How to Recover Data from a Dead External Hard Drive?

How to recover data from a dead external hard drive? Check out this tutorial to recover data from damaged external hard drive in several tested ways.


By Lora / Updated on April 2, 2024

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How do I recover data from a not working external hard drive?

Many people use external hard drives as extra storage devices to store or back up their data. Due to the frequent use and negligence of maintenance, some external hard drives become dead/damaged/broken/not working.

Many users are at sea and eagerly searching for solutions to retrieve data from broken hard drives.


Is my external hard drive dead?


I have a WD external hard drive storing all my first two children's baby pictures. After our move, the hard drive is no longer functioning. It's not readable by any of my computers. Is there anything I can do to fix this? Recover the files?


- Question from Quora


When you find external hard drive not showing up, it is obviously upsetting because data stored in portable hard drives is often essential. When the files become inaccessible, it will bring much trouble.

Don’t worry; this article gathers some doable methods to help you. Before the solutions, it would be better to give a definition to a dead hard drive and learn the causes of dead drives.


What are dead external hard drives?

What are we referring to when we talk about a dead hard drive? According to data recovery experts, it often describes an unreadable/recognizable/un-mounted hard drive.

It is not like a problem erupts from the internal hard drives like the computer won’t start after a Windows update, but an issue on the external devices.

The computer won’t recognize the dead hard drive when attached/connected to it. Then, why will this happen?

What causes a dead external hard drive?

Logical damage and physical damage are the main culprits to blame for the dead hard drives. Just as their names imply, they respectively stand for software-related errors (like file system corruption, MBR virus, bad sectors, etc.) and mechanical-related damages.


Here are some typical causes you may meet when an external hard drive goes dead.

  • Power surge. Power shutdown or surges can cause interruption of the read and write process, damage to the flash translation layer, etc., then cause unreadable disks.
  • Dirt/liquid/oil. A bad environment can cause damage, e.g., moisture can lead to corrosion and cause poor connection, and thus the disk may fail to be read by the computer due to low voltage.
  • Jolting and dropping. When an external hard drive gets dropped, the head, platters, and delicate assemblies may get broken, causing data loss.
  • Virus infection. Viruses may destroy the master boot record/file system and lead to a dead disk. Some users have to perform MBR partition table recovery after virus intrusion.

Among these causes, physical damage is basically irreversible. If your hard drive is severely damaged, try sending it to an in-lab data recovery service.

With clear definitions and causes, we could now dive into the solutions to recover data from damaged hard drives deep.

How to recover data from a dead external hard drive?

This part will introduce a reliable external hard drive data recovery software for Windows and some feasible methods. Before the details of the solutions, here are some quick fixes and jobs that need to check beforehand.

Before the external hard drive dead data recovery solutions

These fixes can help make the external storage media get recognized by the PC. Quickly check these fixes and move on to the solution parts if fails.

  • Check the connection between the external device and the PC.
  • Replace another working cable.
  • Use a different port to connect the portable storage media.
  • Update the device driver in Device Management.


If there are no file deletion or file loss from your dead external hard drive, you could just access your data using these fixes.

But if you find some data missing from your drive, don't worry; check the following methods to retrieve data from broken external hard drives.

Method 1. Recover data from damaged external hard drives effortlessly

Methods like checking the trash can, using commands and parameters, etc., might not be solid and helpful. Moreover, sending the Turning to professional and reliable data recovery software will be the soundest way to recover files from dead hard drives.

MyRecover is an advanced, efficient, user-friendly, and compatible data rescue tool. It is supported by a sophisticated team with over 10 years of experience, allowing users to scan and retrieve lost and deleted data from external/internal drives.

With the help of its intuitive user interface, features, and advanced scanning techs, all users can perform external hard drive dead data recovery without difficulties.

Easy-to-operate. 3 simple steps to recover lost or deleted data from external/internal HDD/SSD/USB/SD card, etc. 
All-inclusive. Apply to extensive Windows data loss scenarios: deletion, formatting, recycle bin emptying, virus, system crash, etc. 
Convenient. Keep the original file formats, names, and structures during recovery. 
Compatible. Support NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, and ReFS in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, and Server.

Now, download and enjoy the easy data recovery procedure in the free version. To recover unlimited data, you could also upgrade MyRecover to Pro or Tech versions.

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Step 1. Install and run the program > connect the external storage device to your Windows PC properly > hover the mouse over the affected drive > click Scan.


Step 2. While scanning, input the filenames/extensions to locate the files faster. Also, you can sort the detected files by size, path, type, etc.


Step 3. Files detected will be classified into different types, choose the target files> click Recover x files.


Using this powerful tool, it will also be easy to recover files from external hard drives after formatting.

Method 2. Check and recover from the Recycle Bin

There are also other methods to help you recover data from damaged external hard drives; the first action is to check the Recycle Bin.

Luckily, the files removed from the portable devices won’t bypass the bin, especially when you are using laptops. Thus, you could readily find them in the bin.

If, unluckily, you find files deleted from external hard drive are not in Recycle Bin, seek help to get them back.

>> Go to Recycle Bin > find or search for your wanted files > right-click the files > click Restore.


Then deleted files would be restored to their original location. Don’t forget to back them up or move them to a safe place.

Method 3. Retrieve data from dead external hard drive using commands

Windows PC also offers some tools to help you when you have to rescue data from dead hard drives. For example, some users recover files from hard disks using Command Prompt.

The CHKDSK command is an option. It helps check and fix file system errors.

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to the Windows computer correctly > enter “cmd” in the Windows search box > click Run as administrator.


Step 2. Input chkdsk F:/f to fix the corrupted file system. After fixing, you will see the notice: “Windows has made corrections to the file system.” Here the refers to the drive letter of the external hard disk.


And see if the external hard drive can work in good condition.

Verdict: how to prevent external hard drives from going corrupted/dead?

Methods to retrieve data from broken external hard drives are presented in detail in this post. Users can turn to a professional Windows data recovery app – MyRecover, or use commands/recycle bins to retrieve data.

Apart from learning how to recover data from a dead external hard drive, what also deserves emphasis is maintenance and precaution. It is necessary to take some actions to protect your disks from corruption.

  • Avoid jolting, shaking, and dropping.
  • Keep the external hard drives away from extreme heat, liquid, oil, dirt, etc.
  • Monitor the health of the device.
  • Back up important external hard drive files using professional backup software for Windows.
Lora · Editor
Lora is an editor of AOMEI Technology. She is also a tester and editor of AOMEI Data Recovery Tools. -- "Keep testing, write the most useful tutorials for helping people recover the lost data for Windows and phones" is the most meaningful thing for her. Dedicated to creating helpful tutorials, she hopes her tutorial can assist users to effortlessly solve data loss problems on their personal computers and mobile phones.