Table of contents

How to Repair External Hard Drive and Recover Data

Home > HowTos > Troubleshooting Tips Updated by Nancy on May 31, 2024 | Approved by Christian Cawley

External hard drives are essential for transferring files between computers, backing up important data, and expanding storage capacity. However, like any hardware, they may experience problems such as no display, unreadable or error messages, or even lost or corrupted stored files for no apparent reason. Learning how to repair an external hard drive is crucial for protecting your stored information.

This guide will guide you through effective diagnosis, troubleshooting, and data retrieval. In addition, we provide preventive measures to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Understanding Corrupted External Hard Disk

Before you delve into repair methods, identifying the type and symptoms of external hard drive failures can help you resolve the issue quickly. It can usually be attributed to two main categories:

Symptoms of a Faulty Physical and Logical

  • Category
  • Description and Solutions for Corrupted or Unreadable External Hard Drive
  • Physical Failures
  • It is often indicated by unusual sounds (clicking or grinding), the drive not spinning up, or complete non-recognition by the computer. | Solution 9
  • Logical Errors
  • ⚠️ Error Messages: When attempting to access the device, you may receive errors such as "You Need Format the Disk Before Use," "Drive not recognized," "Corrupted external hard drive," "Access denied," etc. | Solution 4, Solution 5, Solution 6, Solution 8

    Not Displayed: There is no message when you connect the external hard drive to the computer. | Solution 1, Solution 2, Solution 3

    🔍 Read-only on Mac: macOS can recognize and read your external hard drive but will have limitations when it comes to writing to it. | Solution 7

    🔌 Frequent Disconnects: The drive frequently disconnects and reconnects. | Solution 3

    📉 Slow Performance: Files take longer to open, transfer speeds are sluggish, or the drive freezes or crashes during use. | Solution 6, Solution 8

    💢 Data Loss or Corruption: Files disappearing, becoming inaccessible, or showing signs of corruption without user-initiated changes. | Solution 6, Solution 10

Preliminary Checks

Before trying to fix the external hard drive corrupted and unreadable issue manually, it is necessary to perform basic troubleshooting. Perhaps this may make it work!

1. Check Connections

Double-check that all cables are firmly connected. Experiment with various USB ports on your computer and try a different cable. Defective cables or ports frequently cause connectivity problems.

2. Test on Another Device

Try to connect it to another computer first. If your external hard disk works there, the issue may be with your main computer's USB ports or drivers. If the problem persists, it's likely a fault with the device itself.

3. Power Supply

For an external hard drive requiring external power, ensure they are correctly connected and check for sufficient power.

Preparation Before DIY Fixes

Ensuring the safety of your data is your top priority before attempting any troubleshooting. Here are some steps to take:

1. Back-up or Restore Your Data

Always attempt to back up your data as soon as you notice any issues with your device. This preemptive step can prevent potential data loss during the repair process. If it becomes inaccessible, try the steps given below to recover data from a corrupted external hard disk.

2. Check for Malware

Scan your removable hard drive for viruses or malware causing the issue.

9 Ways to Repair an External Hard Drive

Once you have ruled out connectivity issues, there are usually several solutions to external hard disk failures caused by logical errors. Below are some effective ones.

1. Scan for Hardware Changes

Is there no response after connecting your external hard drive to the computer? This may be caused by a blockage or delay in the system recognizing it. You can do this:

  1. After pressing the "Windows" key, type "Device Manager" in the search box.

  2. Find this tool and click "Open."

  3. Select "Disk drives" or "Universal Serial Bus controllers."
  4. Click "Action" in the top menu and select "Scan for hardware changes."

2. Reassign Drive Letter

Is your external disk not appearing in File Explorer despite being recognized by the computer? A drive letter conflict could cause this. To repair this error, please try the following steps:

  1. Ensure the corrupted external hard drive is connected to your Windows PC.
  2. Press the "Windows + X" keys and select "Disk Management" from the contextual menu.

