Panic ensues when a Windows user sees a disk suddenly appear as RAW. First order of business? To calm down. You can easily recover everything on that disk in most cases and even fix your hard drive so you can use it like before. In this guide, we help you convert RAW to NTFS without losing data.
Can You Convert RAW to NTFS Without Formatting?
There is no guaranteed way to convert RAW to NTFS without formatting the drive completely. A drive appears as RAW when the filesystem is missing, damaged, or not recognized by Windows. If the filesystem is missing or not recognized, you’ll certainly need to format the drive. However, if the filesystem is damaged, you might try using a tool like TestDisk to fix it.
Pro tip: CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives. However, CHKDSK can still identify drives that appear to be RAW because of a logical error, but in reality, are NTFS drives. In some cases, using CHKDSK can potentially resolve the issue for you without having to format the drive.
How to Convert RAW to NTFS Without Losing Data in a Few Steps
The most reliable way to convert a RAW partition to NTFS without data loss is using a combination of a data recovery tool and formatting the drive. Make sure you use a reliable data recovery tool, though. We recommend Disk Drill (read our Disk Drill review) because it offers the byte-to-byte backup functionality and a broad range of features to make the recovery process simple.
Below, we’ve illustrated the process of conversion and formatting a RAW drive.
Step 1: Create a Byte-to-Byte Backup of Your RAW Drive
Your first step should be safeguarding your data so in case something doesn’t go well during the process, you can still recover the data.
Follow these instructions to create a byte-to-byte backup:
- Get started by downloading Disk Drill and installing it on your PC.
- Launch Disk Drill, switch to Drive Backup from the left sidebar, select the RAW disk, and click on the Byte-to-Byte Backup option at the top-right.
- Select a Path for storing the backup file and click OK.
Step 2: Format Your RAW Drive to Convert it to NTFS
Once you’ve backed up your data, format the hard drive. Formatting will rewrite the filesystem on your disk, which should fix your problem and make the drive accessible again. You’ll also lose your data after a format, but since you have a backup, you can rewrite the data to your drive after formatting.
You can use one of the several methods to format a drive on windows. We discuss the three easiest methods below.
Using File Explorer
The easiest way to format a drive is using the File Explorer:
- Press Ctrl + E to launch File Explorer.
- Right-click on the RAW drive and select Format.
- Select NTFS as the filesystem, make sure the box next to Quick format is checked, and click the Start button.
Once the process completes, you’ll see a new NTFS drive in the File Explorer.
Using DiskPart in the Command Prompt
DiskPart is a built-in, command-line utility in Windows that allows managing disk partitions. DiskPart can help you convert a RAW partition to NTFS (or any other file system like FAT 32 or exFAT as well):
- Search for cmd in the Start Menu, hover your cursor over Command Prompt, and select Run as administrator.
- Type the following commands and press Enter (one at a time): diskpart list disk
- Note the Disk ### for the RAW disk.
- Type the following command and press Enter: select disk 2(replace 2 with the disk number noted in step 3)
- Continue to execute the following commands: clean create partition primary format fs=ntfs
- Once the formatting is complete, execute the following command: assign letter=X (where X is the drive letter)
When you’re done, you’ll see the RAW disk appear as an empty NTFS drive.
Using Disk Management
You can also use the Disk Management console on Windows to format the RAW drive and convert it to NTFS:
- Press Win + R, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter.
- Find the RAW disk in the disk management console, right-click on it, and select Format.
- Select NTFS as the filesystem, check the box next to the Perform a quick format option, and click OK.
- Confirm the format by selecting OK when prompted.
Step 3: Recover Data From the Backup
Once you’ve formatted the hard drive:
- Launch Disk Drill and select Attach disk image. Attach the backup image here.
- Scan the attached image.
- Recover the files that Disk Drill finds.
Alternatively, you can also just scan the new NTFS drive you see in Disk Drill.Recovering data from formatted hard drives is possible as long as you haven’t overwritten the data.
Note: We have a complete guide on recovering data from a RAW partition where we explain Byte-to-Byte backups in greater detail.
Bonus: Repair a RAW Partition with TestDisk
You can convert RAW to NTFS using TestDisk by using its feature that allows writing the partition structure to the disk. Here’s the process:
- Launch TestDisk.
- Select Create to create a log file.
- On the next screen, select the hard drive that appears formatted as RAW. If you can’t identify it, the disk size might help spot the right drive. Once selected, press Enter.
- Select the partition table type. In most cases, you’ll need to select the Intel/PC partition. Press Enter once selected.
- Select Analyze > Quick Search. Once the search ends, select the Deeper Search option because a Quick Search won’t detect a RAW partition. Note that a Deeper Search can take a while.
- When the search results appear, identify partitions that didn’t appear in the list after a quick search. Those partitions should be the RAW partitions you’re looking for.
- Highlight the RAW partition using the up and down arrow keys and press P. If you see the partition files, the detected partition is correct. Press Q to return to the previous menu, repeat this process for all partitions, and if you see the files for each partition, you should be able to rewrite the partition tables.
- If the RAW partition has an asterisk against its name (towards the left), use the left/right arrow key to mark it as a Primary partition without the boot flag. You’ll see a P instead of an asterisk once marked successfully.
- When you’re done marking all partitions correctly, select the Write option to write the partition structure and press Y to confirm the operation.
- Once the writing process is complete, check the Boot sector details in TestDisk. If the Status says it’s good, you can exit TestDisk and reboot. If the Status is bad, you should also repair the boot sector before you exit the program. To do this, select the Rebuild BS option.
- Select the Write option on the next screen and press Y to confirm the operation.
- When the process ends, you’ll see a prompt for rebooting the PC. Select OK > Quit.
- Reboot your computer.
When your computer reboots, go to the Disk Management console to verify if TestDisk fixed the RAW drive. The drive should now appear as an NTFS drive in the console.
If you need more details on how to perform these steps, we explain the process in more detail in our TestDisk review.
It’s easy to go into panic mode when your drive suddenly appears as RAW. However, you can easily fix the problem using a data recovery tool and formatting the drive. This method lets you keep your data intact and also helps convert your RAW drive to NTFS without too many technical difficulties.