By Lora / Last update May 11, 2022

An external hard drive, a kind of portable storage device, is usually used as a backup drive, which can store valuable personal files, photos, videos, etc.

Data loss in an external hard drive is actually not an issue we will meet seldom, due to its fragility and delicate design. Here let’s view some real cases of external hard disk data loss.

Have an old external hard drive I'm trying to recover old deleted files from (mainly a range of image and video files I love. Happy to spend money to get as many of these files back as possible, but want to spend wisely. Advice and recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks!

- Question from Reddit


I think my external hard drive is corrupted (?), and there are some files I want to recover inside. When I try to transfer some of the files to my computer's hard drive, it says: "Can't read from the source file or disk". It's a Seagate ST1000LM024, 1TB, and it's in the NTFS format. Thanks in advance!

- Question from Reddit


These users may have dropped their external hard drive or met some logical errors, leading to data loss.

The reasons for their external hard disk issues and the brands of external storage devices may be different, but the goals are the same—to perform external hard disk data recovery.

Some users may use WD external hard disks, if they have accidentally deleted the data or formatted the partition, they will need to perform WD external hard disk data recovery.

No matter whether you are a Windows user or a Mac user, you can find some feasible ways to get your data back. But before that, let us move on to the causes of data loss in external hard disks.

Why does data loss in external hard drives happen?

Everyone understands how useful an external hard drive is. With its good portability, it can be taken with users when they go outside or on business trips. However, it is rather delicate and must be handled with caution. Its interior structure can easily be destroyed or damaged if not handled with care.

Some prevalent causes of data loss on an external hard disk are prepared for you to check if you have met a similar one.

A power outage or power surge causes damage to the hard disk. 
Accidentally deletion or unintentionally formatting. 
Virus attack or malware. 
Suddenly unplugging the external hard drive causes data loss.

For those who accidentally formatted the hard drive partition, they will be eager to recover formatted partition data in Windows 10, 8, 7, and 11.

How to recover files from external hard drive on Mac?

Different solutions to recover files from external hard drives for different OS users have been represented as follows. If you are a Mac user, you can check them out in this part. Here two feasible methods are offered to recover files from external hard drives on Mac.

Method 1. Perform external hard disk data recovery from Bin

To Mac OS users, there is a chance that the files directly deleted from external hard drive will be shown in the Bin. Thus we can utilize this tool to retrieve the lost files.

Tips: If there are no files in the Bin, check if you have ticked the Remove items from the Trash after 30 days.

Step 1. Connect your external hard drive to your Mac. Find the corresponding trash bin in the Dock.

Step 2. Locate the files you need to recover, right-click on them and choose Put Back.


Then you can check if the lost files are back on your external hard drive or not.

Method 2. Perform external hard disk data recovery from Time Machine

If the preceding approach does not fit your preference or satisfaction, you may try to recover data from external hard drive using Time Machine. Time Machine will generate backups on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis. Such as a backup of the past 24 hours, daily backups for the preceding month, and weekly backups for all prior months.

Before using this tool, you have to possess a backup in Time Machine.
You don't need to launch a window if the files you've lost were previously stored on the desktop.
To let Time Machine be shown on the desktop, go to Apple menu, click System Preferences > Time Machine > Show Time Machine in menu bar.

Step 1. Open the window where you lost files.

Step 2. Click the Launchpad icon in the Dock, find Time Machine, and click Enter Time Machine.


Step 3. Use the up and down arrows to locate the files you need to restore.


Step 4. Click Restore to recover the selected files, then your lost data will come back to the previous location.


How to conduct external hard disk data recovery in Windows?

If you are a Windows user, there are also remedies prepared fr you to restore files from external hard drive in Windows. Choose the proper method to do it.

Method 1. Recover data from external hard drive by reinstalling

A damaged or corrupted device driver may lead to an inaccessible hard drive. Reinstalling the device driver can be a feasible way to recover files from external hard disk.

Step 1. Start Device Manager by pressing Win+R and typing devmgmt.msc in the dialog box.


Step 2. Locate your external hard disk in Disk Devices, right-click on it, and select Uninstall device.


Step 3. Restart your PC, plug in the external hard drive, and wait for it to install automatically. Then you can check if the lost files are back or not.

Method 2. Recover data from external hard drive via Windows File Recovery

If the device driver on your PC runs in good condition, you can also try a Microsoft official utility: Windows File Recovery. This tool is quite useful for users who have command-related expertise. It can recover deleted office/media/compressed files from internal/external hard drives.

Unfortunately, it is a command-line application without a GUI, if you need a free tool with a graphical user interface, check out a Windows File Recovery GUI.

To use this tool, check out your File System first. Go to This PC > right-click on the external drive that contains the deleted files> click Properties.


In addition, you need to use recovery mode and switches to get back your files. To decide which mode to use, refer to this table.

File system Scenarios mode
NTFS Deleted recently Regular
NTFS Deleted for a while Extensive
NTFS Formatted disk Extensive
NTFS Corrupted disk Extensive
FAT and exFAT Any Extensive

switches are used to filter the scanning range, thus can save the scanning time.

Switches Meaning Supported mode(s)
/n Filter the scan range: scans for a specific file with its file name/path/type, etc. All
/y: Recover specific extension groups. Signature
/k Recovers system files. NTFS
/u Recovers undeleted files, for example, from the Recycle Bin. NTFS
This tool is available on PCs running Windows 10 and later.
The "source-drive" refers to where you have deleted files from.
The "destination-drive" refers to the place you would like to store the recovered files. And it could not be the same with the source drive.

Step 1. Go to Microsoft Store, and Get Windows File Recovery.


Step 2. Start Windows File Recovery, and input the recovery command. The command template goes like this:

winfr source-drive: destination-drive: [/mode] [/switches]

For example, if you need to recover deleted pdf files from F: drive (the external hard drive) to D: drive, then the command will be like:

winfr F: D: /regular /n *.pdf


Step 3. When the recovery process is finished, a recovery folder will be created in the destination you have chosen.

Then you have conducted external hard disk data recovery.

How to recover files from external hard drives easier and faster?

Commands are way too difficult for an ordinary user without knowledge about command lines and syntax. For this group of people, how to achieve external hard disk data recovery easier and quicker?

There is no doubt that seeking help from a professional Windows data recovery tool will be the best answer to this question. Here we will recommend AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows.

This useful tool can assist users to scan deleted and missing files at a very high speed and a high recovery rate, which is trustworthy and convenient.

★ AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows ★
Restore data from external hard disk easily
Support 200+ types of data recovery. 
Easy to operate for all users even without any data recovery experience.
Recovered data will be kept in the original format/filename/path. 
Support Windows 11/10/8/7 SP1.
Compatible with NTFS/FAT32/exFAT/ReFS.
Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 1. Install and run AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows > select a partition where data got lost > Start Scan.


Step 2.  While scanning, you could check the scanning result list and wait for the whole result, or just directly recover files but do not need to wait till it ends.


Step 3. Select the data you need > Recover x files.


It will be a simple task to recover permanently deleted files from hard drives using this application.

To sum up

Choose any one of the 4 ways to recover files from external hard drive windows 10 & Mac according to your specific situation.

If you are seeking help to recover external hard drive partitions, get help from the detailed tutorial.

Unfortunately, no one is foolproof and infallible, to keep your precious data from being lost in the future, users are highly recommended to form a good habit of backing up files regularly.

Here you may utilize AOMEI Backupper to help you protect your precious data.