External hard drive, also known as external hard disk, is a huge storage device for both Windows and Mac users to transferring files, saving big data, or creating backups of precious personal data items. Being it like other types of storage devices, it's also fragile to lose data due to various reasons.

How to recover data from external hard drive

On this page, we'll introduce 4 reliable external hard drive recovery solutions to you and guide you to pick up the right method to recover data from external hard drive under different circumstances.

Follow the content navigation bar here, and let's start restoring files from your external hard drive now:

Also apply to: recover data from USB flash drive, SD card, camera, media player, Drone, etc., devices on Windows computers.

If you are a Mac user, you may also interest in: How to Recover Data from External Hard Drive on Mac.

External Hard Drive Recovery Overview

In order to find the right external hard disk recovery solution, it's essential to learn what causes file loss on your device. In this part, you will learn:

  1. 1. What causes data loss on external hard drive
  2. 2. What to do when you lost data on external hard drive

What Causes Data Loss on an External Hard Drive

Here is a list of data loss reasons that anyone may encounter on an external hard drive on a daily basis:

  • Accidental file deletion or formatting
  • Critical file system structures loss or corruption
  • Unexpected system shutdown or application failure
  • Partition structures are damaged or lost
  • Damage due to a power failure or surge
  • Virus attack or other unknown reasons

What to Do When You Lost External Hard Drive Files

If you have lost your data due to one of the reasons, no worry. Check the following two tips and  learn how to recover files from your external hard drive right now:

#1. Stop using the external hard drive immediately

Once you find you have lost data on an external hard drive, stop using it because new data is highly likely to overwrite the lost data, which will make the lost files unrecoverable.

#2. Turn to reliable data recovery solution for help

Mostly, when you lost files on an external hard drive or other types of storage devices, turning to EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard will be the smartest solution.

 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
 Download for Mac Trustpilot Rating 4.7

In the next part, you'll learn how to pick up the right solution and bring back your lost files from external hard disk immediately.

How to Restore Data from External Hard Drive

Here, we collected 4 reliable methods that work to help you effectively recover external hard drive data from different situations:

💾Restore external HDD data via software Data recovery software scans the external hard disk and recovers lost or deleted files. This procedure is determined by the level of the external hard drive's damage and the type of data recovery software employed.
🗂️Recover external hard drive partition Partition recovery software is used in this manner to recover lost or corrupted partitions. The efficacy of this procedure is determined by the extent of the external hard drive's damage and the partition recovery software employed.
🔮Show hidden files on external hard drive This approach is used to unhide files on an external hard disk that have been concealed. It entails modifying file and folder parameters under the folder options. The strategy is determined by whether the files are hidden.
📡Run CMD command to recover hidden files Using the Command Prompt, go to the external hard drive and retrieve hidden files with commands like "attrib" and "dir." The efficacy of this strategy is determined by the user's understanding of CMD commands.

IMPORTANT: The former method is represented, the more effective it will be. For the most effective file recovery solution, turn to Method 1. For lost partition recovery, try Method 2. If you hide files on your device, follow Method 3. To bring virus deleted or hidden files, you should try Method 4.

Method 1. Recover External Hard Drive Data with Data Recovery Software

Applies to: Scan and recover data from external hard drive due to deleting, formatting, RAW, OS crash, power failure, partition loss, hidden files, etc., errors.

When you lost files on an external hard drive, the easiest way to recover data from an external hard drive is to turn to the best data recovery software for Windows for help. Professional hard drive recovery software - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can help.

 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
 Download for Mac Trustpilot Rating 4.7

It supports to restore data from an external hard drive lost due to accidentally formatting, deleting data, virus attack, or other reasons on all brands of devices, such as Buffalo, WD, Seagate, Toshiba, Samsung, Lacie, Silicon, ADATA, and more. Watch the video guide for external hard drive data recovery.

