By Lora / Last update May 11, 2022

"Help! How can I recover my data from external hard disk?"

An external hard drive has incontestable convenience, light and small, facilitating us to store valuable data and bring it anywhere. But quite a bunch of users don't have any external hard drive data backups with them.

Maybe it is not a risky attempt to say that users consciously or unconsciously rely so much on it but do not leave enough emphasis on the maintenance of it, nor how to retrieve the data if it is damaged somehow.

That's totally dangerous. Can you imagine how deep the regret will be when losing the data, and then, you will need to pay thousands of dollars to get them back?

So there are always users asking "how to recover my data from external hard disk" and are eager to seek if there is any freeware available. This matter needs immediate attention. Let’s see some real cases here.


Dog got excited and yanked the USB cable which sent the hard drive crashing to the ground. It's an 8 Terabyte Seagate Barracuda drive. When I plug it in, the blue LED light blinks continuously but my computer doesn't see it. The recovery costs ranged from $3,400 to $5,600. I simply can't afford that much. Is there something else I can do? 


- Question from Reddit


In the cases above, it is obvious that the external hard drive of the first user was broken by his naughty dog. You cannot scold it, instead, you are the one to blame. Because it is you that does not pay enough attention to the maintenance and protection of it. And things can even be worse—you have to pay over a thousand dollars to restore your precious data.

Luckily, while we cannot deal with physical damage by ourselves, data loss caused by logical damage can be treated with care. We can turn to some third-party tool for help and prevent an extortionate price to retrieve your data.

But before introducing the software, we might as well take a closer look at the external hard drive and some possible causes of the data loss.

Overview of external hard disk issue

In this part, we are about to learn its composition and features to give a brief impression of the external hard drive to users.

External hard disk

External hard disks, also known as portable storage devices, are pretty compact and portable devices that are used for transmitting data with a PC. Users can plug it in and out at any time and take it anywhere according to their needs.

Generally, an external hard drive is mainly composed of the shell, the circuit board, and the hard disk. The shell is designed based on the consideration of shockproof, moisture-proof, heat dissipation, etc.

There are some main chips on the control circuit board, such as the master control chip, BOPS chip, etc. The hard disk interface is at the top of the hard disk, including the power interface, data interface, etc.

The most outstanding features of an external hard disk are large capacity, small size, high speed, security, and reliability. With the development of technology, larger capacity and smaller size will be the future development trend of portable storage devices.

Causes of external hard drive data loss--External hard disk failures

We must admit that external hard drives are delicate and fragile, requiring cautious care. Lacking maintenance generates risks of disk failure, leading to data loss. The basic failure of an external hard disk can be divided into 3 categories.


The external hard disks possess a very sophisticated structure, especially the heads. When the hard disk is working, the disk rotates at a high speed, and the head floats on it.

Once a bump occurs, it is very easy to damage the head assembly, causing a head crash. You may notice some grinding sounds if the head assembly was broken.


Except for the hardware level failure, some logical failure may occur as well. Viruses or malware may do damage to the external hard disk, causing corruption. The hard drive may seem to be okay, but not recognized by the OS or BIOS.

Or the data on it is inaccessible. At this time you may receive a note that said you need to format the drive before you use it. If it was logically damaged, you could restore hard drive to fix it.


Circuit failure may take place, causing an inoperable hard drive. A power surge may sabotage the control board of the drive. External hard disks require a relatively high power consumption.

If an external hard disk encounters a power outage, some read or write errors may occur.

So then, how to recover my data from external hard disks? Check it out in the next part.

How to perform data recovery from external hard disks?

After getting a brief image or impression of the external hard drive and its common failure, now we can move on to the solutions we need to retrieve data from external hard disks.

Method 1. Recover my data from external hard drive via Windows File Recovery

Here, instead of disposing of by ourselves trying to do some operations in vain, users might as well ask for help from an official file recovery tool, Windows File Recovery.

Using this tool, users could recover the files in your disks by targeting the specific file types/paths/folders.

Windows File Recovery offers several recovery modes and switches for users. To get a more detailed guide, refer to "How to use Windows File Recovery". 

Two basic modes: Regular & Extensive;

Regular is used for healthy NTFS drives;
Extensive applies to all files loss scenarios under all File Systems;

Two advanced modes: Signature & Segment.

Signature mode recovers lost files from all file systems by utilizing file headers;
Segment mode recovers lost files from NTFS by using file record segment;

Now, to check your File System, please tab on Win+E to go to This PC > right-click on the external drive that has lost files > Properties.


Then to choose the recovery mode, please refer to this chart.

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 also available for scanning filters.

Switches Definition 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 Segment​​​​​
/u Recovers undeleted files, for example, from the Recycle Bin. NTFS Segment

Then you could follow the steps here to get your files back using Windows File Recovery.

The duration of the scanning depends on your data’s size, please wait patiently. 
The recovered files cannot be saved in the drive where you have lost files. Please choose another place to store them.
If Windows File Recovery failed to create destination folder, please seek help from the troubleshooting methods.

Step 1. Install Windows File Recovery from Microsoft Store.


Step 2. Start it As an administrator > input the command:

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

If your data and files are just deleted or lost, then you could choose Regular mode to save your time. Now, for example, if you want to recover lost pdf files from external F: drive to D: drive, you could use a wildcard “*” here if you don’t know the filename.

Then you could input the command:

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


Step 3. When finished, a recovery folder will be generated in the destination. Check if your files are back there.

If Windows File Recovery stuck at 99%, please get help from the tutorial to fix it.

Method 2. Achieve data recovery from external hard disks via a professional Windows data recovery tool

Finding it too tough to use commands? Don’t worry, if you are not familiar with the commands, your files and data are still recoverable.

Here we have a software recommendation, the external hard drive data recovery tool AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows. With its simple interface and operation steps, users can utilize it effortlessly even if they are not tech-savvy.

AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows

Realize data recovery from an external hard drive easily.

  • Support over 200 different forms of data recovery.
  • Data will be recovered in its original format/filename/path.
  • Even beginners with no data recovery experience will find it simple to use.
  • Compatible with Windows 11/10/8/7 SP1.
  • Compatible with NTFS/FAT32/exFAT/ReFS file systems.


Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows > connect your external hard disk to the computer > select the partition that has lost files > Start Scan.


Step 2. While scanning, you could directly recover what is detected or wait for the whole scanning result.


Step 3.  Select the data you want to recover > Recover x files.


Don't forget to save these files to another drive. Using this tool, it will be an easy task to recover data from formatted partitions as well.

To sum up

In a nutshell, on the question of how to recover my data from external hard disks, here we introduced some basic knowledge about external hard drives and their common failure, then the solution to solve it was elaborated, too.

To recover my data from external hard drives, users are recommended to turn to a trusty recovery tool for help with time-saving and labor-saving considerations.

What is worthy of mentioning is that external hard disks are so fragile that needs cautious use. Generally, users are not supposed to use an external hard drive for too long one time.

What’s more, it is better not to mix the power supply cable of your external device with others devices.