Recover Files from Accidentally Formatted External Hard Drive

This article presents how to recover data from accidentally formatted external hard drive, and shows you a good way to protect your data.


by Delia Updated on October 25, 2022

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User case

Format is the process of preparing a partition for data storage by deleting all the data on it. Sometime, you may accidentally format an external hard drive but there are some important files on it.

“I was going to format only the flash drive, but my external hard drive has been accidentally formatted. All my files were stored in this drive since last year and I didn't back up these files. Can I recover files from the formatted external drive? I need your help please!”

Can l recover data on external hard drive after formatting?

Actually, formatting a disk does not erase the real data. All the data doesn't disappear from the hard drive before you do any other operation to the hard drive. Therefore, you can try to recover data on external drive after formatting.

You must pay attention to the following things before you do. 

  • Do not add new items to the external hard drive, it will occupy the space of old files.

  • Do not reformat the external hard drive, the process will make it impossible to recover your files.

  • Stop using the external hard drive until your files are recovered.

How to recover files off a formatted external hard drive?

Command prompt is one of the most powerful inbuilt utilities on a computer. It can help you recover deleted files from external hard drives, flash drives, memory cards, and other storage devices. However, CMD only works if there is no secondary operation after formatting the disk. If you add new files to that drive or reformat it, you may lose your data forever.

Before using command prompt, you need to do these preparations at first:

  • Connect your external hard drive to your computer and make sure it can be detected.

  • Check the drive letter of your external hard drive via Computer/This PC or Disk Management.

Step 1. Click Start and type cmd in the search box. Right-click it and run as administrator.   

Step 2. Type: chkdsk F: /f/r in the command prompt and hit Enter to run it. Replace F with the drive letter of the device where you lost files or data.

Note:/r refers to repair attribute: tell command prompt to repair problems when it finds any.


After this, the system will scan this external hard drive and repair the file. Then, your lost files will all be found and saved in your external hard drive. 

You must be very careful while using CMD command line to recover data from formatted external hard drive. Because any misoperation may cause more severe problems and your data is at risk of being permanently lost. To avoid data loss, you could consider creating a backup with a reliable tool like AOMEI Backupper in advance instead of trying to recover the data after losing.

Protect your data with AOMEI Backupper

AOMEI Backupper Standard is a free backup and restore software that can help you achieve the following things:

  • It can help you backup files to different destinations such as external hard drive, USB drive, network and so on.

  • With its scheduled backup feature, you can set a regular backup like Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Backup. After setting, this software will automatically backup your data. 

  • It allows you to backup files to AOMEI Cloud automatically and offers you 1TB of free storage in 15 days after you register an AOMEI account.

  • It is also a powerful restore software. Whenever you lose the original files, you can restore them with this software.

Now, download AOMEI Backupper Standard, install and launch it. Then, follow the steps to protect your data with AOMEI Backupper.

Note: If you want to backup files to external hard drive or other external devices, you need to connect it to your computer and make it can be detected.

Step 1. Click "File Backup" under the "Backup" tab.

File Backup

Step 2. Click Add File or Add Folder to add files according to your needs.

Add File or Add Folder

Step 3. Select backup destination to store your files.

Select Destination

Step 4. (Optional) You can click on “Schedule” to select Daily/Weekly/Monthly backup at the General tab or Incremental/Differential Backup under Advanced tab as you like.

Schedule Settings General

Step 5. Click Start Backup to execute the task.

Start Backup


Accidentally formatting external hard drive happens often among people. And there is no guarantee that the data recovery must be successful every time. Therefore, it’s necessary for you to backup files in advance with AOMEI Backupper. With a backup at hand, you can restore files or folders at any time when it's lost.

In addition, AOMEI Backupper Standard is for Windows Vista/XP/7/8/10, if you are a Windows Server user, you can try another version-AOMEI Backupper Server.

Delia · Editor
Delia owns extensive experience in writing technology-related blog posts, and has been a part of AOMEI since 2020 to provide expertise in data security and disaster recovery. She works with Windows operating systems, SQL databases, and virtualization platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, specializing in troubleshooting and advising on data protection and migration.