This article throws light on some of the tried and tested methods for recovering deleted or lost partitions.
Well, did you accidentally delete a partition on your Windows PC? It’s not the end of the world!
A partition deletion triggers the system to remove that location’s assignment on the hard drive, thus permitting this “new” memory section for overwriting. However, as long as this disk section remains untouched, the probability of recovery is pretty high.
Disk Partition & Volume Types: 101
Here’s an ultra-stripped-down and raw definition of a disk partition: It’s simply a chunk of a disk.
A partition is merely a disk segment bearing a specific size set during its creation. Resizing a partition is possible, but it could lead to data deletion.
Regarding the screenshot above, disk partitions are discreet sections of storage that exist independently. As a result, you can even run multiple operating systems on the same device.
The All-Important Partition Table
Windows maintains a partition table that describes all the partitions on a disk. Your computer loads and reads the partition table to identify which partition has an active operating system.
A storage medium gets subdivided by the partition table, which uses units of sectors, heads, and cylinders. Partitions usually have a file system that gets created on formatting a partition. Some standard file systems of Windows are:
The Master Boot Record (MBR) or the GUID Partition Table (GPT) is a particular location on the storage device that houses the partition table.
When there isn’t sufficient contiguous space on a hard disk for storing a huge file (all chunks of that single file), disk fragmentation occurs—the OS stores different parts of the file at various scattered locations.
No, Volumes and Disk Partitions Aren’t The Same
A volume is a storage device like a CD-ROM, USB drive, or a floppy disk formatted to store files and directories. Upon mounting a storage device, you are greeted with that sweet Windows notification sound and an alert saying, “USB Drive connected” – this is a volume.
To understand better, disk partitions (C: drive or D: drive) are subsets of a volume (HDD or SDD).
Common Causes of Partition Loss
Here’s a list of common culprits behind deleted partitions:
❌ Accidental Deletion
Unintentionally, deleting or formatting the wrong partition is among the most common partition deletion causes. As a thumb rule, always double-check before you confirm the deletion of any file.
💽 Partition Table Damage
The partition table plays a vital role in describing the partitions to the OS. Therefore, a corrupted partition table would lead to partition loss. Pro tip: In the command prompt, type “bootrec.exe/fixmbr” and hit Enter. This command attempts to perform a rapid fix on the damaged partition table.
📏 Improper Partition Resizing
So that you know, you can tweak the size of created partitions. However, this process is extremely risky, and unforeseen events like sudden interruptions can throw the partition into limbo. If you haven’t done this before, it’s best you don’t.
🔌 Unexpected System Shutdowns
Frequent unexpected shutdowns lead to computer malfunctioning and affect a hard drive’s partitions. Some culprits of system shutdowns include power outages, infected applications, or irregular BIOS upgrades.
🦠 Virus attacks
Malware and virus often infect computers despite having antivirus solutions. Consequently, there’s a high probability that the hard drive gets infected, leading to partition deletion.
Time is of the essence here. The quicker you act, the higher are your chances of partition recovery. When a partition gets erased, the system marks that space as available for newer partitions. As a result, you mustn’t use the drive at all. Moreover, avoid creating new partitions or adding new data – as overwritten partitions are impossible to recover.
Okay, so you are dealing with a deleted partition on your Windows PC. Now what? Read further to understand more about partition recovery and the technical know-how.
Common Scenarios for Partition Recovery on Windows 10/11
Almost all instances of partition deletion fall into one of these three scenarios. Read along for actionable steps specific to each scenario.
Scenario 1: The Partition Probably Just Vanished but Isn’t Deleted
You read that right!
Some essential system partitions like recovery partitions, boot volumes, and OEM partitions are undeletable. However, you can delete most of the other partitions. In Disk Management, if you hit a grey wall when trying to delete a partition, it’s undeletable.
Method 1: Assigning a Drive Letter
Sometimes, File Explorer denies the existence of a particular partition. However, Disk Management might have a different say on this. Head over to Disk Management and check if there’s some space consumption for the partition. This usually happens when the partition isn’t assigned a letter in Disk Management.
Here’s how can assign a drive letter:
- In Disk Management, right-click the partition and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths.”
- Click on the Change button.
- Check the “Assign the following drive letter” option. Now, pick a letter.
- Click on okay > okay.
Now, head over to File Explorer to check if you can access the partition. What if you still can’t see the partition?
Method 2: Restore an Unallocated Space to the partition
If the partition is still undiscoverable, it probably became unallocated space. In Disk Management, under the Disk Volume split up, look for the unallocated tab, and do the following:
- Right-click on the unallocated tab.
- Select “New Simple Volume” and hit Next > Next.
- Click on Next > Next and specify the volume size.
- Select “Assign the following drive letter” and pick a letter.
- Click on Next and select “Do not format this volume:”
- Click Next > Finish. Now, the unallocated partition becomes a RAW partition.
Ensure that you select the “Do not format this drive” option; otherwise, the partition’s data gets erased. Also, you can’t access a RAW partition straightway. You will have to recover data from the RAW partition using a data recovery tool.
Scenario 2: Recovering Specific Files from a Deleted Windows Partition
If any of the above methods didn’t work, a partition actually did get deleted.
Enter: Data recovery tools. They feature powerful scanning algorithms that scavenge and dig deep into your hard drive to recover the deleted files and folders.
Look for the filter file functionality on whichever partition recovery tool you are using. Once you select a specific file type, you can open up a window presenting a filtered view of the recoverable files and folders.
Now, all there’s left for you to do is select the files you want to recover and initiate the recovery process.
Our editorial crew loves testing out new applications, and there was one that caught their eye: Disk Drill Partition Recovery – which turned out to be a reliable option to recover lost partitions effortlessly. It houses an intuitive UI and is priced reasonably.
