Well, exFAT data recovery is not a myth and is very much possible. There’s a popular misconception that exFAT files once deleted can’t be recovered. We are here to prove otherwise.
Are you frustrated over files deleted from your exFAT hard drive? All you have to do is follow our step-by-step instructions to recover your files.
Want to skip the theory part and jump to the recovery guide right away? Click here.
What Is the exFAT File System Format?
Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) is a file system format designed for flash memory devices such as USB flash drives and SD cards. Large storage devices such as external hard drives use the exFAT format due to its compatibility with Windows and Mac computers.
Benefits of Using an exFAT Drive
Here are some of the reasons why the exFAT file system trumps its counterparts:
- 💻 Windows OS and macOS/macOS X support: exFAT is quite versatile across operating systems as the format works well with Windows, Linux, and Mac. For instance, macOS restricts NTFS hard disks to operate strictly on a read-only mechanism – thus not allowing you to write any data. Interestingly, the exFAT is also commonly known as a “better FAT” as it overcomes the shortcomings of the older FAT32 file system.
- ⚙️ More Compatibility: The NTFS file system isn’t the most friendly format considering multimedia hardware like media players, cameras, or even TV sets. At times, the media doesn’t get detected or the file playback isn’t as expected. Enter: exFAT which is much more compatible and evergreen – as the exFAT works well with old and new multimedia devices.
- 📈 Support for Greater File Sizes: The predecessor of the exFAT: the FAT32 could house a maximum volume size of 32GB, with a maximum file size of 4GB on Windows. That blue-ray 4K 9GB Avatar movie you wanted to copy – can’t happen on a FAT32 device. The exFAT supports a maximum file size of 16 exabytes – which is absolutely insane!
Causes of Data Loss on exFAT Systems
Any of the following can cause data loss on exFAT systems:
- Formatting your exFAT external drive
- Accidental or Intentional deletion
- System error
- Bad sectors
- Virus attack
- Drive corruption
Any of the above culprits can result in minor or major data loss. As a result, it’s critical to initiate the data recovery process ASAP.
What to do Right After You Notice You Need Data Recovery?
Before you try to recover data from your exFAT hard drive, please read our article to the end to prevent data loss. Make sure of the following to maximize your chances of complete data recovery.
- Stop using the drive. Continued use of the drive will increase the risk of overwriting deleted data.
- Prepare a storage device large enough to store all your recovered files, such as an external or network drive.
- Do not try to save files on the disk from which you are going to recover them. Using the same disk drive can lead to file overwriting.
- Use professional and reliable hard drive data recovery software.
Now that the essential whys and whats are out of the way, let’s get right down to business.
How to Recover Files from exFAT Hard Drives
Several methods can help you with exFAT data recovery. We have shortlisted three ways, tried and tested by our experts, to recover data from your exFAT hard drive.
Method #1: Check the Recycle Bin
On Windows, most deleted files go to the Recycle Bin unless they are permanently deleted (using Shift + Delete). The first step to recover any data should always be to check Recycle Bin for any deleted data from such exFAT system.
- You can open the recycle bin using the icon on your Desktop or by typing Recycle Bin in the Search Bar and then clicking on the icon.
- Search for the files in the window that opens. If you see your deleted files, select them.
- Right-click on the selected files and click Restore. Alternatively, click on Restore the selected items in the Menu Bar.
If your files are in the Recycle Bin, you can recover them successfully with this method. However, go to the following method if you cannot perform exFAT file recovery from the Recycle Bin.
Interesting Read: How to Recover Deleted Files from the Recycle Bin (Even AFTER Empty)
Method #2: Backup and Restore
Windows’ in-built feature Backup & Restore is very powerful to recover data from the exFAT system, provided you made a backup of it before. To restore such a backup:
- Open Settings by pressing Win + I or from the Start Menu.
- Select the Update & Security tab under settings.
- Click Backup and then More options
- Choose Restore files from a current backup.
- Find the files for exFAT data recovery in the current backup. You can use the Search Box in the top-right corner or use arrows to navigate through files and folders.
- Select your files and click the green restore button.
This step will restore your files to your exFAT hard drive. However, keep in mind that this method only works if you have previously made a backup of your drive. To know how to set up backup and restore, go to our FAQ section.
Suppose these steps for exFAT file recovery did not work for you. In that case, the simplest and best option is to use data recovery software.