  3. Select your external hard drive, right-click, and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths."

  4. Click "Change" in the dialog box and select a drive letter that does not already appear.

3. Update Driver

Have you encountered the error message "USB Device Not Recognized" when you connected your external hard drive to your computer? Outdated or corrupted drivers may cause this, and here is the solution :

  1. Open "Device Manager."
  2. Find your external hard disk in the hardware list.
  3. Right-click and select "Update Driver".

  4. Click "Search automatically for drives" and follow the instructions to reinstall it.

Tip: If the above method does not fix the problem of the external hard drive not showing up, click here for more solutions.

4. Try Built-In System Tool

Encountering error messages like "Not Accessible," "Access Denied," or "Needs to Be Formatted" when trying to open an external hard drive often indicates file system failure. Don't worry; you can fix a corrupted external hard disk on Mac or Windows by following this guide:

For Windows 10/11

  1. Double-click the "This PC" icon on the desktop to open it.
  2. Locate your external hard drive in the list of disks.
  3. Right-click it > "Properties" > "Tools" tab > "Check."

  4. Follow the prompts to scan and repair the drive.

For macOS

  1. Connect your corrupted external hard disk to a Mac.
  2. Open the Disk Utility app from the Applications > Utilities folder.

  3. Select your corrupted or unreadable external hard drive from the sidebar.
  4. Click "First Aid" and "Run" to continue the restoration process.

5. Run the Troubleshooter (Windows)

This is another tool to check and fix software or hardware failures in Windows PCs. Here's how to repair external hard drive:

  1. Press "Windows + i" key, then click "Update & Security."

  2. Select "Troubleshoot" from the options in the left pane.
  3. Scroll down and locate "Hardware and Devices," then click "Run the troubleshooter."

  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to apply them to complete this process.

6. Use the Command Line

This advanced solution made dealing with corrupted external hard disk issues easier. While it may seem complex at first, we've got you covered with detailed steps to walk you through the process.

In Windows 10/11

  1. Click the "Windows" key and type "Command Prompt."
  2. After finding it, click "Run as Administrator."

  3. Type "chkdsk #: /f /r /x" and press Enter. Replacing "#" with the drive letter of your corrupted external hard drive.

    - "/f": This parameter instructs "chkdsk" to fix any errors it finds without prompting you for confirmation.
    - "/r": This parameter locates bad sectors on the external disk and tries to recover any readable information from them.
    "/x": This parameter forces the volume to dismount before the scan begins if necessary. This is useful when your device is in use and cannot be locked.
  4. Once the process is complete, try opening your storage device again to verify whether it has been repaired.

On Mac

  1. Open Terminal from Applications & Utilities.
  2. Type "diskutil list" and press Enter to list all disks. Identify your corrupted external hard drive by its size and name.
  3. Unmount it by typing "diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX" (replace "diskX" with your disk's identifier).
  4. Next, type "sudo fsck_msdos -fy /dev/diskX" (again, replace "diskX" with the correct identifier). You might be asked to enter your password. This command attempts to repair a corrupted external hard drive.
  5. If fsck reports that the volume is OK or has been fixed, type "diskutil mountDisk /dev/diskX" to remount it.

7. Use NTFS Tools (Mac)

If your external drive works on Windows but is unreadable on Mac, the issue likely stems from file system incompatibility. To resolve this, consider the following solutions.

8. Format

If the above method fails or displays "Device Not Ready" or "Disk Not Initialized," you can attempt to repair the External Hard Drive by formatting it. Be aware that this action will remove all files on the drive, so ensure you back up or attempt data recovery before proceeding.

For Windows

  1. Press "Windows + X" and select "Disk Management" from the menu.
  2. Locate your external hard drive in the list of available disks. It might be labeled as "Disk X" with a capacity matching your drive.
  3. Right-click it and select "Format."

  4. Follow the instructions to choose the file system (For use only on Windows; select NTFS) and perform a full format.

Once the formatting is complete, your corrupted external hard drive should be repaired and accessible.

For Mac

  1. Go to Applications & Utilities, and open Disk Utility.
  2. Locate your external hard drive in the list of devices.
  3. Right-click and choose "Erase."

  4. Name the drive, select the format (e.g., Mac OS Extended), and click Erase.

Confirm the erasure process, which will format the external hard drive and repair any corruption issues.

