Many users encounter the access denied to external hard drive issue. There are plenty of ways around this error without the need for expert assistance. But, it’s necessary to first create a backup of your data and then proceed to fix the external hard drive access denied error. The sections below will guide you through the entire process.
Protect Your Data on a Hard Drive With Denied Access
There may be underlying disk corruption or some other issue with your external HDD, that’s preventing access to the drive. Thus, a good move is to first create a backup of the entire drive so that you don’t lose any of your data. You may also be required to format the external hard drive in order to restore access to it.
The easiest way to create a byte level backup of your drive is to use Disk Drill. Not only is it one of the best data recovery apps available on the market, but it also packs a capable Byte-to-byte backup feature that will create a disk image of your entire drive, even if Windows can’t access it. Disk Drill is compatible with almost all external HDDs, whether they’re manufactured by popular brands like Seagate and Western Digital, or lesser known companies.
Here is a tutorial on how to use the Byte-to-byte backup feature:
- Download Disk Drill and install the program.
- Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
- Open Disk Drill and click on the Drive Backup option on the left navigation pane.
- Select the external hard drive from the list of devices and click the Byte-to-byte backup option.
- Choose a location for the disk image. Make sure that Format is set to Bytes. Click on OK.
- Wait for Disk Drill to create the disk image. Also, make sure the location you selected has more space than the size of your external hard disk drive.
- Click Done once Disk Drill has created the disk image.
If you need to scan a copy of your drive in the future, or the drive itself, you can do so as follows. Remember that Disk Drill not only shows the deleted files on the disk but also the existing files, which will help you view or read the files if necessary.
- Open Disk Drill, select the disk drive from the device list, or click on the Attach disk image option to add the disk image you previously created to Disk Drill. Click Search for lost data.
- Once Disk Drill finishes scanning, click on Review found items.
- You can view existing files by expanding the Existing Files section as shown below, or proceed to recover deleted files by expanding the other sections and selecting your files in the next step.
- Select the files you want to recover. You can double-click to preview a file. Click Recover after selection.
- Choose a recovery destination for the files. Ideally, save them to a different location on your computer than the external hard drive. Click OK.
- Disk Drill will recover the selected files.
How to Fix “External Hard Drive Access Denied” Error
In this section, we’ll explore various fixes for the external HDD access denied issue. Some of the solutions involve formatting as well as using the Command Prompt, so it’s recommended you follow each fix properly and not skip a single step.
Method 1: Check Your Drive Connection
Often, improperly connected cables or a malfunctioning USB port could be the reasons why you can’t access your external hard disk drive. Here are a few things you can do to determine whether this is the case and fix the problem:
- Connect your HDD directly to the USB ports on your motherboard.
- Change the USB cable and reconnect the drive.
- Connect the external hard drive to another computer and see if the disk shows access denied.
Method 2: Fix the Access Using Windows Security Tab
An effective way to resolve the external hard drive access denied problem is to check the permission settings in Windows and modify them. Essentially, you need to take ownership of the external hard drive and ensure your user account has full permission to read/write data to the drive.
Here is how you can do this on Windows 10/11:
- Open File Explorer, right-click on the external hard drive and click Properties.
- In Properties, click on the Security tab. Here, click on Advanced, towards the bottom of the window. This will open the Advanced Security Settings window.
- Click on Change. Ensure you have administrative rights.
- In the Object Name text box, type in the name of your user account, then click Check Names. Click OK.
- Tick the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects checkbox.
- Click on Add in the Advanced Security Settings window.
- Click on Select a principal.
- Similar to step 4 above, type in your user account in the Object Name text box. Click on Check Names and then click OK.
- Check the Full Control option and click OK.
- Click OK on the next screen, then close Properties.
Note: It’s quite possible that your drive is encrypted by BitLocker. In this case, you need to enter the password to access and change user permissions. If you have forgotten the password, take a look at our in-depth BitLocker data recovery guide to resolve the problem.
(Alternatively) Take the Ownership With CMD command (takeown)
If you’re comfortable using Windows Command Prompt, you can use the takeown command to take ownership of the external hard drive. It could be that there is access denied to a folder on the external hard drive, instead of the entire drive. The takeown command can be used to resolve this, as well as take ownership of the entire drive:
- Type “cmd” in Windows Search (Windows Key + S) and right-click on Command Prompt > Run as administrator.
- Now, type the following command and press Enter: takeown /F X:\ /r. Replace X: with the drive letter of the external hard disk drive.
- Finally, to change ownership of the drive, type icacls X:\* /grant Everyone:F /t and press Enter. Again, X needs to be replaced with the drive letter.
Method 3: Check the Drive for Corruption With Error Checking Tool
Windows has a disk error checking feature that you can run if your disk shows access denied. While it may not completely fix the external HDD access denied error, it can help determine drive corruption.
Here is how to run the error checking utility in Windows:
- Open File Explorer.
- Right-click on the external HDD and click Properties.
- In Properties, click on the Tools tab and then click Check. You will need administrative privileges.
- On the next prompt, click Scan and Repair. Wait for the scan to be over and then click Close.
Method 4: Format External Hard Drive
One of the most effective ways to fix the external hard drive access denied error, is to simply format it. But what of your data? Well, if you use Quick Format to format the drive and subsequently scan the drive using a data recovery program, you can get back all your data easily.
Here is how to Quick Format a drive:
- Press Windows Key + R to launch the Run application.
- Type diskmgmt.msc in the text box and press Enter to launch Disk Management.
- Right-click on the external drive and click Format. Click yes on the confirmation prompt.
- In the Format options menu, ensure that Perform a Quick Format is ticked and press OK. Click Yes on the next prompt as well.
- Windows will format the external hard drive.
Now, simply scan the external hard drive using the instructions outlined in the section above, to recover your data.
While it is unlikely, if none of the methods above fixed the access denied error on your external hard drive, your only option is to contact one of the many professional data recovery services to get back your data and fix the drive.
There can be many reasons behind an inaccessible external hard drive. Some common ones are:
- A corrupted hard drive. This could be due to improper usage, power cuts, damaged firmware, or virus attacks.
- Permission settings. Some user accounts may not have privileges to access or modify the data on the hard drive.
- A damaged file system.
There are several ways to fix the Access Denied error on your external HDD:
- Check if your drive is properly connected to your PC. Use different USB ports and cables if you have to.
- Change permission settings using the Windows Security Tab. You can also take ownership of the external hard drive using Windows Command Prompt.
- Use the Windows Error Checking Tool to determine corruption.
- Quick Format the drive and use data recovery software to scan the drive after formatting.
Here is how you can recover data from an “access denied” drive:
- Download and install Disk Drill.
- Open Disk Drill, select the drive you were denied access to, and click Search for lost data.
- Click Review found items.
- Select the files you want to recover and click Recover.
- Choose a recovery destination for your files.
You can take ownership of a drive in Command Prompt using the takeown command, in combination with the icacls command.
The access denied error can be fixed using the quick, easy fixes listed in the sections above. However, it’s always best to practice good data backup etiquette, so that you don’t lose your data in the process of fixing your drive.
Manuviraj Godara's interest in technology began as soon as he got his first computer. From Googling how to run incompatible games on his PC to writing about computers for a living, the world of technology has never ceased to amaze him. When he's not obsessing over the latest innovations in the tech world, he likes to spend time listening to his favorite music records.
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.