Like most desktop users, you may save your data on an external hard drive to preserve and access it wherever you are. Although external hard drives are excellent for data backup, things may sometimes go sideways, and you may end up with a faulty disk, leading to data loss.

If you have noticed that your external hard drive has been acting up, it may be a sign that it is corrupted and that you should do your best to save your data. We will discuss several reliable methods you can try to fix your corrupted external hard drive without formatting and present a valuable tool that can help you recover your data.

Table of Content
    1. Check the USB Connection and Ports on Your Computer
    2. Scan Your External Hard Drive and Computer for Viruses
    3. Repair a Corrupted External Hard Disk With the System File Checker
    4. Use Windows Check Disk to Troubleshoot
    5. Try Updating or Reinstalling External Disk Drive Drivers
    6. Change the Drive Letter to Enable Access to the Drive

Part 1. External Hard Drive Corruption: Symptoms, Causes & Solutions

To examine your external hard drive and determine whether something may go wrong, you should first detect the symptoms, name the causes, and find a solution to repair the external hard drive without losing data. Here are some of the most common occurrences in each category.

Causes Symptoms Solutions
🔧 Physical damage Clicking noises, inaccessible drives Check your USB ports and connections
Contact an external hard drive repair service near you
🕷 Virus/Malware Unusual activities, random data loss, renamed files Scan for viruses and malware and remove possible threats
🏿 Bad sectors Slow read/write speed Use Windows Check Disk to troubleshoot and fix your external HDD
⛔ File System corruption Not being able to mount the drive Repair file systems with the System File Checker option
🤦 Software issues Error messages, data corruption 1. Update drives and systems
2. Change the drive letter

Part 2. How To Fix Your Corrupted External Hard Drive Without Formatting

If you don’t want to lose valuable data by formatting your external hard drive, the solutions below will help. They include easy and quick methods to fix your corrupted external hard drive without losing data. We will tackle the hardware and software issues and show you what to do in each scenario.

Way 1. Check the USB Connection and Ports on Your Computer

Sometimes, the issue may not be in your hard drive but in the reader. It may also malfunction, giving the impression that your external hard drive is corrupted. Thus, before you head to other, more complex solutions, you should first check your USB connections and ports to eliminate this enemy from your list of suspects. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a device with a working USB port.
  2. Insert your external hard drive into the port.
    check external hard drive usb ports

If your external hard drive works on this device, it may indicate a faulty port on your primary device. If you don’t have another desktop, you can try the following method:

  1. Find a device that works in other USB ports (such as your mouse).
  2. Plug it into the port you are using for your external hard drive.

If the chosen device isn’t responsive, it is due to the ports and not due to the device.

Way 2. Scan Your External Hard Drive and Computer for Viruses

Viruses can cause severe damage to your external hard drive and computer. Thus, you should frequently check for viruses to ensure everything is running smoothly and that no intruders are nearby.

To keep your external hard drive and computer safe from these enemies, you will need help from third-party software. You can discover numerous trustworthy tools to help you on this quest.

After scanning for viruses, use the same tools to eliminate them if they exist. That may fix your corrupted external hard drive without formatting and improve your external drive’s and computer’s health.

As a Windows user, you can scan for viruses using the integrated virus-protection program. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to System Settings > Update and Security > Windows Security.
  2. Select Virus and Threat Protection.
    windows virus and threat protection

After a few moments, you will receive the final results. If the program detects viruses, it will guide you through the elimination process.

Way 3. Repair a Corrupted External Hard Disk With the System File Checker

System File Checker is a command prompt that allows you to check for system and file errors. With two simple commands, you can quickly repair your corrupted external hard drive without formatting and make it as good as new. Follow this step-by-step guide to fix your issue:

  1. Search for Command Prompt on your device and select Run as Administrator.
  2. Input the sfc /scannow command and press Enter on your keyboard.
    input the scanning command
  3. After the program finishes scanning, type the dism.exe /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth command and press Enter.

Although it may seem easy, this method may take up to a few hours to complete. Thus, it might be your ideal option if you aren’t in a hurry and can wait for the program to scan and repair your external hard drive. You should also ensure not to turn Command Prompt off while the program runs the scan. Ensure that it is at 100% before clicking the red X button.

Way 4. Use Windows Check Disk to Troubleshoot

Check Disk is a Windows-integrated tool that allows you to scan your hard drives for corrupted files, repair bugs, and care for your external media. Thus, it is one of the best tools when experiencing issues with corrupted hard drives. Here’s how to use Check Disk to fix your problem without formatting:

  1. Insert your external device into your port.
  2. Once the desktop recognizes it, right-click the drive and select Properties.
  3. Navigate to the Tools tab in the dialog box and click Check.
    check for corrupted files
  4. After that, choose the Scan Drive option to detect possible issues.
  5. Once the program finishes scanning, select Show Details to view which problems the program found and repaired.

Depending on the issue’s complexity, this process may take a while, so wait for it to finish before taking out your external hard drive.