Here’s a super quick guide on how you can get started:
- Download and install Disk Drill on your PC or laptop.
- Connect the hard drive to your computer and launch Disk Drill. If the deleted partition is located on the internal drive, you can skip this step.
- Select the hard drive that contains the deleted partition you want to recover. Alternatively, you can select the exact partition instead of the whole drive.
- Click the “Search for Lost Data” button to initiate a scan of the hard drive or partition.
- Wait for the scan process to finish.
- Preview recoverable files and mark the ones you want to recover.
- Click the “Recover” button to begin the recovery process.
- Select a location for your recovered files and wait for the recovery process to complete.
In case you are wondering what the top recovery tools are, here’s a comprehensive list covering the pros and cons of all the major players out there.
Scenario 3: Repairing Partition Table
If you want to recover an entire partition, the only solution lies in repairing the partition table using data recovery tools.
Sometimes, the alert “Invalid Partition Table” flashes when trying to boot. This indicates a corrupted partition table that’s hindering a proper booting procedure.
You are probably stressing out big time, and now isn’t when you evaluate options and make a pricing decision. Here’s a tool that gets the job done for the low, low cost of free.
AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard is capable of fixing damaged partition tables using the “Rebuild MBR” feature. It’s compatible with Windows 10, 11, 8/8.1, 7, XP, and Vista. Here’s a drill-down on how to get started:
- Download and install the tool on another working computer as your current system wouldn’t boot because of the corrupted Master partition table.
- Run the application, and Connect an empty USB drive to the computer. Now, click on “Make Bootable Media.” This function essentially loads Windows (along with the recovery tool) onto the USB drive and makes it “bootable.”
- Connect the bootable USB to the affected computer. In BIOS, change the boot order and choose to boot your computer from the USB drive. Upon logging in, AOMEI Partition Assistant runs automatically.
- On the home screen, right-click on the system disk and choose “Rebuild MBR.”
- Now, choose the appropriate MBR based on your Windows OS version, and hit “Okay.”
- Now “Apply” and “Proceed” as illustrated in the image below:
The AOMEI Partition tool can also repair a corrupted MBR in external hard drives.
What is the Purpose of a Recovery Partition?
A recovery partition is designed to help restore systems to an OS’s factory settings in case of abrupt system failure. Moreover, this partition has no assigned drive letter.
There are two significant types of Recovery Partitions:
- The default Windows Recovery Partition – This occupies a negligible volume of disk space.
- The OEM Recovery Partition – created by computer manufacturers (HP, Dell, or Lenovo). This amounts to a significant disk space volume as it contains various manufacturer settings and driver configurations for restoration to default settings.
Now, we are going to throw some light on a much-debated topic: Recovery Partition Deletion.
Just a note of caution: We do not recommend deleting the recovery partition as you are essentially deleting the necessary files to create a recovery drive (on a USB drive, for instance). Additionally, another consequence of deleting the recovery partition is losing access to the Windows Recovery Environment. However, if you so desperately need the extra disk space, first create a USB recovery drive, and then follow the upcoming guide.
Deleting a Recovery Partition
There are two methods to do so:
- First method: Diskpart
- Windows has an in-built utility called Diskpart. In Command Prompt, type “diskpart” and then type “list disk.”
- Select the disk.
- Now type “list volume.”
- Look for the “recovery” label, and select that volume. It’s volume 1 in this case. To select a volume, type “select volume n,” where n is the partition number you want to delete.
- Now, type “delete volume 1.”
- Now, the partition gets deleted. Restart your computer once the deletion process is completed.
- Here’s the second method: Using a USB Drive
- Apparently, while creating a USB recovery drive, there’s an option in the wizard for deleting the recovery partition.
- Select the “Delete the recovery partition.” Then, click on “Delete:” This removes the recovery image and frees up space on your computer.
Not all PCs offer the recovery partition removal feature. Consequently, if you can’t find the option to delete, chances are your system doesn’t have a recovery partition utilizing extra disk space.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s how you can recover data from a deleted partition on a Windows PC:
- Download and Install Disk Drill.
- Click on the storage device that got it’s partition deleted and run the scan.
- Select the files you would like to recover.
- Click on the Recover button.
- Choose your recovery destination and hit Confirm.
As discussed earlier, CMD does offer a unique feature in the form of Diskpart – which helps to delete partitions. Additionally, you can use it to recover a deleted partition as well.
This CMD technique doesn’t work in all cases. It’s only useful when partitions are lost due to a letter volume incompatibility.
The process is relatively straightforward:
- Open Disk Management and locate the deleted partition.⚠️
A deleted partition manifests itself as “unallocated” disk space.
- Run Command Prompt as administrator and type in “Diskpart,” and then hit Enter.
- Key in the command “list disk” and hit Enter to pull up a list of all storage devices on your computer.
- Enter command “select volume n” where n is the disk number that needs a lost partition recovery. In this case, we have chosen volume 1.
- Enter “assign letter=H” and hit Enter (H is a randomly chosen letter).
- Close Command Prompt when you encounter the following message:
When you delete a partition or volume from disk management, this disk space turns into unallocated space on your disk. As a result, you will have to use data recovery tools to recover this deleted partition.
Some free partition recovery tools include:
Yes, partition recovery tools support partition recovery from external hard drives as well. However, you must stop all hard disk usage to prevent any overwriting of the deleted files.
A deleted partition isn’t necessarily a data catastrophe.
In most cases, the partition probably never got deleted. You can reassign this “vanished” partition back into existence. On the other hand, if you encounter deletion, there are techniques to either pick and restore selected files or entire partitions.
Windows offers a native “Diskpart” feature that helps recover partitions. Additionally, some commendable third-party data recovery tools offer unique partition recovery functionalities.
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.