How To Recover Data From External Hard Drive?

Here we have put forward the best approaches to ensure external hard drive recovery, taking lost data into consideration.

external hard drive

Although external hard drives are mainly designed to store backups of essential data, extreme reliance solely on an external hard drive can put you at risk of data loss. Given this, you must be familiar with how to recover data from external hard drives to deal with such a state; therefore, here we will shed light on all the possible external hard drive recovery ways.

Part 1. Why Do External Hard Drives Lose Data?

Data loss has always been an unwanted & troubling event; thus, it is pretty important to figure out the root cause of the problem. In this connection, you can find a few most likely troubling reasons here.

Accidental file deletion: Most computer users often lose their essential data by formatting the hard drive unknowingly. Such unintentional deletion of files from hard drives is quite a common issue.

Corrupted file system: The computer file system might be corrupted in some situations, and consequently, the files located on the external hard drive get corrupted or unusable.

Physical damage: Physical damage is another reason that can put your important data at risk. However, such damages rarely occur due to specific environmental effects; consequently, your external hard drive becomes unusable.

Unanticipated hardware issue: Sometimes, unanticipated hardware issues like power outages, overhearing, etc., may also lead to data loss because external hard drives often are prone to such problems.

Malware attack: Malware attacks are often considered among the most causes of data loss. Certain virus popups or malware infections can easily delete or modify data stored on your external hard drives.

Part 2. What Not To Do if an External Hard Disk Shows Signs of Data Loss?

Sudden data loss leads to a panic state and triggers the users to go for instant fixing ways to overcome such a loss. In this connection, it is suggested to refrain from the specific steps illustrated here.

  • First and foremost, the precaution is don’t use your external hard drive upon seeing any data loss sign. Because instant usage may overwrite the lost files on the external hard drive, and thus the previously existing data might become unrecoverable.
  • You shouldn’t format your external hard drive if you see no data since it might be hidden and recoverable by adopting any suitable data recovery strategy.
  • Don’t go for quick fixes if you intend to recover your data. Because in the first place, you need to figure out the likely data loss cause to implement the most relevant solution accordingly.

Part 3. Can the Recycle Bin Recover Data From an External Hard Drive?

Yes! In fact, Recycle Bin is considered the primary way to recover deleted files from external hard drives or any other location. Because any file you delete or erase from the computer system gets moved to Recycle Bin initially, and afterwards, you can easily retrieve it back to its original location via Recycle Bin.

How to use the recycle bin to retrieve data?

  • Right-click on the Recycle Bin icon located on the Desktop.
  • Select the Properties.
  • You can select your targeted location and click on the Restore option.

Note that the Recycle Bin option might not work in all situations; for instance, if you have deleted any file using the shortcut key Shift + Delete, then it got deleted permanently from your computer system. Moreover, you can’t even get all the lost data from an external hard drive; some files may still go missing in Recycle Bin; therefore, in such a case, you may need alternative methods to recover data from external hard drive.

Part 4. 7 Proven Ways To Recover Data From an External Hard Drive

Free Download

For Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10/11

Free Download

For macOS X 10.10 - macOS 13

The unrecovered lost data via Recycle Bin can still be retrieved using other reliable data recovery sources. Given this, here we explained the few most effective ways to recover data from an external hard drive.

Method 1: Use Third-party Data Recovery Software-Recoverit (Top Recommended)

If you have lost your data on an external hard drive, the first solution you might try is to use a third-party data recovery software. In this connection, Recoverit is the most recommended data recovery software capable of recovering deleted data from an external hard drive in all sorts of data loss-triggering situations.

Operational Steps:

Step 1: Download & install the Wondershare Recoverit on your computer.

Free Download

For Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10/11

Free Download

For macOS X 10.10 - macOS 13

Step 2: Upon successful installation, launch the Recoverit application and choose the External Hard Drive option from its home screen.

select external hard drive in recoverit

Step 3: Click on the Start.

Step 4: The Recoverit application will scan your external hard drive.

scanning external hard drive

Step 5: You can Preview the recoverable files after the scanning process.

Step 6: Select the files you intend to recover and click the Recover.

preview file in recoverit

Intuitive interface

Supports various file systems

Support various languages

Offers Preview feature


100MB limit in the free version

Limitation on the Preview feature

Method 2: Show Hidden Files on External Hard Drive

Data loss doesn’t always indicate file deletion; sometimes, you can’t merely see certain files on your external hard drive. This is because you might intentionally hide some confidential data via Settings. Thus, if this is the case, you need to manually unhide all such data on the external hard drive.

