By Stephanie / Last update May 7, 2022

External hard drives are often used on Windows systems to give expanded storage space to home computers. They are a fabulous alternative for storing personal data that you don’t want to be on your computer's hard disk drive. Data is also shared effortlessly on an external hard drive with others.

Many people save data on an external device and want to store it also for future usage. However, the external drive can be damaged or corrupted sometimes due to various reasons, which can put your data at risk of data loss, like other storage devices. Some cases are easily addressed to get lost data recovered.

Before acquiring the different methods to recover files and data from an external hard drive, finding out the causes of data loss can help you to protect your data in the future.

What causes data loss on an external hard drive?

The following factors may result in corrupted or damaged external hard drives: file transfer interruption, virus or malware infection, read & write head crash, corrupted file and file system, etc.

There is a list of common hard disk problems and the types of damage they cause. You can use this list to decide whether you can try to retrieve lost data by yourself or contact a recovery service.

✪ Accidental file deletion--Usually, this kind of logical damage does not lead to a dead hard disk. If you take action fast, data can typically be retrieved using operating system capabilities or applications for data recovery.

✪ Formatted or reformatted external hard disk--If you format your Western Digital or Samsung external hard disk mistakenly, the contents that contained it effectively have caused logical damage. Fortunately, data recovery software can help you retrieve data from the formatted drive or partition. The important thing is to stop using the drive until you have recovered.

✪ Corrupted file and files systems-- A corrupted files system is a type of logical damage that can stop your external hard drive from operating. File system corruption may result in a crashed drive not allowing you to boot your computer. Data recovery software can work this type of problem out.

✪ Mechanical damage—Internal parts of hard drives move at high speed and can be less reliable as they age. Read/write heads on a hard drive hover over the surface of the platters that store your information, and data loss may happen if they contact the platter. Other typical physical defects include the interior wear and abrasion of the plates:
-Spindle which controls the spinning of the hard drive locks up
-Actuator arms do not work correctly
-Noises from the read/write head faults, clicking or beeping on the drive
This type of damage often causes your system's failure to recognize the device. If your system cannot recognize the drive, you will have to restore your data with a recovery service.

✪ Power surges-- A power spike may damage your external hard drive and lead to a broken storage device requiring data recovery software to restore data. It seems the drive is dead after being exposed to an intense power spike.

If your external hard drive is logically damaged or corrupted, there are methods to help you to get data back. However, if it is caused by mechanical or physical damage, it may work to send the disk to the nearest tech support company.

How to recover files from external hard drive not detected by Windows?

Let's talk about what to do if your external hard device isn't detected by Windows before going into the details of data recovery. You can take several actions to solve the problem of an external hard drive not showing up on the computer.

  • Check the connection and cables—Make sure your device is connected correctly to your computer. There is no harm in changing a different cable to check whether it works.
  • Try a different USB port or computer—Maybe the USB port is not good or the computer can’t recognize the external hard drive. Try a different USB port or computer that can solve this problem.
  • Update device drivers—Outdated drivers can influence your computer to detect the external hard drive. Click here to update your USB device drivers.
  • Format the external hard drive—Corrupted or Raw hard disks can be detected by the operating system after being formatted. Be careful that this method can wipe data on the external hard drive.

How to restore data from external hard drive?

Whatever the causes result in the corrupted external hard drive, you need to fix the external drive first and recover lost data. When you lost external hard drive files, the most important thing is to stop using the external hard drive immediately. Because continuous operation will make the lost files overwritten or covered by new data.

Then you need to distinguish your external hard disk issues, logical damage, or physical damage. Follow the methods to recover lost data from an external hard drive.

#1 Use the Windows command prompt: CHKDSK

A corrupted external hard disk can be fixed by formatting, but there will always be data loss. If your data is lost and you merely want to repair your corrupted external hard drive. You can follow the steps to recover files from the external hard drive by using CMD.

Step 1: Connect the external hard disk with your computer

Step 2: Type “CMD” in the search box and right-click "Command Prompt" to choose "Run as administrator". Or press the Windows key + R and type “CMD” to run the command prompt.

Step 3: Type "chkdsk ‘drive letter’ /f" and press Enter.

Step 4: Press Y until the command line reappears.

Step 5: Type the drive letter and press Enter.

Step 6: Type “Drive letter:/>attrib – h-r-s/s/d*.*”.


This command will create a new folder on the external hard drive to store the recovered files.

#2 Use the Windows System File Checker to fix corrupted files

System File Checker is a helpful tool offered by Microsoft to scan the disk and repair missing or corrupted system files.

For Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Windows 8, you need to run the inbox Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) before running Windows System File Checker. For Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you can run Windows System File Checker directly.

