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Does Initializing a Disk Erase Data, Yes or No?

Does initializing a disk erase data? Here, you will learn what happens when you initialize a disk and how to fix disk initialization data loss error on your own in Windows 10/8/7.

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Table of Contents

Initializing disk is a must-be process after you install a new hard drive on the computer. However, sometimes, the old hard drive may suddenly show not initialized, requesting for initialization. What concerns people the most is whether initializing disk will erase a disk data.

On this page, you'll learn everything about disk initialization. And you will find answers to all your questions in the following parts.

Case - If I Initialize a Disk, Will It Be Erased

"What does initialization affect a hard disk? While using the Windows disk management utility, I received the instruction showing as 'You must initialize a disk before Logical Disk Manager can access it'. The disk is NTFS with no operating system on it.

However, I have saved lots of files on it. I'd like to know if I initialize the disk, will it be erased? I am not expecting any data loss on it."

Initialize disk

You may have the same confusion as to the user above when you are requested to initialize a disk. Generally, Windows operating system would pop up the initializing disk request to two types of hard disk:

1. A Brand New Disk

2. Old Hard Drive Shows "Disk Unknown, Not Initialized" Suddenly

If your disk is new and unformatted, you can initialize it directly without worrying about data loss.

However, if the disk has files existing on it, you should understand what does disk initialization mean and will initializing a disk erase the data.

Follow the next part, your doubts will get released.

Does Initializing a Disk Erase Data

In this part, you'll get answers to the following three questions that most of the hard disk users may also interest in:

  1. What does it mean to initialize a disk
  2. What happens when you initialize a disk

Initializing disk is a process of building or rebuilding MBR, Master Boot Record, the first sector of a hard drive. MBR stores information to load logical partitions and even system files on that storage medium. To do so, you'll need to use Windows disk management to initialize the disk. A third-party disk initialization tool can also work.

So what happens while initializing a disk? During the disk initialization process, Windows disk management or third-party tool will re-write the 0 sectors in the MBR partition table so as to allow you to create logical partitions on the drive.

Will Initializing a Disk Erase Data

As the disk initializing process only affects 0 sectors in MBR, thus, the answer to "Will initializing a disk erase data" is NO. Initializing disk won't erase data on the hard drive. 

If someone says "Initializing a disk erases everything on it", it's not real. If some of you see no files appear after initializing a used disk, it's not the operation but your hard drive is still unallocated. You have to create partitions on the drive so to make it visible again.  

So how to fix the file not visible issue after disk initialization? Check the next part, you'll get everything back on your disk.

Fix Disk Initialization: Make Initialized Hard Drive Work Again, No Data Loss

Whether your disk is brand new or used, as long as the computer request initialization, follow the process presented here. You'll fix the disk initialization issue, making your disk work normally again without losing any data. 

Note: If your disk is brand new, finish Procedure 1 and jump to Procedure 3.

Procedure 1. Initialize Disk using Disk Management

So how to initialize a disk? You can either use Windows Disk Management or third-party free partition manager for help.

Here we will show you how to execute disk initialization in Disk Management:

Step 1. Press Windows + X keys, click "Disk Management". 

Step 2. Locate the target disk, if it shows "Offline", right-click and choose "Online" first.

Step 3. Then right-click the not initialized disk and choose "Initialize Disk".

Step 4. Set GPT or MBR as the partition style, click "OK" to start initializing the disk.

Initialize Disk

After this, your disk is initialized and the Unknown, Not Initialized symbol will disappear. The disk will display as "Basic".

But if your disk still shows as Not Initialized or Unknow, you can try to update the disk driver or change its connection cable to try to fix this issue. The last option is to send your disk to its manufacturer center or a disk repair center for help.  

Don't worry if you set a wrong partition style while initializing a disk. You can convert disk between MBR and GPT without losing your files after the disk initialization.
Reliable partition manager software - EaseuS Partition Master can help.

Procedure 2. Recover Data from the Disk

This is a key point for people whose old disk displaying not initialized with important data saved on it. Although the disk is initialized, it is still inaccessible. 

You still cannot access or see any files on the drive. Reliable EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can help. It enables you to fully scan the whole empty drive and find all your data with its Quick and Deep scan modes.

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Follow the steps below to recover data from the initialized disk:

Step 1. Scan the hard drive partition

Select the drive on your hard disk where you lost or deleted files. Click "Scan" and let EaseUS data recovery software scan for all lost data and files on the selected drive.

select a location and scan hard drive

Step 2. Check the results

When the scan completes, you can apply the "Filter" feature or click the "Search files or folders" option to find the lost files on the hard drive.

Find and preview all lost hard drive data

Step 3. Restore lost hard drive data

Select wanted files that you lost on the drive and click "Recover" to save them to another location.

Restore lost hard drive data.

Procedure 3. Partition Disk - Make Hard Drive Visible

Now, it's time to make your initialized disk visible. Windows Disk Management can partition and set your disk format so as to it show up and work normally again on your computer.

Let's start partition the disk:

Step 1. Press Windows + X keys, click "Disk Management" to open it.

Step 2. Right-click the unallocated space on your disk, choose "New Simple Volume..."

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

Step 4. Set the size and the drive letter to the new volume, click "Next".

Step 5.  Then set NTFS as the file system, click "Next" and "Finish" to complete.

Create partition and format disk

You can repeat the process to create more partitions on the initialized disk. After this, you can use the drive as a system or data disk on your computer.

The Bottom Line

This page answers the questions related to disk initialization. As for the most concerned question - "does initializing a disk erase data", the answer is no.

Initializing disk only affects the MBR 0 sectors, the data saved on the drive are still there. As for the reason why saved data on the initialized disk is invisible, it is because the drive is unallocated.

To fix this issue, you need to first use EaseUS data recovery software to restore the data from the disk first. Then create new partitions on the drive, making it accessible again.

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Last, although initializing disk will not erase data nor format the disk, in order to protect your precious data, please remember to back up the disk regularly. You can either choose to copy files as a backup or use automatic file backup software for help. 

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Updated by Cedric

Cedric Grantham is one of the senior editors and data recovery specialists of EaseUS who lives and works in Chengdu, China. He mainly writes articles and how-to tips about data recovery tutorials on PC and Mac. He has handled 10,000+ data recovery cases and is mainly good at data recovery of NTFS, FAT (FAT32 and ExFAT) file systems, and RAID structure reorganization of RAID 0, 5, and 10.

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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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