Operational Steps:

Step 1: Launch the Control Panel on your Windows operating system (Windows 7/8/10).

all control panel items

Step 2: Here, choose the Small icons option from the dropdown menu next to View By.

control panel items view by small icons

Step 3: Now, click on the Folder Options.

control panel folder options

Step 4: In Folder Options, navigate to the View tab.

folder options view tab

Step 5: Select the option Show hidden files, folders, and drives available below the Hidden files and folders section.

show hidden files folders and drives

Step 6: Click the Apply button and then Ok to save your changes.


Quick retrieval of files

Built-in feature

Easy to use


Can’t recover accidentally or intentionally deleted files

Method 3: Use the Command Prompt

If you’ve lost your important data because the external hard disk is infected by some sort of virus and malware, then you can easily retrieve it back using the command prompt. Note that you need to be highly conscious while typing commands in CMD since a single wrong command can disturb the entire external hard drive recovery process.

Operational Steps:

Step 1: Firstly, connect the external hard drive to your computer.

Step 2: Launch the Run application by using the shortcut key Win + R.

run application

Step 3: Type cmd in the Run dialogue box and hit the Enter key.

cmd in run application

Step 4: Then type the following command in cmd and press Enter key.

""ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D X:*.*"

type command in cmd

Note: In this command, you can replace the X with the exact name of your external hard drive.


Free to use

Requires no downloading or installation process


Less effective

Not suitable for beginners

Method 4: Restore a Previous Version

The data loss caused by any unanticipated hardware issue or a system crash can be recovered via the File History feature in no time, as it allows the users to restore the previous version of files readily. However, you might need to manually activate the File History feature in this regard.

Operational Steps:

Step 1: Access the folder where deleted files were previously located.

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Step 2: Right-click in your selected folder and Click on the Properties option.

Step 3: Navigate to the Previous Versions tab in the Properties window.

Step 4: Here, you need to select the particular previous version you intend to recover.

Step 5: Then click on the Restore button.

restore previous version

Free to use

Easy recovery process


Can’t recover permanently deleted files

Method 5: Use the Windows System File Checker

The System File checker is another DIY way to recover files from external hard drive. Actually, System File Checker (SFC) is a built-in Windows Tool that can prove to be quite effective in a situation where you have lost your data due to any malware attack or corrupted file system.

Operational Steps:

Step 1: Search the CMD in the Windows Search menu.

Step 2: Right-click the Command Prompt option in the displayed search results and click on the option Run as Administrator.

Step 3: To Run a full system scan, type the following command in the Command prompt and press the Enter.

sfc /scannow

sfc scannow in cmd

Step 4: Don’t exit the Command prompt window during the scanning process. It will scan all the protected files, and then the corrupted files will get replaced with cached copies if available in a compressed folder.

Step 5: You’ll see a message “Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations” upon successful completion of this process.

windows resource protection did not find any integrity violations

Step 6: Contrarily, if you see “Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them”, you need to rerun the command by restarting the computer in Safe Mode.

windows resource protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them

Easy to use

Faster recovery approach

Doesn’t require downloading


Can’t recover data on advanced level

Method 6: Use a Previous Backup

If you have lost the data stored on an external hard drive due to any physical damage or power cuts, then you can also go for restoring the backup. However, you can only implement this strategy if you have taken the backup of external hard drive data preciously on cloud storage or any other device.


Efficient recovery

Free & Reliable method


Can only recover the previous backup files

Tip: To perform an optimum & safest backup in future, we suggest using Wondershare UBackit software, which is fully capable of managing backups of files, partitions, drives, etc.

Method 7: Use a Data Recovery Service

Apart from manual recovery processes & third-party recovery software, you can also opt for a relatively more reliable method with guaranteed recovery results, that is, Data Recovery Service. However, you should choose this approach if none of the above solutions worked in your case and your external hard drive is damaged physically, as it’d cost you more.

Operational Steps:

Step 1: In the first place, do a cost analysis to figure out the average recovery service cost to proceed with a fair price quote.

Step 2: Select a reliable & expert Data Recovery Service that defines a strict policy regarding no charges in case of unsuccessful data recovery.

Step 3: Then you need to explain your issue and send your external hard drive to the selected Data Recovery Service location to get the exact price quote.

Step 4: Afterward, you’d have to finalize the decision to proceed with the selected Recovery Service.


Highly reliable

Guaranteed data recovery





Certain factors might lead to data loss in external hard drives; in this connection, various data recovery approaches work quite efficiently to recover the lost data from external hard drives, such as using previous backups, System fields checker, Data Recovery services, etc., but opting for a reliable recovery tool like Recoverit often proves to be the most feasible way to recover the lost data.

Free Download

For Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10/11

Free Download

For macOS X 10.10 - macOS 13

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