How to Recover Files From External Hard Drive

Files lost on an external hard drive can be a headache. But fear not, there are methods to retrieve these valuable data files securely. This comprehensive guide explores various techniques and tools to assist in recovering files from an external hard drive.

Understanding Technical Terms Related to External Hard Drive File Recovery

Before delving into solutions, let’s clarify key terms associated with external hard drive file recovery:

  1. External Hard Drive: A portable storage device connected to a computer externally for storing data.
  2. File System: The method used to organize and store files on a storage medium like NTFS, FAT32, or exFAT.
  3. Data Recovery: The process of restoring inaccessible, lost, or corrupted data from storage devices.
  4. Sector: A section on a storage device where data is stored and retrieved.
  5. Backup: A duplicate copy of your data stored in another location, serving as a safety net in case of data loss.

Understanding these terms is crucial to grasp the nuances of file recovery from external hard drives.

Effective Solutions for Recovering Files From External Hard Drives

  1. Check Recycle Bin or Trash a. Connect the Drive: Connect the external hard drive to your computer. b. Check Recycle Bin/Trash: Search the Recycle Bin (Windows) or Trash (Mac) for deleted files. Restore if found.
  2. Use File Recovery Software a. Download Reliable Software: Choose a reputable file recovery tool like Recuva, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, or Disk Drill. b. Install and Run: Install the software and run a scan on the external hard drive. Preview and recover the identified files.
  3. Utilize Previous Versions (Windows) a. Right-Click on Drive: Right-click the external hard drive and select “Properties.” b. Navigate to Previous Versions: Go to the “Previous Versions” tab and select the desired file version to restore.
  4. Check Cloud Backups a. Access Cloud Storage: Log in to your cloud storage account (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). b. Search for Files: Check if the lost files were backed up in the cloud. Restore as needed.
  5. Data Recovery Services a. Research Professional Services: Look for reputable data recovery services known for their expertise. b. Contact Experts: Reach out to these services for professional assistance in file recovery.
  6. Restore from External Backup a. Connect Backup Source: Connect the external backup device (another hard drive, USB, etc.). b. Retrieve Files: Locate and copy the necessary files from the backup to your computer.
  7. Inspect File History (Windows) a. Open File History: Go to “Settings” > “Update & Security” > “Backup” > “More options” > “Restore files from a current backup.” b. Recover Files: Select the files to restore from the list of available backups.
  8. Try Command Prompt (Windows) a. Access Command Prompt: Open Command Prompt as an administrator. b. Use CHKDSK: Type “chkdsk X: /f” (X being the drive letter) to check for errors and potentially recover data.
  9. Seek Help from Manufacturer Support a. Check Manufacturer Resources: Visit the official website for the external hard drive’s manufacturer. b. Contact Support: Reach out to customer support for guidance in file recovery.
  10. Create a Disk Image a. Use Disk Imaging Software: Utilize software like Clonezilla or Macrium Reflect to create a disk image of the external hard drive. b. Recover Files from Image: Mount the image and recover files as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions about File Recovery from External Hard Drives

  1. Can I recover files from a corrupted external hard drive?
    • Yes, specialized software or professional services may recover files from a corrupted external hard drive.
  2. What should I do if my external hard drive is not detected?
    • Try connecting to another port, use a different cable, or consult a professional for diagnosis.
  3. How long does file recovery take?
    • The duration varies based on factors like the size of the drive, the type of scan, and the software used.
  4. Can deleted files be overwritten on an external hard drive?
    • Yes, deleted files can be overwritten if new data is saved on the same drive space.
  5. Are there risks associated with file recovery software?
    • There’s a slight risk of overwriting data, but reputable software minimizes these risks if used correctly.


Recovering files from an external hard drive demands a strategic approach, employing various methods from software solutions to seeking professional services. Each method has its strengths and limitations, affecting the success rate of file recovery. Acting swiftly, utilizing multiple methods cautiously, and understanding the intricacies of each approach significantly increase the chances of successfully retrieving valuable files from an external hard drive.