How to Recover Files from External Hard Drive without Formatting

Want to know how to recover files from external hard drive without formatting, see this article and find the solution.


By Ivy / Updated on October 19, 2022

Share this: instagram reddit


“I use a WD external hard drive on Windows 7. It has four partitions. And all of them works well before. But, now, all partitions become inaccessible with an error message "You need to format this partition first to use it". I saved lots of files like Excel files, word files, documents, photos, videos on the drive. I want to know how to recover files from external hard drive without formatting it.”

Why external hard drive keeps asking to format it?

When your computer asks you to format your external hard drive, it may run into problems. Here are some possible reasons as follow.

1. Unplug the external hard drive from the computer without ejecting or safe remove.

2. Accidentally deleted some system files and make external hard drive unreadable.

3. Virus infection may cause files and folder to be hidden, or becomes a shortcut, or drive not accessible.

4. The external hard drive has bad sectors.

5. File table corruption could damage the external hard drive.

6. Other unknown reasons.

Can you recover files from external hard drive without formatting?

As mentioned above, if your computer runs into problems, your computer will ask you to format the external hard drive. But if you format it, you will lose your data. Now, here comes a question: can you recover files from external hard drive without formatting?

In this situation, you cannot open the external hard drive and the data on it, but you still can recover the corrupted drive. And there are many file recovery software on the market, which can allow you to access your hard drive and recover files.

How to recover files from external hard drive without formatting

Now, you may wonder how to recover data from corrupted hard disk. Here are two ways in the following. You can use CMD. Also, you can use the best free data recovery software.

Recover corrupted external hard disk using chkdsk

Want to recover files? You can try to fix the corrupted external drive. Then, see below and learn how to recover corrupted external hard disk using cmd.

Start with the detailed steps.

Step 1. Type cmd in the search box and right click it, then select run as administrator.

Step 2. Type the following command in the command prompt and hit Enter to run it.

chkdsk F: /f/x/r


Notes: Below are the parameters you use in the above command.

/f parameter tells the command to fix any errors it finds.

/x forces the drive to dismount before scan.

/r tells the command to locate the bad sectors on the drive and recover readable information.

Step 3. Wait until the process finishes.

Recover files from corrupted hard drive free with data recovery software

If you search free data recovery software on the internet, you will get dozens of options. To save your time and effort, I recommend you Puran File Recovery.

Step 1. Download Puran File Recovery and open it.

Step 2. Select the drive in the top pane.

Select Drive

Step 3. Click Scan and wait for the result.

Step 4. Select files you want to restore, click Recover and select the recover option.


  • Just Recover will restore the file to any location you choose.

  • Recover with Folder Structure to keep the folder path intact. For example, if you restore files from “F: \files\photos”, the restored files will be put into a folder called “files\photos” on the computer.

  • Recover with Custom Size can restore files with the specified size. This option can help you get the complete files.

Bonus tip

Recovery is not a perfect way to prevent data loss. It just can reduce losses. If you want to completely recover your files, you need to create a backup for your files and save it to a safe place.

To backup files and folders, I recommend you free backup and restore software AOMEI Backupper. With this software, all things become easier. And you can choose to backup files with a certain file extension, backup large files, or only backup the changed files, etc.

And you can enjoy more advanced features during the process. You can set up daily backup, weekly backup, monthly backup as well as an event-trigger backup. Also, you can perform differential or incremental backup after the full backup. And you can delete old backup to save disk space for your drive.

Let's start with the following steps.

Step 1. Download AOMEI Backupper, install and launch it.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 2. In the main page, click Backup and File Backup subsequently.

File Backup

Step 3. Click Add File or Add Folder and select files or folders from a specified path.

Add Folders or Files

Step 4. Then select a path to save the recovered files.

Select Destination

Step 5. Set up settings for your backup.

Schedule Settings General

Step 6. Click Start Backup and wait for the final result.

This software can also be used to recover files from crashed hard drive, recover files when computer crash, etc.


No matter what storage device you use, it may run into problems and cause data loss. In this situation, most of the users must want to know how to recover files from external hard drive without formatting them.

You can try above methods. In order to keep your files intact, you need to create an exact copy of it and save it to a safe place. With a backup in hand, you can restore files from backup at any time.

Ivy · Editor
Ivy is an editor of AOMEI Technology, she covers backup & restore,hard disk & partitions management and cloud files transfer and so on for AOMEI. She is an outgoing girl and enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. She loves traveling, eating, reading and so on. She usually hangs out with friends at her leisure time.