9. Seek Professional Help

When it comes to physical damage or intricate logical errors, the do-it-yourself methods mentioned above may not be suitable. In such cases, explore the alternative methods below for repairing an external hard drive.

How to Recover Data from Corrupted External Hard Disk

If you lost some files during the repair process or need to resume important data before repairing it, these methods will help keep them safe:

1. Use Data Recovery Software

This is a simple and efficient solution. Here, you can use iBeesoft Data Recovery, which is simple, efficient, and popular in the field for its robust data retrieval and repair of corrupted files features.

To recover data from the damaged external hard drive, please follow the steps below:

  1. Download and install iBeesoft Data Recovery on your computer.

    Download for Windows Download for macOS
  2. Connect the corrupted external hard disk to your computer.
  3. Open the software and select this disk from the list of available drives.
  4. Click "Scan" to initiate the scanning process to search for recoverable files.

  5. Preview and select the lost files once the scan is complete.
  6. To avoid overwriting data, click "Recover" to save them to a different storage location.

2. Try the Professional Recovery Services

When the above methods fail or if the disk has severe physical damage, these services can be your last resort. They have specialized equipment and expertise for recovering files from corrupted external hard drives.

How to choose a service:

Preventive Measures

To avoid similar issues in the future, follow these preventive measures:


Repairing a corrupted or unreadable external hard drive might seem daunting, but armed with the right knowledge and tools, you can tackle many common issues effectively. Here’s a quick recap of the key points of this article:

Remember, regular maintenance and proactive measures can help prevent many external hard drive failures. Implementing routine backups and handling your drive with care will go a long way in ensuring its longevity.


  • Yes, in many cases, it is possible. The repair process depends on the extent and type of corruption. Software-based corruption can often be fixed using various tools and methods, while physical damage might require professional assistance.

  • There are several tools available:

    1. CHKDSK: Built into Windows, it scans and repairs file system errors.
    2. Disk Utility: For Mac users, this utility can repair disk permissions and file system errors.
    3. Third-Party Software: Applications like iBeesoft Data Recovery, Disk Drill, and TestDisk can help you recover data from a corrupted external hard disk.
  • Here's a step-by-step guide:

    1. Connect the corrupted or unreadable external hard disk to your computer.
    2. Open Command Prompt as an administrator.
    3. Type "chkdsk /f /r X:" and Press Enter. (replace "X" with your drive letter).
  • Suppose the computer can detect your corrupted external hard drive. You can use file recovery software for Mac or Windows, such as iBeesoft Data Recovery, Disk Drill, or Recuva. For physically damaged drives, opt for professional data recovery services.

  • There are several steps you can take to try and resolve this issue:

    1. Run antivirus software to check for and remove any potential viruses on the external hard drive. This simple step might help in resolving the problem.
    2. For Windows: Try typing "chkdsk g:/f" in the Command Prompt (replace "g" with your drive letter) to repair this error. For Mac, use Disk Utility's First Aid to try to fix this error.
    3. Change Drive Format: If the above methods don't work, consider changing the drive format from RAW to NTFS by formatting.

    Following these steps, you can repair the corrupted external hard drive.

  • Yes, but ensure it's formatted in a compatible file system:

    1. exFAT or FAT32: Both are compatible with Windows and Mac.
    2. NTFS: Read-only on Mac by default, but third-party drivers can enable complete access.
  • To solve the "Why does my external hard drive take so long to load on Mac or Windows?", consider the following steps to improve its performance potentially:

    1. Check for Malware: Use reliable antivirus software to scan the external hard drive for malware or viruses. Malware can significantly impact the drive's performance.
    2. Update Drivers: Visit the manufacturer's website or use the device manager to install available drivers.
    3. Defragment the External Hard Disk: Use built-in tools like Disk Defragmenter on Windows or third-party software for this task.
    4. Free Up Space: If the external hard drive is almost full, delete unnecessary files or transfer them to another storage location. Having ample free space can improve performance.
  • If your case or internal components are damaged, it is advisable to seek assistance from a professional skilled in data recovery and hardware repair. Fixing it yourself could lead to more harm and irreversible data loss.