Have you ever inserted a memory card into your computer to copy or view a file, only to find that card inaccessible? This unfortunate situation can happen with any type of file system on memory cards, USB drives, external HDD drives, storage devices, and even internal drives. Depending on your situation, this inability to access that data can be devastating.

No matter the reason, when a partition becomes RAW, you will not able to access data on your drive and it won’t be usable until you format it. So, you have to take action to gain access to that data. One such route to success is using a data recovery tool on either macOS or Windows.

What is a RAW Partition?

Before we get into how to recover lost data, it’s important to understand what a RAW partition is. Simply stated, a RAW partition is a partition which has not been formatted with the file system recognized by the computer being used.

For example, most Windows machines use either FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, or NTFS5 file systems. On the other hand, macOS uses APFS, HFS+, FAT32, and exFAT (with read-only support for NTFS). Linux machines use ext3, ext4, BTRFS, reiser, XFS, and more.

In some cases, it’s possible to have one system read a device formatted in another platform’s file system type. Unfortunately, this isn’t a guarantee. So when you go to read, say, an SD card formatted with the ext4 file system on a MacBook Pro, chances are good you’ll be informed the disk was not readable by the computer.

An inserted SD card was unreadable by macOS.

That Initialize option is the key. What it is informing us is that the card has not been formatted in such a way that the computer is able to read the card. You could click Initialize, however that would definitely erase all the data housed on the drive.

Is It Possible to Recover Data from a RAW Partition?

The good news is that, yes, it is possible to recover lost or inaccessible data from a RAW partition. Sometimes it’s just a matter of inserting the disk (or SD card) in question into the computer that was used to originally create the files and folders on the device. Once you’ve done that, you can copy the data to local storage, format the card to a file system the target computer understands, copy the data back, and insert the card into the target system.

recover data from a RAW partition

If you no longer have access to the original machine (or a machine with a similar file system), or the cause is not due to incompatibility between your operating system and the present file system, then you will need to repair the damage and recover the data on the drive.

Why Do You Need to Convert RAW to NTFS?

Put simply, you won’t be able to access your data if it’s stored on a RAW partition. The function of a file system (like NTFS) is to logically store your data so it’s easy to retrieve when needed. Without a file system, your data is nothing but an unorganized mess, making it nearly impossible to find anything.

Since computers rely on file systems to locate and access your data, a RAW drive will not be accessible. The data on it may still be intact, but without a working file system, it will remain inaccessible.

How to Convert RAW to NTFS Without Losing Data

There is only one way to convert a RAW partition to NTFS without losing the data stored on it. To do so, you must use CheckDisk.

CheckDisk is a Windows command that scans the volumes of your drive for logical and physical errors. With additional parameters, it can even repair any problems it finds, making it useful when you need to convert RAW to NTFS without losing data. We’re using CheckDisk because it may be able to find and repair the damage that’s preventing the volume from being read correctly.

Here’s how to convert a RAW drive to NTFS using Command Prompt (CheckDisk):

  1. Right-click Start and click Windows PowerShell (Admin). If prompted by UAC to allow, click Yes.Opening PowerShell.
  2. Type chkdsk D: /r. Replace D: with the drive letter of the RAW partition. Press Enter.Running the CheckDisk command.

After running the command, check Disk Management to see if the volume is now accessible again and shows the correct file system.

How to Recover Data from a RAW Partition

Sometimes CheckDisk and Disk Utility are unable to fix the RAW partition without losing data. If that’s the case, you should recover your data instead before converting the RAW partition back to NTFS manually.

Here are some methods you can use for recovering your data before repairing the troubled drive.

Solution #1 Recover Using Disk Drill

By employing Disk Drill Partition Recovery Tool, recovering data from a RAW partition is just a few quick clicks away. And because Disk Drill includes handy features like file filters, you can quickly find the files you’re looking for. And Disk Drill adds Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery data protection algorithms to the mix, something the command line cannot do for you.

To restore files from a RAW partition follow these steps:

  1. Download and Install Disk Drill for Windows or Mac.Once you’ve downloaded and installed Disk Drill, open it. Even though the drive isn’t readable by the operating system, Disk Drill will see it.
    Disk Drill
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  2. Select the RAW drive in question and click Search for lost data. At this point, Disk Drill will start scanning the hard drive to see if it can find any files.Searching for lost data.
  3. Once the scan completes (depending on the size of the drive, this process can take some time), click Review found items then you can begin navigating through the discovered file structure.Marking the files for recovery.
  4. After selecting the files to recover, click Recover. Select where you want to store the recovered files. Make sure you’re choosing an output location on another separate physical partition.Choose the output location.
  5. Click OK and the recovery process will begin. Depending on how many files you’ve selected to recover, how large those files are, and the condition of the scanned device, this can take some time. When the process completes, Disk Drill will present you with an overview screen that includes an option to jump straight to your data.Recovery overview.

Solution #2 Recover Using TestDisk

You can recover the entire partition using TestDisk. TestDisk is an open-source recovery tool designed to restore lost or missing partitions. It’s also completely free. It doesn’t use a graphical user interface, so it can be challenging for new users. However, by following the step-by-step instructions, you can restore your missing partition in no time.

