How To Data recovery from external hard drive

Do you often use USB hard drives to store your data or transfer it from one computer to another? Then you will surely have accidentally deleted files and become desperate because you could not recover them. Well, it is clear that you have never tried programs specially designed to deal with situations of this type.

If this interests you (and considering the fact that you are here now I would say yes!), I suggest you take some free time and concentrate on reading this tutorial dedicated precisely to data recovery from an external hard drive . In the following lines, in fact, I’m going to show you what, in my humble opinion, are the best software out there to perform the operation in question. There are some for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and many of them are even free.

So? May I know what are you still doing standing there? Sit comfortably in front of your trusty computer and immediately test the solutions I’m about to tell you about. I sincerely hope that in the end you will be able to consider yourself very happy and satisfied with what you have learned and, obviously, with the results obtained. Happy reading and good luck with everything!


  • Preliminary information
  • External hard drive data recovery software
    • PhotoRec (Windows/macOS/Linux)
    • Disk Drill (Windows/macOS)
    • Recuva (Windows)
    • Other solutions for data recovery from external hard drive
  • Data recovery from damaged external hard drive
  • Data recovery from unrecognized external hard drive

Preliminary information

Before getting to the heart of the subject, thus going to find out which are the best solutions you can use to recover data from an external hard drive , it seems right to me to provide you with some preliminary information regarding the implementation of the activity in question.

Let’s start from a fixed point: recovering deleted files is indeed feasible, but only if the areas of the disk where they were saved have not already been overwritten by other data . Taking this into account, to increase the chances of being able to access the data of your interest again, it is essential to reduce the use of the disk as much as possible.

Therefore, if the data that you have accidentally deleted from the hard disk has not yet been overwritten, using the solutions that I am going to show you in the following lines you will almost certainly be able to recover them. Otherwise, sorry to tell you, you will not be able to access these again. Should this be the case, know that the only possible way forward will be to rely on specialized centres.

External hard drive data recovery software

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter and, therefore, let’s find out which are the best programs for recovering data from external hard drives and how to use them. You can also freely choose what you think will do the most for you.

PhotoRec (Windows/macOS/Linux)

The first of the external hard drive data recovery programs that I want to invite you to consider is PhotoRec . It is a free and open source software which, contrary to what the name might suggest, allows you to recover not only photos and images, but also any other type of deleted file (video, music, Office documents, etc.) from hard disk external and internal, SD cards , USB sticks and other drives.

It works on Windows, macOS and Linux, but only the variant for Microsoft’s operating systems has a graphical interface. I also point out that the software is supplied together with TestDisk , another tool indicated for the recovery of damaged partitions and disks, which however you should not need at the moment.

To download PhotoRec to your computer, connect to the relevant website and click on the link relating to the operating system you are using, in the section TestDisk & PhotoRec xx (month day, year), Data Recovery .

Once the download is complete, if you are using Windows , extract the .zip archive obtained in a position of your choice and start the qphotorec_win.exe file that was contained inside. In the window that is now shown to you on the desktop, press the Yes button , select the unit relating to your external hard drive using the drop-down menu at the top, indicate the main partition of the device and check the box next to the FAT/NTFS/ HFS+/ReiferFS and Free .

At this point, click on the File Formats button located below and choose which file formats you want to search and recover. By default, all are selected. To limit the search to only some of them, just press the Reset button , put a check mark next to the extensions of your interest and click the OK button .

Finally, click on the Navigate button located in the lower part of the main program window, indicate the location on your computer where you want to save the data recovered by the software and press the Search button , in order to start the search procedure and file recovery.

If you are using macOS , instead, open the tar.bz2 archive downloaded on your computer, extract its contents in a folder of your choice and start the photorec file which is inside it, by right-clicking on its icon and choosing the Open item from menu that appears.

Through the Terminal window that will be shown to you, use the right arrow on the keyboard to select the Sudo option , press the Enter key and type the Mac administration password .

Now, select the unit you want to operate on, indicate the partition , specify the file system with which it is formatted and decide whether to scan only the space marked as free or to examine the entire unit in detail.

Finally, specify the folder in which you want to save the recovered content, press the C key on the keyboard and wait for the file analysis and recovery process to start and complete.

Disk Drill (Windows/macOS)

To perform data recovery from external hard drive, I suggest you also try Disk Drill . It is a software that works on both Windows and macOS, which allows you to recover data that has been removed not only from external hard drives, but also from internal ones, from pen drives, memory cards, cameras, camcorders and many others devices. It supports all file systems, lost partitions, formatted disks, unformatted disks and also allows data recovery from RAW external hard drive . It’s free, but allows you to recover up to 500 MB of data.

To unlock all the available functions, you need to switch to the paid version of the program (which costs over 105 euros). On macOS it is also included in Setapp , a service that by paying a small monthly or annual fee (after a 1-month free trial) allows you to have many applications for Mac (and also iPhone/iPad with the most complete plan) for a fee without having to purchase the licenses individually, as detailed in my tutorial on the subject .

