How to recover data from an external hard drive – hard drive failure

The common reason for a hard drive failure is appearance of bad sectors on the hard disk surface. Sometimes the hard disk failure can be caused by read/write head failure or some other catastrophic defects.

From the user's point of view, hard drive failure looks like an operating system crash when trying to access the drive, the unusual sounds from the drive, or the drive just not listed in My Computer and/or in Disk Management.

The solution - connect the disk to a PC directly

When you see such symptoms you need to pull the disk out of the box and connect it to the SATA port on the motherboard because:

  1. The enclosure itself may be faulty or its power supply may be faulty.
  2. SATA handles bad sectors better than USB.

To do this you need:

  • PC with a free SATA port,
  • SATA cable,
  • power cable,
  • free space equal to the faulty external hard drive capacity.

If there are no SATA and/or power cables available, you can borrow them from a DVD-drive if you have one.

Once you connect the drive to the PC, turn it on, open My Computer, and check whether the drive is listed here.

The disk is listed in My Computer

If you see the disk and the data looks OK, immediately copy files and folders to the prepared location. If you are not satisfied with data you need to create a disk image file and then recover data using this image file. This is because mechanically damaged disks may get worse due to wear and tear of repeated read attempts. To create a disk image file you can use any data recovery software including ReclaiMe File Recovery where you need to select the disk, click the downward arrow next to the Disks button and select Create disk image file.

As soon as the disk image file is created, launch ReclaiMe File Recovery, select this image file (click the downward arrow next to the Disks button and select Open disk image file), and start the recovery.

The disk is not listed in My Computer

Check whether the disk is listed in Disk Management. To open Disk Management utility press WinKey + R on the keyboard, type diskmgmt.msc and then press Enter. All storage devices connected to the PC are listed in there.

If you see the disk, start creating disk image file as described above.

If there is no disk in the list, most likely your disk is not DIY-recoverable. In this case consider sending it to a data recovery lab for investigation.

All the steps on video

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