Nowadays, the external hard disk drive has become extremely popular thanks to its low cost, incredible read/write speed, and unmatched convenience. However, like the usual ones, external HDDs can also suffer from several different problems that may lead to severe data loss. Thankfully, you can always recover the lost data as long as you take quick and decisive actions. In this article, we will show you how to recover data from an external hard disk drive with ease. Let’s not waste any more time, and dive straight into it.
Two Major Types of Hard Disk Drive Failure
Before you jump to the data recovery methods, you should be aware of the major reasons for the external hard disk drive failures. After all, to take the best course of action to recover the data, you need to understand why you lost your data in the first place. In this section, we will describe two main forms of hard disk drive failure and the ways to identify them.
1. Mechanical Failure
The external hard disk drives have quite a few moving parts. Thus, it’s normal for it to experience some damage and weathering, and it’s especially true for older models. The parts that usually get damaged because of old age are the spindle, actuator arms, platters, and the read/write head. In general, whenever an HDD suffers from some kind of mechanical damage or malfunction, we call it a mechanical failure.
The biggest sign of mechanical failure is the grinding or clicking noise that comes from your active hard disk drive. A constant beeping noise is another major sign of mechanical failure. If you hear such a beeping noise, it means that the read/write head of your external HDD is suffering from a mechanical problem, and there’s a high possibility of a severe case of file corruption. There’s nothing that you can do to prevent the mechanical failure as it’s bound to happen to the old hard disk drives. However, you should always treat your external HDD with care to maximize its life.
2. Logical Failure
Apart from the mechanical damages, your external HDD might also suffer from software issues, which is known as a logical failure. It might happen because of firmware failure, which means your external HDD is having trouble communicating with your PC. If this happens, your computer might be unable to detect your external HDD at all.
But wait—that’s not all. Virus and malware infections might also lead to logical failure. A good deal of malware, such as ransomware, is designed to encrypt your hard disk drive’s data upon successful infection. Therefore, you can’t recover ransomware-infected files until you pay a set amount to the hacker. On the other hand, some virus might entirely wipe out the data of your external HDD. Some malware infections are even more problematic. They might mess up the software of your HDD in such a way that files and folders might randomly appear and disappear without any notice.
Fortunately, logical failures can be prevented in most cases. You can invest in a good antivirus application to prevent virus and malware infection. You should also carefully eject the external HDD from your computer before physically disconnecting it to prevent firmware failures. This way, you can protect your external hard disk drive from logical failures. Now, you have already learned the major reasons for hard disk drive failures and how they can affect the data inside them. It’s time to learn how you can recover data from an external hard disk drive after you’re done dealing with the mechanical or logical failure.
1. Use the CHKDSK Utility to Recover Data from an External Hard Disk Drive
CHKDSK utility is a built-in disk checkup tool that comes embedded with every Windows computer. You can use this tool via Command Prompt to scan and repair your hard disk drive, even if it’s an external one. Once you use this tool, most minor HDD software problems should be fixed, and you should be able to recover the corrupted files that are stored in it. Let’s see how you can use it to fix the external hard disk drive and recover the corrupted data from it:
- Connect your computer and the external hard disk drive.
- Click on the “Search” icon in the taskbar and type “cmd.”
- Once the “Command Prompt” shows up in the search result, click on the “Run as administrator” option located in the right panel.
- Now, type the “chkdsk X: /f” command and press the “Enter” key to start the scan. Here, replace “X” with the letter assigned to your external HDD. You can check it by navigating to File Explorer → This PC.
- Wait for the scan to complete. The more data your external hard disk drive has, the longer it will take for the scan to be finished.
- After the scan is complete, close Command Prompt, and restart your Windows PC. After your computer restarts, your external hard disk drive should be working once again and the corrupted files should be recovered.
2. Reinstall the Drivers to Recover Data from an External Hard Disk Drive
All peripherals require proper drivers to communicate with your computer. Thus, if your external hard disk drive doesn’t show all the files, it might mean that it’s suffering from a driver issue. Ergo, reinstalling the drivers is the best way to fix it. Here’s how you can do it:
- Connect the external hard disk drive to your computer.
- Next, press the “Windows + R” keys to open the Run dialog box. Type “devmgmt.msc” in it and press the “Enter” key to open the “Device Manager” window.
- Expand the “Disk drives” section and search for the “External hard disk drive” option. If you’re unable to find it, check out the “Portable devices” section.
- Once you find your external HDD, right-click on it, and click on the “Uninstall device” option.
- Once the uninstallation is complete, close the “Device Manager” window and restart your computer. When your computer reboots, it will automatically detect your external HDD and reinstall the appropriate drivers.
3. External HDD Recovery Using Data Recovery Software
If you had no luck with a couple of methods we have mentioned earlier, it’s time to switch to professional data recovery software for external drives. These applications will scan each partition of your external HDD and dig out all the files that are still recoverable. Just make sure that the one you choose has many positive reviews and comes from a reputable data restoration company. Since most such applications have a similar recovery process, you can follow the general steps below to recover the deleted or corrupted data from an external hard disk drive:
- Download and install the data recovery software of your choice.
- Now, plug your external hard disk drive into your computer and launch the data restoration application.
- Select your external HDD from the list of available devices, and click on the “Search for lost data” or “Scan” option to start the scanning procedure.
- Once the scan is complete, you can see a list of recoverable files. Select the files you want to recover and click on the “Restore” or “Recover” option.
- Pick a folder or drive where you would like to download your recoverable data and click on the “OK” button.
That’s it. Just wait for the selected files to be downloaded to your computer or the external HDD.
4. Contact a Professional Data Recovery Service Provider
Had no luck with the methods mentioned above? Don’t worry. If the lost data is very important, and you don’t mind spending a few hundred bucks, you should contact a professional data recovery service provider to retrieve the lost data. Data recovery centers work by offering expert services, state-of-the-art software, and facilities that allow them to recover data even from the most damaged hard disk drive. Here are the instructions required to hire a professional data recovery company:
- Contact a professional data recovery service provider and describe the actual problem to them.
- Most data recovery companies will run a few tests on your external HDD free of charge to assess the difficulty. For that, you would either need to deliver your HDD to their service center via courier, deliver it personally or have them pick it up.
- After they are done performing the initial assessment, the customer service will provide you with a detailed explanation of the concern and the exact cost of recovering your data.
- If you choose to go with the recovery process, confirm it. After that, they will start the data recovery process, which can take up to one week depending on the severity of the external HDD damage or the amount of data they need to recover.