By Stephanie / Last update December 28, 2022

Can I recover files from formatted hard drive?


I can't find any way to recover data from the formatted hard drive. I'm using WD Passport 2 TB external hard drive without facing any problems. 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?

- Question 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 bad sectors, change the file system, or clear up space.

When you format a hard disk, the operating system will erase all data on the disk and test it to ensure that all sectors are reliable. No matter how you formatted the hard drive, you must wonder how to recover files from the formatted hard drive. it’s urgent to recover files from the formatted hard drive when 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 recover deleted files 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 save 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 formatted disk drives freely, you could try to recover files from the backup or use the free file recovery tool. Keep reading to find the workable solutions to recover data from the formatted hard drive.  

Restore files & data via Windows File Recovery

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. Currently, it only supports Windows 10 2004 and above. This file recovery tool requires users to have knowledge of the command prompt.

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 find useful help from articles.

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”.


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.


File system


Recommended mode


Deleted recently



Deleted a while ago



After formatting a disk



A corrupted disk


FAT and exFAT



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

Parameter / switch  


Supported mode(s)


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 **


Recover specific extension groups, comma separated



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



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



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



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\

More switches or parameters can be seen in how to use Windows File Recovery

Professional data recovery software to recover files

If your Windows operating system is Windows 7/8, and you find it 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 MyRecover. It is the best software to recover files from formatted hard drives. It not only recovers data from formatted hard drives but restores permanently deleted files from HDD, SSD, USB drive, SD card, etc.  MyRecover offers a very simple but effective method to scan and recover files.


▶ 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, audio, emails, and hundreds of other file types.
▶ Compatible with Windows 7/8/10/11 and Windows Server.

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Step 1. Launch MyRecover on your computer. Select the formatted partition to start scanning. 


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.  You can type keywords of file names in the search bar or use a filter to target the deleted or lost files. 


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


Bonus tip to avoid hard disk data loss

Hopefully, you can recover files from formatted hard drive with the methods above. 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 to 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 help you to easily restore them with simple clicks.

FAQ about formatted hard drive recovery