To download Disk Drill to your computer, if you’re using Windows , visit its website and press the Free Download button . Once the download is complete, open the .exe file obtained and, in the window displayed on the desktop, click on the Install , Yes and Restart buttons . Then, start Disk Drill on your computer, press the Yes and Continue buttons , decide whether to activate the Recovery Vault data protection function and/or whether to share anonymous usage data with the program developers and click on the Let’s start button .

If you are using macOS , however, you can download Disk Drill by reaching this other section of the program’s website and pressing the Download for free button . Once the download is complete, open the .dmg package obtained and drag the Disk Drill icon to the Applications folder of your computer, then right-click on it and select the Open item from the context menu, to start the program, however, by circumventing the limitations desired by Apple towards non-certified developers (operation to be performed only in conjunction with the first execution).

When you see the Disk Drill main window appear on your screen, accept the terms of use and follow the initial presentation, then click the Get Started button , type your Mac administration password and grant the necessary permissions in System Settings .

At this point, select the drive and the partition to be analyzed, then expand the drop-down menu on the right, choose a recovery method from those available and press the Search for lost data button .

When the scan is complete, locate the files to be recovered by filtering them by type using the left sidebar, use the View menu located at the top right to determine the type of display and filter the results by pressing the Filters button .

In conclusion, locate and select the data you are interested in, press the Recover button at the bottom left, click on the folder icon to indicate the output path and wait for the procedure to start and complete.

Recuva (Windows)

Given your needs, I think it is appropriate to also tell you about Recuva , a freeware software for Windows operating systems only , which allows you to perform data recovery from formatted and unformatted external hard disks and also to intervene on internal hard disks and other supports .

It works with all kinds of files, is very simple to use and is highly intuitive. It should be noted that it is also possibly available in a paid Pro version (it costs 19.95 euros) which offers premium support.

To download Recuva to your computer, connect to the program’s website and press the Download button located in the Free column .

Once the download is complete, open the .exe file obtained and, in the window that appears on the screen, click on the Yes button , set Italian from the drop-down menu for selecting the language located at the top right, remove the check from the box relating to installation of any additional programs and press the Install and Start Recuva buttons .

When you see the main window of the software on your screen, click on the Next button and, depending on what your needs are, select the All files option (to locate and recover any type of file) or the entries relating to the type of exact file ( Pictures , Music , Documents , Video or Compressed ).

Then click the Next button once again , select the On multimedia card or iPod option or the In a specific location option (and indicate the path to your external hard drive by clicking the Browse button ) and click the Next and Start buttons .

Then wait for the list of recoverable files to be shown to you and select the ones to restore. Note that only files with a green dot next to them can be fully recovered, while those with an orange dot are partially damaged and those with a red dot cannot be recovered. Finally, click the Recover button and specify the folder where you want to save the files.

In the event that Recuva cannot find the files on your external hard drive that you want to recover, I recommend restarting the program and, this time, selecting the Enable deep scan option on the last screen of the initial setup, in such a way to go and analyze the disk in more detail. However, keep in mind that the completion of the procedure in question will take more time, but the chances of finding previously undiscovered files will significantly increase. For more details on how Recuva works , check out my dedicated tutorial.

Other solutions for data recovery from external hard drive

None of the solutions for data recovery from external hard drive that I have already pointed out to you has convinced you in a particular way and, therefore, would you like me to show you other useful solutions for this purpose? No sooner said than done! You can find them in the following list.

  • EaseUS Data RecoveryWindows / macOS ) — software available for both Windows and macOS, which allows you to recover images, videos, documents and various other file types from external and internal hard drives, but also from USB sticks, SD cards and any other kind of support. It’s free, but allows you to recover up to 2 GB of data. To get around this limit, you need to switch to the paid version (which has costs starting from 66.69 euros / month).
  • Wise Data RecoveryWindows / macOS ) — this is another useful software to perform the operation covered by this guide. It is compatible with both Windows and macOS and allows you to perform data recovery from external and internal hard drives and other media, acting on a maximum of 2 GB. There is also a paid version (with prices starting at $39.97) and in this case there are no limits on the amount of data to be recovered and extra features are also available.
  • Lazesoft Mac Data RecoverymacOS ) — specific application for Apple computers that allows you to recover data from Toshiba external hard drive and any other brand, thanks to its very intuitive user interface. It’s totally free.

Data recovery from damaged external hard drive

Are you dealing with a broken external hard drive and, therefore, you ended up on my tutorial because you would like to understand if there is a suitable system for recovering data from a damaged external hard drive , perhaps for recovering data from a crashed external hard drive ? The answer is yes. In principle, keep in mind that the solutions already mentioned are fine, but if you want to learn more about the topic, you can read my specific tutorial on the subject .

Data recovery from unrecognized external hard drive

Have you connected an external hard drive to your computer, but it is no longer being read correctly and hence, you need to recover from external hard drive not recognized ? If so, let me inform you that you may be able to recover data from unreadable external hard drive using the software already mentioned in the previous lines. In any case, if you intend to deepen the discussion, I refer you to consulting my guide dedicated specifically to the subject .


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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