Here is a quick demonstration showing the recovery of a lost partition using TestDisk:

  1. Download and unzip TestDisk. Open testdisk_win.exe.
  2. Press Enter to create a new log file.Creating the TestDisk log file.
  3. Select the drive containing the RAW partition, then press Enter to proceed.Choosing the drive.
  4. Select the partition table type. TestDisk automatically selects the one it believes it used. Press Enter.Choosing the partition table type.
  5. Press Enter to analyze the partition structure and look for lost partitions.Analyzing the drive.
  6. Press Enter again to begin the Quick Search.Performing a quick search on the drive.
  7. When it’s done, press Enter.Selecting the discovered partition.
  8. Select the partition, then press Enter.Selecting the missing partition.
  9. If nothing appears, select Deeper Search for an in-depth search.Performing a deeper search.
  10. Select Write when the partition is found.Restoring the RAW partition.
  11. Press Y to confirm, then restart your computer once it’s finished.

Solution #3 Recover Using a Data Recovery Center

Sometimes even advanced recovery tools still aren’t enough to recover your data. Or, perhaps you’re just not comfortable with attempting to recover the data yourself. No matter, as the option of using a data recovery center is still available.

A data recovery center employs data recovery specialists who are equipped with an advanced understanding of file recovery and industry-grade equipment to get the job done. Using a data recovery center for recovery is often the most expensive option, but it’s also the option with the highest rate of success.

Here’s a general look at what you can expect if you choose to recover your data using a data recovery service:

  1. Click Start Recovery.Starting the work order.
  2. Fill in all of the necessary information. This includes the type of service you want, your contact information, and any information pertaining to the drive.Filling out the work order.
  3. Click Complete my work order when you’re ready to submit. From here, you will be advised to send your drive away for recovery.Submitting the work order.

Methods to Convert RAW to NTFS

After recovering your data, it’s time to look at fixing the drive. Generally speaking, fixing a RAW partition is fairly easy once you don’t have to worry about the loss of your data. All it involves is formatting the drive with a new file system to replace the damaged or incompatible one.

The below solutions will show you how to fix a RAW hard drive to NTFS and how to configure a drive.

Method #1 Format with File Explorer

Formatting a drive through File Explorer is one of the easiest ways because it only takes a few clicks. If you’re unsure what values to use when formatting, simply click Restore device defaults when you’re about to finalize the format.

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. In the left navigation pane, right-click the partition you want to format and click Format.Formatting the drive through Windows Explorer.
  3. Define the values for the format and click Start when ready.Beginning the format process.

Method #2 Format with Disk Management

Disk Management is a Windows utility that allows you to review and make changes to your computer’s storage disks. It gives you a breakdown of the health of your drives and the data allocations of each. It can also be used for format your drives.

  1. Right-click Start and select Disk Management.
  2. Opening Disk Management.Right-click the volume and select Format.Formatting the volume in Disk Management.
  3. Define the values for the format, then click OK when ready.Beginning the format process.
  4. Click OK to confirm the format.

Method #3 Format with DiskPart

DiskPart is a powerful command interpreter that is similar to Disk Management in that it’s used to manage your computer’s storage disks, but it uses a command-line interface instead. This is a useful option if File Explorer and Disk Management haven’t worked for you.

  1. Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).Opening an elevated PowerShell window.
  2. Type diskpart and press Enter.Running the diskpart command.
  3. Type list disk and press Enter. Make note of the disk number that has the RAW partition.Listing the available disks.
  4. Type select disk 2. Replace 2 with your own disk number.Selecting a disk.
  5. Type list volume and press Enter. Make note of the RAW volume number.Listing the available volumes.
  6. Type select volume 3 and press Enter.Selecting a volume.
  7. Type clean and press Enter.Cleaning the partition with DiskPart.
  8. Type create partition primary and press Enter. This creates a new blank primary partition.Creating a primary partition.
  9. Type format fs=ntfs and press Enter. This formats the volume with NTFS.Formatting with DiskPart.
  10. Type assign and press Enter. This assigns a drive letter.Assigning a drive letter.

Tips to Prevent a Partition from Converting to RAW from NTFS

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “How can I prevent a partition from becoming RAW?” That’s a great question. After all, you don’t want to have to go through the process of RAW partition recovery every time you insert an SD card, a USB flash drive, or an external HDD into your computer. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to help prevent this from happening.

  • Never remove a USB drive or SD card without first ejecting or “Safely removing” it using your computer’s built-in function. If you simply remove the drive, without having your operating system safely unmount or eject the device, chances are good it will lead to a RAW partition.
  • 💻 Format your drives with as universal a file system as you can. Both FAT32 and NTFS file systems can be read by nearly every operating system, so those are good choices. The one problem with NTFS is that with macOS it is read-only, so your best option is always FAT32. When you opt for one of these file systems, you shouldn’t have any problem with your platform of choice needing to initialize a disk or simply not being able to read it.
  • 🔌 Shut your computer down properly. Immediate power loss can interrupt processes running on your computer. This can result in the corruption of your file system. When shutting down your computer, always do so safely instead of performing a force shutdown.
  • 💾 Monitor your disk health. Using a disk monitoring tool that can read your drive’s SMART data can give you a heads-up to any potential issues your drive encounters as they happen. As issues appear, you can take immediate action to prevent further damage.

Of course, even if you do all of this, a drive can still become RAW at any moment. Therefore, in order to truly protect your data from such an event, you should create regular backups so a safe copy of your data is always available. Built-in Windows backup solutions like File History are a great choice because they’re easy to set up and keep snapshot records of your data so you can even restore to a previous version if needed.

Conclusion

It’s pretty easy to avoid having to deal with a RAW partition or drive. However, when this occasion does arise, know that you have the tools available to solve the problem. With Disk Drill your chances of recovering data from a RAW drive or partition are quite good. If you’re unsure, download the free Basic version of Disk Drill and have it scan your RAW drive or partition. If Disk Drill is able to find your inaccessible data, purchase the Pro license, and recover that data safely.

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Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, ZDNet, TechTarget and Linux.com.

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Brett Johnson

This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.