Step 1: Run DISM. Type DISM in the search box and type the following command, then press Enter. It may take minutes to complete the process.

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

Step 2: Run CMD. Press Windows key + R on your keyboard. Type the following command, and then press Enter:

sfc /scannow


This command will scan all protected system files, and replace corrupted files with a cached copy that is includedin a compressed file folder at %WinDir%\System32\dllcache. You can click here for more details about this tool.

#3 Hard drive driver reinstallation

A corrupted or faulty hard drive driver can cause unused or inaccessible HDD, but it only takes a few minutes to reinstall:

Step 1: For Windows 10, type “device manager” in the search bar and select the Device Manager option.

Step 2: Find your external hard drive under Portable Devices.

Step 3: Right-click the external hard drive and select Uninstall device.


Step 4: Reboot your computer. Connect your external hard drive and computer again, and wait for the right external hard drive driver to be reinstalled automatically.

#4 Show hidden files on external hard disk

Sometimes, users may set to hide some files on an external hard drive to protect confidential data. Using this method to recover the hidden files on the external hard disk.

Step 1: For Windows 10, press Windows key + E to run Windows File Explorer. Then click “View” to open File Explorer Options.

For Windows 7, press the Start button, then click on "Control Panel" > "Appearance and Personalization". Select Folder Options, then select the “View”.

Step 2: Under Advanced settings, select “Show hidden files, folders, and drives”, and click "Apply", then click "OK". After a while, you'll see the hidden files on the external hard drive.


#5 Recover data from an external hard drive via data recovery software

If external hard drive data loss happens due to logical error, it's easy to get data back with a reliable data recovery tool. AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows is it! Users could easily use this tool to recover data from an external hard drive in Windows 7/8/10/11 and Windows Server., even for those who don't have any knowledge of computers.  The only thing you need to do is to download the software and make a few clicks, and the deleted data will be back soon.

AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows is designed by a more than ten-year experienced R&D team to solve all kinds of data loss scenarios. It helps users to recover more than 200 types of files, including images, videos, documents, pdf, word, ppt, excel, etc.  With a high success rate and fast scanning speed, AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows has won a lot of reputation among users.

Tips: The most important thing to remember is to stop using the external storage device as soon as you found the data were lost. Failure to follow this advice may result in the deleted data being overwritten before you can recover it. Set the drive aside and launch your data recovery software.
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Step 1. Download and install AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows on your computer. And then select a location where the deleted files were saved before. Click "Start Scan". 


Step 2. Then the scanning process will start automatically. You don't need to wait for the process to complete if you find the data you want to recover.


Step 3. Select the data that you want to restore and click "Restore files" to set a destination folder to save the recovered files. 


#6 Recover data from an external hard drive using Windows File Recovery GUI

Windows File Recovery is a command-line app released by Microsoft. It’s a free utility to use for Windows 10 and above to recover deleted or lost files from internal and external hard drives. It requires users to input accordingly commands based on the File System and lost scenarios.

However, it’s not easy for everyone to use without a graphical user interface. Therefore, AOMEI developed a free & tiny tool-WinfrGUI. It has invoked the function of Windows File Recovery to recover deleted files with a user-friendly interface. Users could easily recover deleted/lost data with the help of WinfrGUI.

Step 1. Download and install WinfrGUI on your computer. It’s totally free.

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Step 2. Select the external hard drive to scan and set a destination path to save the recovered files.


Step 3. Choose a scanning method to scan according to the file system, Quick Scan & Deep Scan.

The non-NTFS file system could only use Deep Scan. You could click “Advanced Settings” to specify file types and folders to scan.


Step 4. Click “Start Recovery” to begin the scanning process. You could view the restored files when finished.


# 7 Recover data when partitions in external hard drive lost

If the partitions in your external hard drive are corrupted or lost due to accident deletion or unknown reasons, the best and easiest way to resolve this issue is to use third-party professional software, like AOMEI Partition Recovery Wizard, to help you to recover the partitions and data together. Besides, repairing a corrupted MBR in an external hard drive is achievable with AOMEI Partition Assistant.

To recover lost partitions in an external hard drive via AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional, follow the steps detailed below. You can download the demo version first.

Try Demo Version Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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Step 1: Install and run AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional.

Step 2: Choose Partition Recovery Wizard on the left panel and click the drive you want to restore. Click “Next”.


Step 3: Select a search mode. It is recommended that you select Fast Search the first time because it saves much time. Then, click on “Next”.


Step 4: Then it will display the list of all lost partitions. You can select the one you want to retrieve.


Step 5: After the partition recovery process is completed, click “Finish” to exit this window after you see the “congratulations” page. Then you can go to File Explorer to check the lost or deleted partitions out.


