Data Recovery from Non-Recognised External Hard Drive

Sometimes when you connect an external hard drive or USB flash drive into your computer or laptop, you won’t be able to see it in the ‘Computer’ window, or it won’t Autoplay. So what do you do in this situation, and how can you avoid the need for hard drive recovery?

You might plug your device in and hear the ‘ping’ that let’s you know that it’s been recognised, but it won’t show up anywhere. For all intents and purposes, it isn’t connected. There are several reasons this could be happening, with hard drive recovery potentially very difficult. It could be caused by a partition problem, the wrong file system being used, a faulty USB port or cable, or driver issues. You need to first check if the device shows up in Disk Management. If it doesn’t, check that that you don’t have to flick a switch on the side, or plug it in with a separate power supply. While most smaller external hard drives are powered through the USB interface, larger models need their own independent power source.

In Windows, you can launch Disk Manager by opening the Run dialogue with Windows+R, and typing ‘devmgmt.msc’ in the box. Pressing enter will launch Disk Manager, and you can then try and find your drive. If it isn’t showing, check it on a different machine, and see if another USB port works. If your disk is showing, and has a yellow exclamation mark next to it, this means it has a driver problem. If you right-click the disk and select Properties, an error message will appear; if you Google the message, it might give you a clue as to what the problem is. With driver-related issues, Device Manager offers a few fixes, like updating the driver, or uninstalling (then reinstalling) it. If it is simply a driver issue, and reinstalling does the trick, you should be able to access your files again, avoiding the need for hard drive recovery.

If it still isn’t being recognised, it is possible that there is a partition or file system issue. If you think the drive is partitioned and it still isn’t showing, it might be as easy as assigning a letter to the drive. While this should happen automatically, you may have to do it manually in Disk Management. If this doesn’t help, it’s starting to look likely that it’s a partition issue. It could be that the drive is partitioned with the wrong file system; Windows can’t read HFS Plus-partitioned drives, which Macs use, nor can they use Linux’s ext4 file system devices. In these instances, plug your device into a machine running one of these operating systems to recover your data. If you want to carry on using the external hard drive or USB flash drive, you’ll need to correctly format it using the right file system. You should be aware, however, that you will lose all your data by doing this, and hard drive recovery from a formatted device can be very tricky.  

Data Recovery