Follow the 3-step tutorial below to recover data from your external hard disk immediately:

Step 1. Choose and scan the external hard drive

  • Download and install EaseUS Data Recovery on your PC or laptop. 
  • Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  • Run EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and choose the external drive from External drives list. Then, click scan for lost data. 
select external hard drive

Step 2. Check the scan results

  • EaseUS data recovery software will immediately scan the selected drive for all data, including deleted, corrupted, and existing data.
  • You can use the Filter feature to quickly locate the files of one kind, such as Pictures, Word, Excel, PDF, videos, emails, etc.
scan external hard drive

Step 3. Preview and recover data

  • Double-clicking a file from the scanned results to preview.
  • Choose the files you want and click "Recover".
  • Select a different drive to save the recovered files instead of the original one. 
preview and recover data

Method 2. Recover Lost External Hard Drive Partition and Data

Applies to: Recover lost external hard drive volume and data together from unallocated space.

If you mistakenly deleted the partition on your external hard drive, or the external hard disk displays as unallocated in Disk Management for unknown reasons, as shown below:

External hard drive shows unallocated in Disk Management

You'll have two things to do: 1. Recover the lost partition from unallocated space; 2. Scan and recover files from the external hard drive. To make things easy for you, we'd like to recommend you try a third-party partition recovery software for help.

EaseUS Partition Recovery is able to help. It combines the partition recovery and data recovery process as one. In a word, you can recover partition and data on the external hard drive at one time. Here are the steps:

Connect the device - external hard drive, USB or SD card on which you lost partition to your PC in advance.

Step 1. Run EaseUS Partition Recovery on your PC.

Select the device - external hard drive, USB or SD card where you lost partition(s), click "Scan" to continue.

Select device to scan for lost partition

Step 2. Wait for the scanning process to complete.

Let the program scan selected device and find the lost partition(s).

Scan the lost partition

Step 3. Preview and restore lost partition(s).

Double-click on the partition which is marked as "Lost" with "Good" recoverability.

Preview found partition content

Preview the content of the lost partition. Click "OK" and click "Proceed" to start restoring the lost partition.

Start partition recovery process

Step 4. Click "Finish" to complete the partition recovery process.

Note: If the program warns you that there is a conflict, back up the listed partition with essential data to an another secure location on your PC. Then execute the final operation to restore your lost partition.

Confirm to restore found partition

Method 3. Show Hidden Files on External Hard Disk

Applies to: Recover files that were hidden on external hard disk.

Sometimes, in order to protect some confidential data, you may set to hide some items on your devices. If you are with this situation, here are the steps to unhide them:

Step 1. In Windows 10/8/7, press Windows + E to bring up the Windows Explorer.

Step 2. Go to the Folder Options or File Explorer Options window, click "View".

Step 3. Under the Hidden files and folders section, click "Show hidden files, folders, and drives option".

how to show hidden files in usb in windows file explorer options

Step 4. Then click "Apply", then click "OK".

After this, you'll see the 'lost' files on the external hard drive.

Method 4. Recover Files from External Hard Drive Using CMD

Applies to: Restore lost files removed or hidden by virus on the external hard disk by using CMD commands.

Sometimes, virus or malware may delete or hide files on your storage devices. And the method for this issue is to recover files from an external hard drive using CMD. Be aware of typing the right command lines each time as any false operation may cause serious problems.

Running chkdsk can hopefully fix the file system errors, however, it can also result in total data loss. So, perform data recovery in advance, and then continue with the CMD method.

You can use Windows CMD commands as linked and the steps below to restore external hard drive data now:

Step 1. Press "Win + R" keys and type: cmd, hit "Enter" to open the Command Prompt window.

Step 2. Type the following command lines and hit Enter each time:

  • chkdsk F: /f (Replace F with the drive letter of the external hard drive.)
  • Y
  • F
  • F:\>attrib -h -r -s /s /d *.*

Step 3. Wait for the operation to complete and type exit to close the window.