The lost data is extremely easy to be overwritten or covered by new data. If you didn’t make any new operation on the external hard drive, the data in the partition of the drive will be back at the same time.

Is It possible to recover Data from a dead external hard drive?

The first thing is to define an external hard drive is dead or not. An external hard disk, for example, is not detectable; it can produce noises; it answers too slowly or it cannot respond at all. It is impossible to declare with certainty that it is dead in all these situations, but it can certainly be asserted.

In other words, you should attempt to repair the external hard disk because there is a possibility of data loss. If you could recover lost data via data recovery software, in this scenario your drive wasn't actually dead, only temporarily stunned.

If the disk is ejected and your operating system cannot identify the drive, after that, the scenario is different. Send the drive to the nearest technology supporter. If, you have almost no choice of using a professional data recovery service to restore your data. They should help.

What to do if your external hard drive becomes corrupt

Not all faults with the hard drive cause disastrous data loss. Some problems, however, which may at first merely be bothersome can then develop worse and lead to greater problems.

Here are some symptoms of problems with your external hard disk which may require your attention because it indicates your external hard drive is becoming corrupt. It is not advisable to ignore them.

  • Scratching or clicking sounds coming from the drive are always a good clue that the physical parts are worn out.
  • Slow reaction times are another symptom of corruption for the drive when accessing it.
  • When using the external drive, system or program crashes can be caused by hard disk failure or damage.
  • Unexplained errors might be produced by physical damage or disk corruption when you read or write to the disk.

When your external hard drive starts showing any of these symptoms, you’d better build a backup of the external hard drive that can be used for potential data recovery.

You can simply copy the files to another hard drive or you can choose a professional backup software to complete, like AOMEI Backupper.

Another method is to format the external hard drive. Formatting could eliminate the corruption and make the external hard disk normally used again.

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive to your computer and open File Explorer.

Step 2: Right-click the external hard drive and choose the "Format" option.


Step 3: Select “NTFS” and tick "Quick Format" on the format window. Click "Start".

how to protect external hard drive data & avoid data loss

✍ Partition the external hard drive

If you have an external hard drive excess of more than 1 TB, it’s recommended to partition it to prevent the data from losing at the same time and manage the drive easily. You can use the AOMEI Partition Assistant to partition your external hard drive with an easy way by following the wizard.

Right-click the external hard drive and select “Quick Partition”. Then, you can set up the partition count, disk type (MBR or GPT), partition size, file system, and partition label. After that, click on “Start Partitioning”.


✍ Run antivirus software and scan all your external hard drives regularly

It is recommended that you run antivirus software on your computer to scan all your devices. It protects your device and data from malware attacks and viruses timely.

✍ Create an extra backup of external hard drive data

As just mentioned, creating a backup with AOMEI Backupper is an effective way to keep your vital data safe. Don’t put all eggs in one basket. You can store them on different hard drives.

✍ Transfer and Sync your data on Mult Cloud Drive

If it’s not convenient for you to store data in different places, the MultCloud would be an alternative. You can transfer and manage your multiple cloud files with one app. MultCloud enables you to transfer files between cloud drives, like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and keep two cloud services synced.

External hard drive not showing up in Windows 10

If your external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10, open Disk Management (press Windows key+ R on your keyboard, type “diskmgmt.msc”) to check the condition of the hard drive first and then take accordingly methods.

If the external hard drive is showing in Disk Management, you can take the following three methods to make it visible in Windows 10 File Explorer.

► Assign a drive letter to the external hard drive

Right-click the partition that doesn’t have a drive letter and select “Change Drive Letter and Path...”, and then click on “Add”, select a drive letter and click “OK” to assign a drive letter.

► Format the external hard drive

You can format the external hard drive as mentioned before. You’d better make a backup because formatting will cause data loss.

► Rebuild MBR without data loss via AOMEI Partition Assistant

MBR or Master Boot Record is necessary to a hard drive. If it is damaged by virus attacks or inappropriate operation, the hard drive might show as unknown. Right-click the external hard drive and select “Rebuild MBR”. Follow the wizard to complete the process.


If your external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10 Disk Management:

  • you need to check Windows driver via Device Manager to update driver.
  • Examine USB port and enable USB Device in BIOS.
  • Diagnose the external hard drive with professional hard drive diagnostic software.


A corrupted external hard drive with inaccessible content is a regular problem with many people using it. You may have to retrieve data from a dead external hard drive if you use portable storage devices. In this article, you can use the above methods if you want to retrieve deleted files from the hard drive. What is also worth noticing is that AOMEI Partition Assistant keeps your disk management effortless and effective.

If the external hard drive contains vital files, data protection on an external drive should be taken into consideration strongly. It’s never a bad idea to take backups with AOMEI Backupper or MultCloud to keep your data safe.