A RAW external hard drive indicates a file system issue with the drive, resulting in data becoming inaccessible and muddled. Typically, you need to format the external hard drive to fix it, which means losing all your previous data. But, there are workarounds to this, and we’ll take a look at some ways on how to fix RAW drive without formatting and losing your data.
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Why Did My External Hard Drive Become RAW
A RAW external hard drive is one that has a malfunctioning, corrupt, unrecognizable, or missing file system. When you insert a RAW external hard drive into your PC, it won’t be able to access the data on it. This doesn’t mean the data has been wiped off, it is just inaccessible to your PC. Unless you format the drive to a recognizable file system format, such as NTFS or FAT32, your computer won’t be able to modify or makes sense of the data on the external drive.
Before we read further on how to repair a RAW disk without formatting, it’s important to know the reasons that result in a hard drive becoming RAW. Additionally, the path you take to fix a RAW drive without losing data may also differ, depending on these reasons.
Common reasons why your external hard drive became RAW:
- ❌ Improper Usage: Suddenly disconnecting your drive in the middle of read/write operations, unplugging it without ejecting it first, and leaving it connected to your PC 24/7 can all cause damage to the file system, resulting in your external hard drive becoming RAW.
- 🔌 Power Failure: A power failure in the middle of a read/write operation can damage the file system, resulting in the external hard disk showing a RAW partition. In fact, any kind of unexpected system shutdown can have an adverse effect on the external hard drive.
- 🦠 Malware: It’s quite common for malware to be the cause of a RAW file system. Malware can directly delete your files too. If you suspect this is the case, it is advisable to refer to our guide on how to recover files deleted by a virus. Some otherwise safe third-party applications may also modify the file system of your external hard drive and damage the file system.
- 💽 Format Disruption: If the formatting process of the external hard drive is disrupted due to any reason, the drive could become RAW.
- 💻 Automatic Formatting: Some devices may automatically format the drive when you connect it to them. Or they will simply display a prompt stating the incompatibility of the format, and ask you to format it to a recognizable format. This format, in turn, may be incompatible with Windows and the partition will simply show up as RAW when you connect the drive to a Windows PC.
Is It Possible to Fix RAW Drives Using CMD (chkdsk)?
The CHKDSK command (executed using CMD) is frequently used to find and fix drive-related errors on Windows. However, CHKDSK can only help in cases where the affected drive was first in the NTFS file format and then turned RAW. In this case, CHKDSK can restore the NTFS file system without formatting and removing your data. CHKDSK works properly on drives that are formatted to a Windows-recognized format.
While CHKDSK may not work on RAW drives in other cases, there is another command line utility, called Diskpart, that can be used to format the drive to a recognizable format.
Recover Specific Files from a RAW Drive Using Disk Drill
The first step you need to take if you want to fix a RAW partition without losing data is to download a data recovery program. The software will help you recover your files, and then you can format the external drive to a recognized format. There are plenty of options available at your disposal, but remember, you need a program that can recover files from an external RAW drive.
To make your job easier, we recommend using Disk Drill, one of the most effective and easy to use data recovery applications in the market. Essentially, it supports data recovery from hard drives with a RAW file system, while being easy-to-use and packaged with other features such as drive backup and data protection. Windows users can take advantage of the free trial that lets you recover up to 500 MB of data for free.
Instructions on how to recover data from a RAW external hard drive using Disk Drill:
- Download Disk Drill and install it. It is compatible with Windows 10/11/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP as well as Windows Server 2008 onwards. You can also install the program on macOS and the instructions will be, more or less, identical.
- Connect the RAW external hard drive to your PC.
- Launch Disk Drill, select the RAW drive from the list of devices, and click Search for lost data. Disk Drill will begin the data recovery scan.
- You can view the recoverable files in real time or wait for the scan to complete. To do any of it, click on Review found items. You can also directly choose the file type you want to view, by clicking the options available (Pictures, Video, Music, Documents, and Archives).
- On the next screen, select the files you want to recover, using the checkbox next to each file. Double-click a file to preview it. Once confirmed, click on Recover.
- Select a recovery destination for the files. Click on OK.
- Disk Drill will recover the selected files.