Method #3: Use Third-Party Software for exFAT Data Recovery
Third-party software makes it very easy to recover files from many formats. You must always select reliable and professional third-party recovery software for exFAT data recovery to ensure the best results and avoid security risks.
We are going to cover two options of data recovery software here:
Option A: Disk Drill
Disk Drill Data Recovery is a data recovery software for both Windows 10 and macOS users. We will use it to demonstrate how to recover files from exFAT hard drives.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Download and install Disk Drill: Disk Drill has a free version that provides up to 500 MB of free data recovery and access to extra data protection tools. Download the setup from the official website and install it. Disk Drill requires the administrator’s credentials to run correctly, so you must grant it admin access.
- Open Disk Drill and select the exFAT drive for data recovery: When you open Disk Drill, a window will open with a list of all drives connected to your device. Select the exFAT drive from which you want to recover data.
- Choose a recovery method: Disk Drill has several recovery methods you can choose from, available in the drop-down menu on the bottom right. By default, Disk Drill will run all recovery methods. Still, you can select quick (fast, but superficial) or deep (slow, but searches more thoroughly) scans. We recommend using the default method for more complete results.
- Search for lost data: After choosing the exFAT drive and recovery method, click on Search for lost data. As the scanning will progress, a status bar will reveal the progress at the top of Disk Drill’s window, along with the number of files found and their total size. For best results, you should allow the scan to complete. Else you can pause it to check the files already identified.
- Select the files to recover: When the scan is complete, you can preview files found by Disk Drill before you recover them. They are listed by their file types, making it easier to use filters to narrow them down. You can also use the search box at the top to find *.jpg or *.doc files.
- Recover deleted data: Once you have selected files for exFAT data recovery, click on Recover. Alternatively, to recover all files from your exFAT hard drive, click on Recover all. A pop-up window will prompt you to choose a recovery location. Remember not to use the same disk which contains the lost files as this can cause file corruption or overwrite data during recovery. Once you select the recovery location, click OK.
Once recovery is complete, will see a dialogue box with details about your exFAT files. They will be available in the location you selected during recovery.
Option B: PhotoRec
PhotoRec is an amazing open-source tool that can help you recover deleted files from an exFAT hard disk.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Download the PhotoRec software suite from here.
- Launch PhotoRec – which would have a command line-based UI.
- Plugin your hard disk.
- Select the disk you want to recover.
- Now, use your arrow keys and click on [File Opt].
- By default, all file extensions would be selected. To disable all, press s and then scroll using the arrow keys while pressing the spacebar to select your desired file types. In this case, we are selecting ‘mov’.
- Save your settings by pressing b and then select quit to return to the previous partition page.
- Now select other as your file type as we are dealing with an exFAT.
- Now select Whole to trigger a complete partition search for your deleted data.
- Chill down a bit and watch the magic happen as your files resurrect from the bottomless pits of deletion. Your files should be back right back where you last saw them.
Total Eyeopener: PhotoRec Review: Is the Software Still Worth Using?
Using third-party data recovery software is the best solution for all types of data recovery. If you want a quick, reliable solution to restore your exFAT files, this is it.
Unraveling the Popular exFAT Recovery Scenarios
In this section, we have pitched solutions to frequent exFAT issues. Stay tuned:
Case #1: Recover Deleted Individual Files from exFAT Disk
Case #2: Recover Formatted/Corrupted exFAT Disk/Partition
Under the PhotoRec recovery process, we demonstrated the recovery process for an entire partition in an exFAT disk. You can try out this strategy to recover your deleted data.
Case #3: My exFAT Drive is Not Detecting
If your exFAT Drive isn’t being detected, we have compiled quite a few nifty techniques as a workaround. Some prominent methods include initializing the drive letter, using Window’s troubleshooting, and updating your drivers. Check out the following article for a fully-fledged guide.
Case #4: My exFAT Drive is Broken/Malfunctioning
If you hear mechanical noises coming from your exFAT disk, it’s best you consult a data recovery service centre.
With our methods, you will be able to recover data from your exFAT hard drive quickly. Remember to minimize using the exFAT drive that is to be recovered and make regular backups of your data. The simplest and most reliable way to recover your data is to use trusted third-party software to help you with quick exFAT data recovery.
Joshua is a content curator for Handy Recovery. His expertise involves taking intricate IT concepts and breaking them down into super easy to understand chunks. He’s been wielding the writing sword for quite some time now - 3 years to be precise. Digital marketing, data recovery, and anything “techy” are Joshua’s niches.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.