupied by another drive where the programs are installed.

Fix 3: Run the CHKDSK utility

The CHKDSK utility will scan through your entire hard drive to find and fix problems. You need to run CHKDSK in CMD. Learn how to fix a corrupted hard drive using CMD below:

1. Tap the Search button on the taskbar and type “cmd” in the search box. Right click “cmd” and then select “Run as administrator”.

2. Type chkdsk F: /f /r /x and press Enter. F is the drive letter of the corrupted external hard drive.


Tip: The meaning of the parameters used—“/f” tells chkdsk to fix any errors it finds; “/r” tells it to locate the bad sectors on the drive and recover readable information; “/x” forces the drive to dismount before the process starts.

3. Type exit and press Enter to exit Command Prompt.

🔔 Important Note:

If the external hard drive becomes RAW due to certain damages, you may encounter the error that CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives. In this situation, you can use a professional data recovery tool like MyRecover to recover data from the corrupted drive to another place and then format the drive to make it usable again.

Recover Data on External Drive

Further reading: backup your hard drive before it corrupts

How to repair a corrupted hard disk without formatting? Backup, the most fundamental disaster recovery technology, is the answer. If you make a backup for your external hard drive, you can restore it to normal state when it gets corrupted. The recovery process will bring you back not only a working drive but also all the data stored on it when the backup is made.

Here I’d like to recommend the best free backup software—AOMEI Backupper Standard to you.

AOMEI Backupper
Best External Hard Drive Backup Software
  • It enables you to perform full system backups as well as backup specific files, disks and partitions.
  • To ensure your backups are kept up to date, you can schedule backups so they happen automatically.
  • All Windows PC systems like Windows 11/10/8/7 are supported. If you are a server user, try server backup software.

Learn how to backup an external hard drive via AOMEI Backupper in detail below:

1. Connect the external drive to your computer and make sure it is detected.

2. Install and run AOMEI Backupper. Click Backup on the left pane and select Disk Backup.

Disk Backup

3. Click Add Disk to select the external drive as the source disk to be backed up.

Select External Disk

4. Click the folder shaped button in the second column to select the destination path to save the image backup.

Select Destination Path

5. Click Start Backup to run the backup. Safely disconnect the drive when the backup is finished.

Start Backup


  • Options: you can enable email notification, choose the compression level for the backup image file and select intelligent sector backup or sector-by-sector backup.

  • Schedule Backup: you can set the backup task to run automatically at fixed intervals.

  • Backup Scheme: it will delete old image files automatically to save disk space for you. This feature is supported by AOMEI Backupper Professional and higher editions.

With the disk backup at hand, you can fix a corrupted external hard drive without formatting easily by performing disk restore.


Now you know how to fix a corrupted external hard drive without formatting in Windows. You can connect your external drive to a different USB port or PC, change drive letter of the drive, or run the CHKDSK utility.

To protect your hard disk from possible errors, you can create backups for it with AOMEI Backupper. Besides the backup & recovery functions, AOMEI Backupper owns the clone and sync features. You may use it to clone Dell laptop hard drive and sync local folders to Synology NAS, etc. If you happen to have these needs, download it to have a try right now!

Lily · Editor
Lily Green joined AOMEI in 2018 and has since become a professional in the areas of data protection and data transfer. She is committed to helping users protect their precious computer data and troubleshoot Windows system errors. She consistently stays vigilant about the latest trends in technology, guaranteeing that the given information aligned with the ongoing advancements in the field.