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How to Unformat a Hard Drive and Retrieve Your Files

How to Unformat a Hard Drive and Retrieve Your Files

If you’ve ever faced the daunting realization that you’ve formatted an external hard drive with important data on it, you’re not alone. Fortunately, technology has advanced to the point where recovering formatted hard disk data might be possible using specialized recovery software. In my experience, successful recovery often hinges on prompt action and the right tools. One such lifesaver I’ve found is Disk Drill, software adept at restoring lost files on Windows. In this article, I’ll guide you through the steps to unformat an external hard drive and bring back your precious data using Disk Drill.


Common Scenarios:

Accidental Formatting 🙈

  • Accidentally selecting the wrong drive when intending to format another.
  • Not realizing that the external drive was connected and included in a bulk formatting process.
  • Confusing a new external drive with an old one and hastily initiating a format.

Malware Havoc 😱

  • Malware infection leading to an involuntary formatting of the drive.
  • Drive becoming inaccessible due to malware, causing an attempted fix by formatting.

Technical Errors 😖

  • Drive errors prompting a Windows suggestion to format the disk to use it.
  • Failure to read the drive correctly, appearing as uninitialized or unallocated space, thus leading to reformatting.

Step-by-Step Guide. Unformat Hard Drive:

Method 1: Stop Using the Drive immediately 🛑

  • Avoid writing new data to the formatted drive to prevent overwriting recoverable files.
  • Disconnect the drive safely to ensure there is no data transfer in progress.

Note: Continuing to use the drive may significantly reduce the chances of data recovery.

Conclusion: Take immediate action to preserve the remaining data integrity.

Method 2: Check for Backup Versions 🔄

  • Review any backups you might have, such as File History, Windows Backup, or cloud services like OneDrive or Google Drive.
  • Check the Previous Versions feature in Windows to see if there are shadow copies of the files.
  • If backups are found, safely restore the files to your system.

Note: Regular backups are an effective way to mitigate data loss.

Conclusion: Backing up data can eliminate the need for data recovery and provide peace of mind.

Method 3: Use Disk Drill to Recover Data 🛠

  • Download and install Disk Drill for Windows from the official website.
  • Launch Disk Drill, and select the formatted external hard drive from the list of available drives.
  • Click the ‘Recover’ button to commence the scanning process.
  • Once the scan is complete, preview the files that can be recovered.
  • Select the files you want to recover and choose a safe location on your computer to save them.

Note: Disk Drill’s free version may have limitations on the amount of data you can recover.

Conclusion: Disk Drill provides a user-friendly interface and powerful recovery features to help retrieve lost files.

Method 4: Try Windows File Recovery 🖥

  • Consider using the Windows File Recovery tool, available in the Microsoft Store, as a free option.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the app to attempt a recovery of your files.

Note: This method may involve command-line instructions and may not have the same success rate as dedicated recovery software like Disk Drill.

Conclusion: Windows File Recovery is a potential no-cost solution for tech-savvy users comfortable with command-line interfaces.

Method 5: Seek Professional Help 🆘

  • If all else fails, consider reaching out to a professional data recovery service.
  • Look for reputable services with positive reviews and ensure they operate a cleanroom environment.

Note: Professional services can be expensive and should be seen as a last resort after software-based recovery attempts.

Conclusion: Professional services offer a higher chance of recovery but at a greater cost.


Youtube video to watch


Precautions and Tips:

Safe Recovery Practices 🛡

  • Ensure you’re performing the recovery on a healthy system to avoid complications.
  • Never recover files directly back onto the same drive from which they were lost.
  • Use a reliable power source to avoid interruptions during the recovery process.

Data Protection Strategies 🔒

  • Regularly back up important data using both physical drives and cloud storage.
  • Use disk imaging tools for complete system backups, allowing for a more comprehensive recovery if needed.

Additional Insights

Losing data from a formatted external hard drive can be a nerve-wracking experience, but understanding how data storage and deletion work can give you hope. When data is deleted or a drive is formatted, the information isn’t immediately erased; instead, the space it occupies is marked as available for new data. That’s why time is of the essence in data recovery scenarios; the sooner you attempt to recover your files, the better your chances of success.

Beyond recovery software like Disk Drill, it’s important to know that Windows Backup and Restore can be a preemptive measure in safeguarding your data. Also, familiarize yourself with SMART monitoring tools, which can alert you to failing hardware before a catastrophic loss occurs. As for external hard drives, opting for ones with built-in encryption can add an extra layer of protection against data breaches.

Moreover, educate yourself about different types of data recovery and how they apply to various data loss scenarios. This knowledge can be invaluable when determining the best course of action for data retrieval. Remember to also consider the file system used on your external drive; systems like NTFS, FAT32, or exFAT have different structures and recovery potentials.

In the unfortunate event that your external drive is physically damaged, software solutions may not suffice. At this point, a specialized hardware data recovery service may be necessary. They have the tools and expertise to open up drives in controlled environments and potentially retrieve data from damaged platters. As a precaution, always handle your external drives with care and avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures, moisture, or magnetic fields which can cause irreparable harm.


In an era where data is as valuable as gold, losing it can be both frustrating and costly. Yet, with the right precautions and recovery tools at your disposal, handling an unformatted external hard drive on Windows can be less daunting. The experience has taught me the importance of acting swiftly, not panicking, and relying on tried-and-tested software like Disk Drill for recovery. By combining these efforts with the power of backing up and prescribed safe handling, your digital treasures stand a much better chance of being recovered and preserved for the future. Equip yourself with knowledge, back up often, and know that even when faced with formatted drives, all may not be lost.


Yes, it's possible to recover data from a formatted hard drive using specialized data recovery software as long as the data has not been overwritten.

Unformatting a hard drive refers to the process of restoring the drive's previous file system and retrieving files that were present before formatting.

Most types can be unformatted, including HDDs, SSDs, and external drives, but success may vary based on the drive's condition and formatting method.

Attempting to unformat a hard drive can lead to further data loss if not done correctly. It's important to use reliable tools or seek professional help.

Different file systems (NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, etc.) have specific structures and recovery methods, affecting the unformat process's complexity and success rate.

Professional services often have a higher success rate and can handle more complex situations, but DIY software can be effective for simpler recovery tasks.

Stop using the drive to avoid overwriting data and use reputable data recovery software or contact a professional recovery service immediately.

Yes, a quick format primarily marks the data as deletable, meaning with the right tools, it's often possible to restore such data.

Some free tools can be effective, but they may lack advanced features of paid software and could come with risks like malware.

Reliable software can be found at vendors like EaseUS ( or Stellar Data Recovery ( Always research and choose well-reviewed solutions.