By Stephanie / Last update May 11, 2022

“How do I recover files from the formatted hard drive?”

I can't find any way to recover files from the accidentally formatted hard drive. I'm using WD Passport 2 TB external hard drive without facing any problem. But I pressed the quick format button by accident. Soon I realized that an important file was in it. What can I do?? How do I recover files from the formatted hard drive?

--From Spiceworks Community

It’s a frustrating thing if you discover that a vital hard drive has been formatted and you can’t get access to its data. Maybe the hard drive was formatted accidentally, or you formatted it on purpose to fix some errors, change the file system, or clear up space.

When you format a hard disk, the operating system erases all data on the disk, tests it to ensure that all sectors are reliable. No matter how you formatted the hard drive, it’s important to recover files from the formatted hard drive if you find the files are necessary.

Is it possible to recover files from the formatted hard drive?

Is it possible to recover the formatted hard disk and data? The answer is yes. There are many solutions available to restore data from the formatted hard drive. But there are a few factors that could make formatted hard drive recovery more or less difficult.

After the hard disk was formatted, the first thing you should do is not store any new data on the formatted hard disk, otherwise, your files will be overwritten. Because all erased data remains on the hard drive until new data is written to the space marked as deleted.

To recover files from the formatted hard drive freely, you could try to recover files from the backup or use the free file recovery tool. Keep reading to find the free solutions to recover data from the formatted hard drive.  

Use Windows File Recovery utility to restore files & data

Windows File Recovery is a command-line app, released by Microsoft in 2020. It’s freeware to help users recover files from local storage devices like hard drives, external hard drives, USB flash drives and memory cards. It supports Windows 10 2004 and above.

Windows File Recovery is available from the Microsoft Store, and you could download and install it if you need. If there are some errors when you using Windows File Recovery, like “Winfr.exe is not recognized as an internal or external command” or “WinFR requires admin privileges to run”, you could click it to find useful help.

There are two basic modes to use in Windows File Recovery, Regular and Extensive. If you want to do more specific operations, you could use the other two advanced modes: Segment and Signature. Here is the command format of Windows File Recovery:

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

Step 1. Download and install Windows File Recovery from the Microsoft Store. Type “Windows File Recovery” in the Search box and select “Run as administrator”.

run-winfr-as-administrator

Step 2. Check the file system of the formatted hard drive. Right-click the hard drive and select “Properties”. Because different file system has different modes to use. It’s advised to choose extensive for the NTFS file system after formatting the disk.

check-file-system

File system

Scenarios

Recommended mode

NTFS

Deleted recently

Regular

NTFS

Deleted a while ago

Extensive

NTFS

After formatting a disk

Extensive

NTFS

A corrupted disk

Extensive

FAT and exFAT

Any

Extensive

Step 3. Here are some common switches to use. Find the meaning in the following chart.

Parameter / switch  

Description

Supported mode(s)

/n

Scans for a specific file by using a file name, file path, file type, or wildcards. For example: 

  • File name: /n myfile.docx
  • File path: /n /users//Documents/
  • Wildcard: /n myfile.*
  • /n *.docx
  • /n **
 

/y:

Recover specific extension groups, comma separated

Signature

/p:

Saves a log file of the recovery operation in a different location than the default location on the recovery drive (for example, D:\logfile).

All

/segment

Segment mode, recovery option for NTFS drives using file record segments

Segment

/signature

Signature mode, recovery option for all file system types using file headers

Signature

 

For example

If you want to recover the folder “Test” from the formatted F: drive (NTFS) to E: drive, the right command should be:

winfr F: E: /extensive /n \Test\

Free Window File Recovery GUI

Though Windows File Recovery is a good utility to recover files from formatted hard drives, it’s not easy for everyone to use, because Windows Files Recovery is a command-line tool. You could try the free tool-WinfrGUI to restore files with clickable icons.

WinfrGUI is a tiny and free tool, which has invoked the function of Windows File Recovery. You could easily recover deleted files from formatted hard drives with the help of WinfrGUI. It’s 100% free to use. 

Download Freeware Win 10 2004 and above
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Step 1. Launch WinfrGUI on your computer. Choose the formatted hard drive and a path to save the recovered files.

select-a-partition-to-scan

Step 2. Select a scanning method according to the file system: Quick Scan & Deep Scan. Click “Advanced Settings” if you want to target file types and folders.

choose-scan-mode-to-recover

Step 3. Click “Start Recovery”. After the scanning process completes, check the recovered files in the path set before.

click-start-recovery

Use professional data recovery software to recover files

If your Windows operating system is Windows 7/8, and you find it's useless to recover files from formatted hard drives via Windows File Recovery, a reliable data recovery tool could be helpful. When you need a data recovery tool, the last thing you want to deal with is a difficult recovery process. Trying to recover potentially lost files is stressful enough without having to deal with cumbersome instructions and procedures.

Highly recommended AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows. It not only restores files from formatted hard drives but recovers permanently deleted files from HDD, SSD, USB drive, SD card, etc.  AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows offers a very simple but effective method to scan and recover files.

AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows

▶ Support for permanently deleted files recovery, formatted file recovery, and other data recovery methods.
▶ Recover deleted files from SD cards, USB flash drives, HDDs, SSDs, external hard drives, and other storage media.
▶ Recover lost Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, photos, videos, audios, emails, and hundreds of other file types.
▶ Compatible with Windows 7/8/10/11 and Windows Server.

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Step 1. Launch AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows on your computer. Select the formatted partition to start scanning. 

select-the-formatted-partition-to-scan

Step 2. The program runs the scanning process quickly and finds deleted files and other missing files in this partition. During scanning, you could recover any file you want. 

scanning-formatted-partition

Step 3. Select the file or the folder that you want to recover and click "Recover files".

select-files-to-recover-from-formatted-partition

Bonus tip to avoid hard disk data loss

To avoid hard disk data loss in the future, the most important is to make a regular backup. Because no one data recovery program could recover all the lost files or data from storage devices. To keep your data secure, you could copy your important data in different places, like cloud drives. Alternatively, you could use AOMEI Backupper to make safe backups.

AOMEI Backupper is a toolkit to help you get rid of data loss. It supports system backup, disk backup, partition backup, file backup, etc. When you want to find files back, it could easily restore with simple clicks.