It’s now almost impossible to imagine how people stored and transferred data before high-capacity external hard drives became readily available. From a lifetime’s worth of pictures to complete discographies of all your favorite bands, it’s mind-boggling how much data a single external hard drive can store these days. The only problem is that the more data it’s possible to store on a single external hard drive, the more data it’s possible to lose in a single moment.
Hardware errors, accidental formats, and malware attacks are just three common causes of external hard drive data loss, and even they can’t be reliably avoided, which is why it’s paramount for you to learn how to recover data from external hard drives.
Is Recycle Bin Recovery Possible?
Yes, when you delete a file from your external hard drive, you can usually recover it from the Recycle Bin just like you would recover a file that was stored on your system hard drive.
That’s because each hard drive has its own Recycle Bin folder. When you click on the Recycle Bin icon located on your Desktop, what Windows shows is actually a combined view of all Recycle Bin folders that are present on your computer, including Recycle Bin folders located on external hard drives.
You can see a list of all Recycle Bin locations by right-clicking the Recycle Bin on your Desktop and selecting Properties.
The problem is that when most people realize that they need to recover data from external hard drive, the files they’re looking for are no longer present in the Recycle Bin.
What’s more, some people are used to using the Shift + Delete key combination when deleting files to erase files permanently from the system without first moving them to the Recycle Bin.
Tips to Recover Deleted Files from an External HDD
External HDD recovery doesn’t need to be difficult, but there are certain precautions to make to ensure that it ends with success:
Ways to Recover Deleted Files from an External Hard Drive
Let’s take a closer look at three methods that you can use to recover data from external hard drives. The first two external hard drive recovery methods don’t require any third-party software, but there are not guaranteed to deliver great results. The last method — Disk Drill — is used by data recovery professionals because it works virtually every time and is so simple that even complete beginners can use it to avoid disastrous data loss.
Way 1: Use the Command Prompt
Also known as CMD, the Command Prompt provides you with much finer control over your operating system by allowing you to give your computer text commands. This comes in handy when dealing with data loss caused by malware, which often affects the attributes of files stored on internal and external hard drives alike, making them either invisible or impossible to open.
Instead of painstakingly fixing the attributes of each and every file on your computer, you can simply use a single command to fix them all at once.
To recover deleted files using CMD:
- Connect your external hard drive to your computer.
- Press Win + R keys to launch the Run program.
- Type cmd and click OK.
- Type the following command in the CMD window and hit enter:
"ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D X:*.*"
Way 2: Restore a Previous Version
File History is an incredibly useful Windows feature that allows you to go back in time and restore previous versions of files, even if the original files have since been deleted. For File History to work, it’s necessary to first manually activate it, which can be done by opening the Control Panel and going to System and Security → File History. There, select the Turn on an option and make sure to include your external hard drive among active file history locations.
To restore a previous version of a file using Windows file history:
- Navigate to the folder where your files were stored before deletion.
- Right-click inside the folder and select Properties.
- Open the Previous Versions tab.
- Select which previous version you want to recover.
- Click the Restore button.
Way 3: Recover Data from an External Hard Drive Using Disk Drill
If you want guaranteed results, it’s best to use a third-party data recovery software that has been designed to solve even the most difficult data loss scenarios, and there’s no better choice than Disk Drill.
To recover deleted files from an external hard drive:
Step 1. Download Disk Drill for Windows or Mac OS X and install it.
Step 2. Connect your external hard drive.
Step 3. Launch Disk Drill and click the Search for lost data button next to your external hard drive.
Step 4. Select which files you want to recover.
Step 5. Start the recovery process by clicking the Recover button.