People make mistakes. One of those mistakes could be completely wiping your hard drive without first copying all the necessary files you needed. When this happens, it’s easy to immediately start panicking over the thought that your data is gone forever.

Luckily, it’s not the end of the world. There are various ways that you can get your data back, and oftentimes it’s much easier than you might think. Let’s look at a few ways you can recover files from a wiped hard drive.

While recovery is definitely possible, you want to act as fast as possible to ensure your data isn’t overwritten. Before you try to recover the data, make sure you read this entire article first.

Can You Recover an Accidentally Erased Hard Drive?

In most instances, recovery from an erased hard drive is possible. When you erase data from a hard drive, the data becomes inaccessible, but it still physically remains on the drive itself. This data will remain on the disk until new data needs to use this space. When new data needs to be written to this particular space on the hard drive, it will overwrite it. It’s in this window of opportunity that data recovery has the highest chance of success.

But, sometimes, there are factors that come into play that make the ordeal either difficult or impossible. Here are a few reasons why data recovery might not be possible from an internal or external hard drive:

  • 💻 SSD with TRIM enabled – Solid State Drives (SSD) work differently from mechanical hard disk drives (HDD). Instead of data remaining on the drive until the space needs to be used, an SSD with TRIM enabled will completely erase the data shortly after it’s deleted by the user. Because there is no longer any trace of the data you want to recover, this makes recovery next to impossible if you’ve erased it from an SSD with TRIM enabled unless you attempt recovery immediately.
  • ❌ Full format – Typically, when you format a drive, most people opt for a quick format. It’s convenient, fast, and works well enough. The benefit (and in some cases, drawback) of a quick format is that the deleted data can still be recovered. If you perform a full format on a drive, the data itself is erased and replaced with zeroes twice over. The act of replacing all the data on the drive with zeros means that there is no trace of the data left, which, in turn, means that recovery is no longer possible.
  • 💥 Extensive physical damage – If the drive has sustained severe physical damage, it could mean that the drive no longer functions, or the parts in which the data is stored has been compromised. Typical hard drives store data on platters. Anything, even the smallest piece of dust, can damage the exposed platter and render the drive unusable. This is why hard drives are sealed very tightly, and any commercial-grade data recovery services have special rooms that keep dust and other foreign particles out of the air.

How to Recover Data From an Accidentally Wiped Hard Drive

If your drive can be recognized by a computer, you can still try your hand at recovering the data that was lost. Data recovery from an erased hard drive is through the use of data recovery software, and we’re going to take a look at one for each operating system.

Recover data from an erased hard drive on Windows 10 with Recuva

When it comes to data recovery, arguably the fastest and most efficient way to recover data from a lost hard drive is through the use of a recovery solution, like Recuva.

Recuva is a highly-rated data recovery application developed by Piriform. We recommend it for its proven reliability in terms of recovery and its easy-to-use interface. Although it’s not available for Mac, Windows users can take advantage of its ability to recover a wide range of file types with ease.

To recover your files from an erased hard drive on a Windows 10 computer, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Recuva. Open it.
  2. There are two ways you can go about using Recuva. If you use the on-screen prompts, it will guide you through a tailored recovery based on what you need. Or, you can press Cancel and perform it on your own. For this guide, let’s press Cancel. Recuva Recovery - Step 2
  3. From the drop-down menu, select the drive you want to scan. Recuva Recovery - Step 3
  4. Press Scan. Recuva will begin to scan the selected drive for recoverable contents. Recuva Recovery - Step 4
  5. When scanning is complete, select the files you want to recover by checking their checkbox. Recuva Recovery - Step 5
  6. Click Recover. Recuva Recovery - Step 6
  7. Choose a location for the files to be recovered to, then click OK. Recuva Recovery - Step 7
  8. When recovery has finished, you’ll be met with an overview screen of the actions performed. Recuva Recovery - Step 8

Recover files from a wiped hard drive on Mac using Disk Drill

Recovering files on a Mac has never been easier, especially when you use Disk Drill.

Like Recuva, Disk Drill is a top-rated recovery solution for Mac that specializes in the recovery of lost or deleted data. We use Disk Drill due to its intuitive design, robust functionality, and wide array of features. It’s also easy to use, making it great for both technical and non-technical users.

Follow these below steps to recovery data from a wiped hard drive on Mac:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill. Open it.
  2. Click on the drive that was erased or wiped.recovery data from a wiped hard drive on mac - step 1
  3. In the drop-down menu on the right side of the window, make sure that All recovery methods is selected. Click Search for lost data. Disk Drill will begin scanning your drive for recoverable data.recovery data from a wiped hard drive on mac - step 2
  4. When the scan has finished, click on Review found items.recovery data from a wiped hard drive on mac - step 3
  5. Navigate the drop-down menus to find the items you want to recover. Select them for recovery by checking the checkbox next to each file respectively.recovery data from a wiped hard drive on mac - step 4
  6. When ready, click on the Recover button.
  7. Finally, choose a location that you’d like to recover the data to.
It’s always a good idea to recover to a location that’s not on the same drive where the data was wiped from.

Recover erased hard drive on Linux via PhotoRec

PhotoRec is a powerful (and better yet, free) open-source recovery tool available on Linux.

While it may not have an attractive interface like other recovery solutions, its command-line interface is enough to recover your files if you’re comfortable navigating a terminal.

  1. Open the Terminal. Install TestDisk using the command sudo apt-get install testdisk.PhotoRec - Step 1
  2. Launch PhotoRec with the command sudo photorec.
  3. Select the hard drive that was erased, then press Enter to proceed. PhotoRec - Step 3
  4. Select your partition type. Select [File Opt], then press Enter. PhotoRec - Step 4
  5. Select the file types you want to recover. When finished, press Enter to go back. PhotoRec - Step 5
  6. Select the partition that had the contents erased, then select [Search] and press Enter.
  7. Select your filesystem type. Linux partitions will be ext2/ext3, and others (such as FAT or NTFS) will be Other. Press Enter. PhotoRec - Step 7
  8. To scan the whole partition, select Whole and press Enter. PhotoRec - Step 8
  9. Choose the directory for the recovered files to be sent to. PhotoRec - Step 9

How to Protect Your Data

If you’re not prepared for a situation where your data disappears, recovery can be a stressful process, especially if it’s your first time doing it. To avoid the stress of recovering your data going forward, consider implementing some proactive measures that keep your data safe.

  • Make regular backups – Backups are a super easy way of making sure your data is safe, even in the event of catastrophic loss. If you have a handful of important files, consider uploading them to Google Drive or Dropbox so that you not only have the peace of mind of having a backup off-site, you can access it anywhere with an internet connection. If you have a lot of files that may take too long to upload, consider making backups to an external drive that’s stored safely.
  • Eject drives safely – Before removing any storage media from your computer, make sure to eject it safely before doing so. If the drive is removed during an operation, it can cause not only file corruption, but corruption to the entire partition. So, take the extra few seconds needed to eject each drive safely before removal.
  • Take your time – Sometimes, even the most critical errors can be avoided by taking extra care when making important changes to a drive. For instance, before formatting a drive, double-check that you’ve backed up the necessary data from the drive, and that the correct drive is selected to be formatted.

FAQ

Conclusion

All drives are susceptible to data loss through different means. If your drive has been erased, you should first look at what happened to try and correct it going forward. If it was simply a mistake, then make use of one of the many recovery solutions to get your data back.

Recovery is always dependent on the situation. While there are many ways to recover data, the success rate depends on how effectively the data was erased. While there are some cases where data recovery is impossible, most of the time the data can be recovered to some extent.