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I have a Maxtor external HDD 500GB but haven't used it for a year or so. I have plugged it into a new laptop as the one I used it with before is busted. I know that there is a ton of data on the HDD that I would love to have the use of - mostly family and friends photos to be honest. But when I click on the HDD in Windows Explorer the only option I am given is to reformat the drive and lose the data.

I'd be grateful if anyone could tell me if there is a way to get the data off the external drive before formatting it and losing it all.

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if you look at the disk with TestDisk, does it see your partition? if so you can attempt to recover the partition to a differant harddisk of equal or greater size. cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk –  Frank Thomas Dec 4 '12 at 16:40
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4 Answers

Although there is no guarantee, your best option is to boot a Linux Live CD and mount the hard drive. If you are going to get anything off - that is probably the way (unless you want to take it to a data recovery shop).

Here is a list of LiveCD's. Linux is very good about mounting whatever and getting (at least read) support for most formats.

Quick How-To:

  1. Burn the CD/DVD (or install to a USB)
  2. Boot into it (you may need to select your boot option on your computer)
  3. Plug in the drive
  4. If it is not auto-mounted, type blkid, which should show any attached devices and their formats (you need to know the /dev/sdX#, and maybe format)
  5. If unmounted, use #4's info for

    mount /dev/sdX# /mnt # this often automagically gets the format, if it doesn't work:
    mount -t [format] /dev/sdX# /mnt

Then in the file system, try navigating to /mnt (i.e. main drive, first level, mnt folder).

That should get you an idea of if anything exists still. From there, you could mount another drive to write the data off to.

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Yes! You do have ways to get back your data before the formatting.

  1. Do not write anything new to rewrite the original data, which can make your data gone permanently.
  2. Download a recovery program to retrieve your data back. Since a false or terrible recovery tool may damage your data, you should select a reliable and efficient one.
  3. Save the recovered data on a different drive to avoid any recovery failure.
  4. Run the recovery tool much more times until you have recovered all your data back.
  5. Format this drive to make it usable again.
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If you used the drive with a Windows machine previously, it's likely a lost cause. Otherwise, you can try plugging it in to a linux machine and see if it can auto-detect the filesystem type. There are other tricks you or a sufficiently computer-savvy (and sufficiently-bribed) friend could try to recover the data, but that's between you and him or her.

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You can recover your data both before & even after you format the hard drive.

Do not write/copy anything new to your hard drive.

There's a list of free/paid tools you can try:

  1. Recuva (Free)
  2. Active Partition Recovery (Paid, but then torrent world is always there)
  3. Linux Live CD Boot (Extremely simple process, just download the ISO & write it to a CD & boot the system with it.)

Try these options before formatting, these should give you your data & memories back. And unless there's a fatal error, the data can definitely be recovered even after format. Just don't give up... And for further queries & assistance, STACKEXCHANGERS are always there. :)

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protected by slhck Dec 13 '13 at 10:44

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