How to Reformat an External Hard Drive Without Losing Everything

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How to Reformat an External Hard Drive Without Losing Everything

Most individuals are quite excellent about backing up their important data on external hard drives. But what if the hard disk gets corrupted?

It’s a lesson in why you should always establish an offsite backup with a cloud provider in addition to a local copy—but it’s too late now.

Fortunately, with a few simple workarounds, you can reformat an external hard disk without losing anything.

Yes, It Is Possible!

A short search of the internet’s various tech forums indicates that far too many individuals believe the phrases “data recovery” and “format drive” are mutually incompatible. They’re not.

It is quite feasible to erase your hard disk without erasing all of your data. You must format your disk before using data recovery programs to restore your data.

The formatting component of the procedure vary depending on whether you’re using a Windows or macOS computer. We’ll go through both platforms; keep reading to find out more.

How to Reformat a Drive on Windows

The procedure for reformatting an external hard disk in Windows is simple.

To begin, plug your external hard drive into a USB connection on your computer. Wait for Windows to detect the attached drive.

Related: How to Restore Your Lost Data Using the Windows File Recovery Tool

Next, launch File Explorer, scroll to This PC in the left-hand column, and double-click the shortcut.

You should notice your external hard drive in the Devices and Drives section of the main window. To open the context menu, right-click on the drive’s icon and pick Format from the list.

Make sure the Quick Format option is checked and leave the rest of the settings alone.

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Finally, press the Format button and wait for the procedure to finish.

To restate, it is critical to verify that the Quick Format selection is selected. If you format your drive completely, you will lose all of your data.

How to Reformat a Drive on Mac

Although macOS lacks a Quick Format box, you may get the similar effect by adjusting a parameter.

To begin, use the Finder app and go to the Applications section on the left-hand panel.

Related: How to Format an SD Card on Your Mac

Scroll down until you reach the Utilities folder in the list of apps. Locate Disk Utility in the folder.

Your external hard disk should be listed under External on the left-hand side of the screen in the Disk Utility software. Click on the name of your drive.

Now, move your cursor to the top of the window and click the Erase button. The operating system will request that you erase the drive.

Do not continue; instead, choose the Security Options option. It is critical to move the slider all the way to the left side of the scale. You will lose part (or all) of your files if the slider is not in the right position. The recovery of data will be impossible.

Why Is Quick Format Important?

You must conduct a Quick Format (or the Mac equivalent) if you wish to employ data recovery software—but why?

Consider your files to be books on a bookshelf. The filesystem is similar to a catalog that shows you where the books are stored. A Quick Format is analogous to tossing away the catalog but retaining the books. The books might be harder to locate, but they would still be there.

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A Quick Format, in more technical words, just deletes the file system journaling. It does not completely erase the disk with binary zeroes. The files are still there, but File Explorer/Finder can’t see them since they don’t know where to search. The files are kept until they are overwritten by fresh data from the user.

Don’t Add More Files

It is critical that you do not write any new data to your hard disk at this point.

As previously stated, any new data would replace the old (now hidden) files. And the overwriting will not be done file by file. You risk corrupting hundreds of files that you need to recover by uploading a new file to your external hard disk.

Just move straight on using the data recovery software.

Using Data Recovery Software

It’s now time to use a data recovery software. This is specialist software that can locate files on a hard disk without a catalog to guide it.

Many data recovery programs provide a free version. The free tier is often limited to a specific number of files or quantity of storage. If you’re attempting to recover a large amount of data, you may need to pull out your wallet.

Here are three data recovery apps you can try:

1. Prosoft

Available on: Windows, Mac

Prosoft is a data recovery program that works on both Windows and Mac. It can recover over 100 file kinds, detect duplicate files among those you wish to restore, and provides a recovery preview before you start the procedure.

The free trial allows you to get a preview so you can make sure it works before you purchase.

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Download: Prosoft (Free trial, $29/month for a full license)

2. EaseUS Data Recovery Pro

Available on: Windows, Mac

The most well-known data recovery software is definitely EaseUS Data Recovery Pro.

In contrast to Prosoft, it allows you to recover 2GB of data for free. All common file formats are supported.

If you need to recover more than 2GB of data, you must purchase the Pro edition. A lifetime license costs $70.

Download: EaseUS Data Recovery Pro (Free, $70 for Pro)

3. Recuva

Available on: Windows

The CCleaner family includes the Windows-only Recuva software. It is completely free to download and use, with no data constraints.

The $20 Pro edition includes virtual hard drive capabilities and automatic upgrades.

Download: Recuva (Free, $20 for Pro)

Avoid Problems, Make Multiple Backups

As previously said, all of these issues are readily avoidable if you keep numerous backups of your data.

You should retain an onsite and offshore backup at the absolute least. In an ideal scenario, you would have backups on a NAS drive, a cloud storage provider, an external hard drive, and a specialized backup software provider.

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