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How to Initialize Disk without Losing Data In 3 Procedures Step by Step

Will initializing the hard disk erase data on it? This page shows you how to recover data when the hard drive not initialized error occurs. Try to initialize disk without losing data.

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Table of Contents

Hard Drive Showing Unknown, Not Initialized

"Disk (0, 1, 2...), unknown, not initialized and unallocated" is one of the common hard disk errors that make us upset. When a hard drive becomes uninitialized, you can no longer access data there. Then, how to initialize disk without losing data becomes a problem. You may see a disk showing "Unknown, Not Initialized" in two situations:

  • The disk is brand new. You need to initialize the disk in order to partition it. Afterward, you need to format the partition in order to make it ready for data storage.
  • The disk has been used for a period of time and suddenly becomes "Not Initialized".

Hard Drive Not Initialized

If you have a new disk that shows up as "Not Initialized", you can initialize the hard drive without worrying about data loss. However, a disk that has been used for a period of time may also become "Not Initialized". In such a case, most users have files or folders stored in the disk and are eager to know whether initializing a disk erase the data on it.

What Does Initialize Disk Mean

When adding a brand new disk to your PC, it will not show up in File Explorer immediately. You need to manually initialize the newly-added hard drive before working with it. Initializing a disk erases everything on it and prepares it for use by Windows, after which you can format it and then store files on it.

Used disks with a bunch of data sometimes also need to be initialized. This is due to a number of system errors. In this case, the question arises, what about the existing data? On this page, you will find all you need.

Does Initializing a Disk Erase Data

The first sector of an MBR or GPT disk is MBR (Master Boot Record). When MBR on your disk is corrupted, you will see your disk showing up as "Unknown, Not Initialized". Thus, initializing a disk means to rebuild MBR on the disk, which will NOT ERASE DATA on your disk.

However, only initializing the disk won't make the disk usable again. You need to further partition and format the drive, which will surely ERASE your disk data. That's why you may be told by others that initializing a disk will erase data on it.

How to Initialize Disk Without Losing Data

Based on the information given above, the correct procedures to handle a disk that is not initialized without losing data are:

  • Initialized the disk
  • Recover data from the hard drive
  • Partition and then format the disk to make it ready for data storage

Procedure 1. Initialize the Disk

Step 1. Right-click "This PC" and choose "Manage" > "Disk Management".

Step 2. Right-click the disk showing "Not Initialized" and choose "Initialize Disk"

Step 3. In the "Initialize Disk" windows, you need to choose a partition style for the disk, MBR or GPT. Then click "OK" to continue.

Initialize Disk in Disk Management

Procedure 2. Recover Data from the Disk

After initializing the disk, you may notice the status of the hard drive is not "Not Initialized" anymore but the layout shows as "Unallocated", which means the disk is still inaccessible. Before creating a new volume on the drive, you need to recover data from the disk.

Here we recommend using EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. It can not only perform common deleted file recovery, formatted data recovery, and RAW drive recovery but also recover data from inaccessible disks, like in this case.

Download EaseUS Data Recovery first and read on to get more details.

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To recover data from your disk after initializing:

Step 1. Select and scan the lost partition

Launch EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, select "Lost Partition" and click "Scan" to search for all the lost data. If there are many lost partitions, you can identify them through its partition size.

Note: Since the Windows system doesn't support the Linux file system, the Ext2 or Ext3 partition will be recognized as lost partition with no drive letter in the software. If you want to recover data from Ext2/Ext3 partition, you can follow these steps.

select the lost partition to scan

Step 2. Filter the scanned results

Because there will be a lot of scanned files, you can choose a file category for quick filtering, such as Pictures, Videos, Documents, Audio, and Others. Or if you remember the file name, you can just look it up in the search box in the upper right corner.

check all found files

Step 3. Preview and recover data from the lost partition

Before recovery, you can preview the file to make sure it is the data you need. Choose all the files you need and click "Recover" to restore them. 

recover files from lost partition

You can also try to rescue lost, deleted and corrupted data with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, which has helped millions of users with successful data recovery from unrecognized hard disk, unallocated hard drive partition, RAW hard drive, formatted hard drive, virus-infected hard drive and more. When your hard drive data lost after fixing the drive that becomes unknown, not initialized, or unallocated, you can always try it to bring lost data back with simple steps.

Consult with EaseUS Data Recovery Experts for one-on-one manual recovery service. We could offer the following services after FREE diagnosis:

  • Repair corrupted RAID structure, unbootable Windows OS and corrupted virtual disk file (.vmdk, .vhd, .vhdx, etc.)
  • Recover/repair lost partition and re-partitioned drive
  • Unformat hard drive and repair raw drive (BitLocker encrypted drive)
  • Fix disks that become GPT protected partitions

Procedure 3. Partition and Format the Disk

Now you can create new volumes on your disk without worrying about losing all your files.

Step 1. Right-click "This PC" and choose "Manage" > "Disk Management".

Step 2. Right-click the unallocated space and choose "New Simple Volume..."

Step 3. In New Simple Volume Wizard, click "Next" to continue.

Step 4. Follow the wizard to specify the volume size, assign a drive letter to the volume, and then format the partition.

Partition and Format the Disk

The Bottom Line

Will initializing disk erase data on it? The answer is both "Yes" and "No". Solely initializing a disk won't erase its data. But in order to use the disk, you need to further partition and format the disk, which will cause data loss. Thus, if you don't want to lose files existing on your hard drive, using EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard software is necessary.

Initialize Disk Without Losing Data FAQs

Have you learned how to initialize disks without losing data? You will learn more in this part by reading the following answers:

Can I initialize a hard drive without losing data?

You can initialize a hard drive without losing data by following this tutorial:

  1. 1. Open Disk Management on your PC.
  2. 2. Initialize the hard drive by right-clicking the disk.
  3. 3. Choose a partition style.
  4. 4. Recover data from the hard drive.
  5. 5. Recreate the partitions and format the disk.

Does Initializing a Disk Erase Data?

When you need to install a new hard drive on your computer, you will be told to initialize the hard drive first. Dose initializing a disk erase data? Initializing a disk will not affect any sectors in the MBR partition table, so initializing a hard drive will not erase data.

Should I initialize the hard drive MBR or GPT?

If you have a hard drive that you would like to use and it is 2 TB or smaller, select MBR when you initialize the hard drive for the first time. If you have a hard drive that you would like to use but not boot from and it is larger than 2 TB, select GPT (GUID).

Can I recover data after initializing the hard drive?

Yes, you can recover data after initializing the hard drive with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.

  1. 1. Launch this hard drive recovery tool and scan the target hard drive.
  2. 2. Filter the files and select every file you want to recover.
  3. 3. Clicking "Recover" to get back everything you want.

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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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