Way 5. Try Updating or Reinstalling External Disk Drive Drivers

Sometimes, all you need to do to fix your external hard drive problems is update or reinstall its drivers. That will give your external device a fresh start, enabling you to use it without issues. However, this method may lead to data loss, so if you want to preserve your data, back it up first and recover it afterward. You will need help from the Device Management tool to reinstall or update your drivers. Here’s how to repair corrupted hard disk without formatting by reinstalling the driver:

  1. Right-click the This PC app and select Properties.
  2. Choose Device Manager from the Properties section.
  3. Select Disk Drives and find your external hard drive.
  4. Right-click the drive and choose Uninstall Device.
    uninstall the external drive
  5. Click OK to confirm you want to start the uninstalling process.

Afterward, restart your PC and pull out the drive from your port. Once your device turns on, insert your external disk back, and it should automatically install. If you still cannot use the disk after this process, you can try some other methods from this guide.

Way 6. Change the Drive Letter to Enable Access to the Drive

Sometimes, your PC may not recognize your external hard drive due to the changes in disk letters. If you don’t see your device on your screen, try changing its letter and see whether that will fix the issue. That is one of the most common reasons you cannot access your hard drive, and here’s how to fix an external hard drive without formatting it in a few simple steps:

  1. Right-click the This PC app on your desktop and select Manage.
  2. Choose Disk Management from the Storage option.
  3. Find the external hard drive you want to repair and right-click it.
  4. Choose the Change Letters and Paths option from the drop-down menu.
    changing the drive letter
  5. After that, select the Change option, and assign your disk a new letter.
  6. Click OK to finish the process.

After that, restart your device. If the disk letter was an issue, your PC should automatically detect your external hard drive.

Part 3. How To Recover Files From an External Hard Drive Without Formatting

In most cases, you will lose your data with a corrupted external hard drive. If you have stored some of your most valuable memories or sensitive data on this hard drive, you may feel stressed and look for ways to regain your data. Although it may seem impossible, incredible tools are available that will help you retrieve your lost treasure intact.

Wondershare Recoverit is one of the best, most trustworthy hard drive data recovery tools to get your data back in minutes. No matter the file types you have stored on your external hard drive, Wondershare Recoverit can help retrieve them. It is compatible with 2000+ storage devices, so you won’t have to fulfill specific user requirements.

Wondershare Recoverit – Your Reliable Hard Drive Recovery Software

  • Recovers data from all types and brands of hard drives, including WD, Seagate, Toshiba, Samsung, Dell, etc.
  • Handles 500+ data loss scenarios, such as deletion, formatting, CF card damage, virus attacks, etc.
  • Recovers lost or deleted files, photos, videos, music, emails, and other 1000+ file types effectively, safely and completely.
Free Download
Free Download

Here’s how to recover external hard drive data without formatting using Wondershare Recoverit:

  1. Download Wondershare Recoverit to your PC and run the program.
  2. Connect your external device to the PC.
  3. Once Wondershare Recoverit detects your external hard drive, choose it as a target location and hit Scan.
    choose the external hard drive in wondershare recoverit
  4. Wait for the program to scan for lost files. You can pause or stop this process, but ensure your device stays plugged in.
    scan for lost files in external hard drive
  5. After scanning, you can preview the files you want to recover.
  6. Select all the files you wish to retrieve and click Recover.
    recover external hard drive without formatting
  7. Choose a location where you want to save your files.
    choose location for recovered files
Free Download
Free Download

After a few moments, you will get your valuable data back on your device. Since you may worry about losing your data again, check out the tips below to prevent such stressful scenarios.

Part 4. What Can You Do to Protect Your External HDD From Corruption?

Since both hardware and software mishandling can lead to corrupted external hard drives, you should be careful to protect them from further damage. For instance, when handling your external HDD, you should do it gently and not force it into the port. Moreover, store it in a dry, safe environment to protect it from external factors like dust, heat, and humidity.

Furthermore, avoid sudden shutdowns, as they may lead to physical damage. You can opt for protective cases to further improve the physical safety of your external hard drive.

As for software risks, you should have antivirus software on your PC. These solutions can detect early dangers that will not reach your external hard drive and make a mess.

Additionally, use error-detection tools as they can tell you whether something is wrong with your drive before anything terrible happens. Run these tools frequently for the best and most successful results and protection.

One of the preventative measures that can contribute to virus and malware protection is updating your system and devices as frequently as possible. These updates will patch vulnerable parts, thus not allowing viruses and malware to enter your hard drives.

The safest option is to have a backup you can rely on if things go sideways. You can use another hard drive or choose software solutions for a plan B. You can count on them even if you lose your data and can’t recover it.

The most important thing is to always opt for reliable, secure sources when downloading and handling data. Some sources may contain viruses and other threats, so choose carefully. In the end, it is always better to be safe than sorry.


Having a corrupted external drive can be stressful and overwhelming. You may wonder if there is a solution to fix your problem without losing data. If so, don’t worry. You can fix your corrupted drive without formatting and retrieve your valuable data with the help of the right tools and methods.

We have presented some of the best, most reliable ways to fix your issue and get your hard drive up and running again. Once you do, try Wondershare Recoverit for the best experience and the highest data quality.

Don’t forget to take preventative measures to avoid further damage and the same scenario.

Eleanor Reed
Eleanor Reed May 14, 24
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