How to recover files from external hard drive using CMD

After this, restart your computer and reconnect the external hard disk. You shall be able to view and check all data on the external hard drive. If the command prompt is not working on your computer, turning to method 1 and using EaseUS data recovery software for help instead.

 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
 Download for Mac Trustpilot Rating 4.7

If your external hard disk contains other issues, you may interest in:

Bonus Tip: How to Protect External Hard Drive Data & Avoid Data Loss

After trying the above solutions, you should be able to view and use your external hard drive data again. In order to protect your external hard drive data and avoid further data loss, here we have collected some tips for you.

#1. Format External Hard Drive to Usable Again

It's important that you make sure the external hard drive is ready and safe for storing data again. So don't rush to save the restored files back on your device. Format it first.

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to PC and open File Explorer.

Step 2. Right-click the external hard drive and select the "Format" option.

Step 3. On the format window, select the NTFS option and tick "Quick Format". Click "Start".

windows file explorer usb formatter

After this, save your files back to your external hard drive again.

#2. Create an Extra Backup of External Hard Drive Data

It's also a wise decision to create an extra backup of your external hard drive files to another location, for example, saving to the Cloud drive. To back up an external hard disk, free backup software - EaseUS Todo Backup is the most popular choice.

With it, you can make an image file of the content on your storage device and quickly recover it whenever you need it. With the backup, you provide a double guarantee for the safety of your critical data.

#3. Run Antivirus Software and Scan All Your Devices Regularly

If you have antivirus software installed on your computer, it's also recommended that you run it to scan all your devices. It will protect your device and data from viruses and malware infections timely.

To Sum Up

On this page, we explained what is an external hard drive, the normal causes of file loss error on external hard drives, and we also collected 4 reliable solutions to help you effectively recover data from external hard drives with ease.

In addition to the two methods above, we also offer 3 tips to help you protect your disk files safely. Also, don't forget to turn to EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for help whenever you lost files on your external hard drive, internal HDD/SSD, USB, etc., devices.

 Download for Win Recovery Rate 99.7%
 Download for Mac Trustpilot Rating 4.7

It's a wise choice for you to equip your computer with such a powerful tool, which will help you retrieve your lost data as soon as possible and minimize your loss.

FAQs About External Hard Drive Recovery

Common data loss scenarios are relatively easy to handle, and EaseUS hard drive data recovery software can help recover 99% deleted and lost data from an external hard disk. However, there are still some concerns from people that this article may not cover. For example:

1. How much does it cost to recover data from an external hard drive?

Usually, the price for such recovery varies from $500 to $1000. If the drive isn't physically damaged but there is a logical error, you can try a DIY approach by using data recovery software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. The price to recover data from external hard drives using EaseUS software is much lower than the manual data recovery service.

For more information, follow to learn more about hard drive recovery cost.

2. How can I recover data from external hard drive not recognized?

First, connect your external hard drive to another computer and test if it is the USB port problem. If it works on another computer, you should fix the USB port. Otherwise, check the external hard drive connection in Disk Management, and use EaseUS Data Recovery Wizar to recover data from the not recognized external hard drive.

3. Can you retrieve data from a dead external hard drive?

Yes, you can easily recover data from a dead external hard drive by using EaseUS bootable data recovery software. By creating a bootable USB, CD/DVD disc, you can boot your computer normally and perform full data recovery in three steps.

Full guide: How to Recover Data from a Dead Hard Drive.

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Updated by Dany

Dany is an editor of EaseUS who lives and works in Chengdu, China. She focuses on writing articles about data recovery on Mac devices and PCs. She is devoted to improving her writing skills and enriching her professional knowledge. Dany also enjoys reading detective novels in her spare time.

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Approved by Evan Galasso

Evan Galasso is a digital forensics and data recovery engineer with over 10 years of experience in the field. He presents opinions on the current state of storage media, reverse engineering of storage systems and firmware, and electro-mechanical systems of SSDs and HDDs.

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