Recover Entire RAW Partition Using TestDisk
TestDisk is an open-source data recovery software that can help you recover a RAW partition. But, it doesn’t have a GUI and thus casual users may find it difficult to navigate the program. Thus, it’s even more important to closely read the instructions that follow.
Here is how you can fix a RAW partition using TestDisk:
- Download TestDisk and extract the contents of the archive.
- Ensure the RAW external hard disk drive is connected to your PC.
- Run TestDisk using the testdisk_win.exe executable file. Use the arrow keys to navigate the UI.
- Select whether you want to create a log file or not. We chose not to create one (No Log). Use arrow keys to highlight the option and press Enter to select it.
- Select the RAW external hard drive from the device list and press Enter.
- Now, select the partition table type using the arrow keys. It’s best to leave it at the option highlighted by default, since TestDisk automatically detects it. Press Enter.
- On the next screen, select Analyze and then select Quick Search. Press Enter.
- You can now view the partitions that TestDisk found. Highlight the partition, and press P to view the files in the partition. Press Q to go back.
- Use the left and right arrow keys to change the label next to the partition. Make sure it is set to P. The partition itself will be highlighted in green when you select this. Press Enter.
- The next screen lets you perform a deeper search. Simply highlight the Deeper Search option and press Enter. We chose to perform a deeper search in order to locate more partitions. After the deep search is over, perform step 9 again.
- Now, highlight the Write option and press Enter. When prompted press Y.
Recover Data From a RAW Disk Using Quick Format
If you were unable to recover data from a RAW drive using any of the previous methods, then you can Quick Format the external hard drive, then get back your data using Disk Drill.
You may be wondering, won’t a Quick Format delete all my data? Not exactly, as the data will still be recoverable using Disk Drill as the data is still there, Windows simply marks the space available for use. So, unless you write new files to the drive, all the old data will still be recoverable. It’s important to note that this only works if you perform a Quick Format.
Here is how you can perform a Quick Format on Windows:
- Type Disk Management in Windows Search (Windows Key + S). Choose the Create and format hard disk partitions option from the search results.
- Right-click the RAW external hard drive and select Format.
- In the Format Options window, ensure that the Perform a Quick Format option is ticked. Press OK.
- On the next prompt too, press OK.
- Once the format is complete, follow the Disk Drill recovery instructions in the sections above.
The best way to recover data from a RAW drive without formatting is to use Disk Drill:
- Download and install Disk Drill.
- Run Disk Drill.
- Select the drive and click Search for lost data.
- Click Review found items.
- Select the files you want to recover and click Recover.
It is impossible to convert a RAW drive to FAT32 or NTFS without formatting it. But, if the drive was initially formatted to NTFS and then became RAW, CHKDSK may be able to restore the file system without formatting.
You can view a RAW partition in Windows using Disk Management. However, it is impossible to view the contents of the partition as the file system is unreadable. It first needs to be converted to a recognizable format, only then will Windows be able to view its files.
Besides this, you can recover the files from a RAW partition using programs like Disk Drill. The recovered files can be restored to any drive or partition of your choice.
Yes, you can fix a RAW drive. To fix a RAW external hard drive without formatting, first recover the data you want using Disk Drill, then convert the drive’s file system into a recognizable one, using Disk Management.
A situation in which you can recover files from a RAW external hard drive without software, is if the drive was first formatted to an NTFS file system and subsequently became RAW, because CHKDSK may still be able to scan the drive and restore the broken NTFS file system. In other cases, you will need data recovery software to help you restore the missing data.
Diskpart can fix errors in an external drive because you can use it to format the RAW drive to NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, or any other Windows-recognized format.
Here is a quick guide on how to do this:
- Run Command Prompt as administrator.
- Type diskpart and press Enter.
- Type list disk and press Enter.
- Type in select disk X (replace X with the RAW disk’s number) and press Enter.
- Type clean and press Enter.
- Type create partition primary and hit Enter.
- Penultimately, type format fs=ntfs quick and press Enter.
- Lastly, type assign X: (replace X with the drive letter you want to assign) and press Enter.
While a RAW drive can be fixed by first recovering the data and then formatting the drive, you prevent a drive from becoming RAW by paying heed to the reasons why an external hard drive becomes RAW in the first place. It also helps to keep regular backups of your data in multiple locations, so you can instantly restore it in case of a mishap.
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.