I was running DBAN on a laptop HDD and I had an external HDD attached. Without realising that, I ran DBAN in auto mode. Completely stupid, I know.

I noticed it was attached when the operation started, and in a panic I pulled the external out of the USB port.

Then I attached it to my other laptop, and Windows knows there's a device plugged in, and what it's called, but didn't show up in My Computer.

So I opened up disk management and added a small 8MB partition. Now it shows up in My Computer but says it needs to be formatted before use. Obviously I don't want to do that. Disk management shows the 8MB partition and 931.47GB unallocated.

It's a ~1TB Western Digital My Passport drive and had around ~250GB free before the... accident.

The drive was plugged in to the DBANning laptop for maybe 5 seconds, it hadn't even reached 1%.

I know I'm an idiot (feel free to remind me) - what, if anything, can I do, save taking it somewhere expensive?

Edit: Just to make sure no one thinks I've run off. I ran EaseUS Partition Recovery yesterday and it returned nothing, but now I'm running EaseUS Data Recovery and it's found a lot of files. It's not complete yet (about 16.5 hours left!) but I'll update then.

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    I know I can't cast the first stone. This reminds me of a time I was walking a user through the Dell recovery process by using my own Dell PC. Thought I had one more "Next" button to go before the reformat started. I didn't... – Tanner Faulkner Mar 4 '13 at 20:24

Accidental DBAN? That's unlucky.

The whole point of that utility is to obliterate data beyond recovery.

Fortunately you didn't let it run for long.

Your data (most of it at least) is still there, however your partition table is corrupted and needs to be repaired.

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    This could do with a little expansion, as it points in the right direction, but isn't enough to actually solve the problem. – David Mar 4 '13 at 19:50
  • How will the bootrec commands listed in your link help repair the external drive's partition table? – Karan Mar 4 '13 at 20:03
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    Good point. My link now points to "EaseUS Partition Recovery" (their free version should be sufficient in this scenario). – Austin ''Danger'' Powers Mar 5 '13 at 1:41
  • This was the way to go. Unfortunately, Partition Recovery didn't find anything for some reason, however the Data Recovery wizard it comes with found all my files. I'm in the process of recovering them all now. It's slow but worth it. Had to get the full version, but again, worth it. Thanks. – Sacha Mar 9 '13 at 20:21

Grab a Linux LiveCD (like Ubuntu), boot up into that environment, and plug the drive in. It should auto-recognize the drive, and it will allow you to re-build the partition table without wiping data. If that's too advanced for you, you also should be able to recover the data straight through Linux. You'll just need an extra drive to move the data to.


TestDisk to the rescue! You can use TestDisk to recover/repair the filesystem on the disk, and then proceed to attempt a data recovery. Unlike dd, TestDisk will actually recover things on the filesystem-level (i.e. it will allow you to browse through the disk and select files/folders to recover, and you can set how to handle bad sectors manually).

Of course, some of your data may be lost, and depending on what parts of the drive DBAN has overwrote, it may not fully recover all (if any) files on the drive. That being said, this is your best bet.

The basic process would be to scan the drive, select the partitions of interest, restore/fix the partition table & headers (if required), and back up your data. Assuming the filesystem wasn't corrupted, it's much easier to fix the partitions with TestDisk and re-copy your data from your operating system. However, if you suspect any kind of corruption which might make copying under an OS unfeasible, TestDisk can also be used to recover your files.

Also, if you really need to those files, I would immediately make a dd backup of the drive (just incase you modify the drive during the recovery procedure, at least you can then restore it to it's original state).


I am not sure that rebuilding the partition table will even work because the files index is probably gone so there will be nothing to tell the OS what files are where.

What you need to do is use file recovery software to recover the files you want. I've used Recuva before and it was good, free too.


I was in a similar situation many years ago, and I paid for this software after the demo found the files.


Recover It All! Effective data recovery software for restoration of data lost due to accidental format, deleted files, and virus attacks. Recovers and restores deleted or damaged partition or boot sectors. Designed for FAT, FAT 32 and Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Window 7.

I was able to boot to a CD, and recover everything. Their little CD is better than freeware recuva.

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