How to recover data from RAW external hard drive?

If you connect your external drive to your computer, and the operating system refuses to provide access to files and folders on the drive, then one of the possible reasons is incorrect file system metadata on this drive.

RAW external disk is not accessible

Immediately after connecting an external drive to the computer, the operating system driver reads certain sectors, trying to recognize the basic metadata: the partition table, boot sectors from file systems, the main metadata of file systems, such as the FAT table for FAT16/32 file systems, or the main MFT record for NTFS.

If any of these metadata entries in the chain is corrupted, access to files and folders on the external drive will be denied.

If the main metadata of the file system is damaged, then Disk Management displays RAW file system for such a disk.

RAW partition in Disk Management

How to recover data from an external drive on which the file system metadata is incorrect? Since your files and folders are still on the external drive, it seems obvious that you can try to extract them from there. On the one hand, you can try to find out what exactly is wrong with the metadata and try to edit the metadata records in the hope of setting the correct ones so that the operating system provides access to the data. This method is highly not recommended, as it involves writing to disk, which means that you can make the situation worse up to the complete loss of data. In general, metadata editing is based on the fact that the main metadata records are duplicated, and with certain (rather extensive) knowledge, you can find, for example, a copy of the boot sector and copy data from there to the main boot sector. If you really want to play around with this, then first of all read our research on NTFS metadata and FAT metadata.

The second way, the most suitable for DIY data recovery from an external RAW drive, is to use special software for restoring data from RAW disks. Such programs are specifically designed not to rely on metatada data, such as boot sectors, but instead use their own algorithms to reconstruct the tree of files and folders. As soon as the RAW data recovery software finds files and folders, they are immediately displayed in the tree, and you can preview them to evaluate the quality of the recovery. If we are talking about a single disk and Windows file system like FAT or NTFS, then it is enough to check several image files (jpg, tiff, png) or documents (docx, xls, pdf): if they are OK, then the rest of the files is also OK. This assumption works because the data on these filesystems is allocated linearly, and only 2 parameters control the placement - the filesystem starting sector and the cluster size. Therefore, if at least a couple of files look good in the preview, then the rest will also be OK, since their location linearly depends on the same two parameters.

For detailed instructions on how to recover data from a RAW disk using data recovery software, refer here.

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