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How to Easily Recover an exFAT Hard Drive on Windows 106 min read

November 11, 2021 6 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutesAfter formatting your hard drive to an exFAT file system and storing important files, you back it up for added safety. But what if the backup is unavailable or is too outdated? How do you perform exFAT data recovery?

You can recover old, lost, or deleted files saved from an exFAT drive using third-party recovery software. With a powerful exFAT data recovery tool, you can retrieve data from various devices. This includes Windows or Mac computers, HDD or SSD drives, Android or iPhones, and digital cameras, to name a few.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to easily recover an exFAT hard drive on Windows 10, so you can get your data back in no time.

What is the exFAT Format and How It Differs From Other Formats?

The Extensible File Allocation Table (or exFAT) is a file system format that is optimized for flash memory devices, including SD cards and USB flash drives. External hard drives use the exFAT format due to its compatibility with Windows and Mac computers. It is the top choice if NTFS is impractical to use.

The exFAT also covers some of the inefficiencies that users often encounter with the FAT-32 file system. But how does the exFAT differ from the other formats like FAT32 and NTFS file systems? Let’s take a closer look at this comparison table below.

exFATFAT32NTFS
Introduced with Windows XP & VistaIntroduced with Windows 95Introduced with Windows NT and used after Windows XP
Ideal for flash drivesEasiest to use and format as exFATCan support file permissions, create backup copies, offers encryption, disk limits, and more
Compatible with all Windows versionsWorks with all Windows, Linux, and Mac versionsCompatible with all Windows versions
No need to use extra software when using LinuxNo need to use extra software for MacRead-only when used with Mac and other Linux versions
No file size or file partition size limitationsUp to 4 GB file size and 8TB partition sizeNo file size or file partition size limitations
Replaces FAT32 and supports more devices and OS with NTFS. Not as popular as FAT32.Older file system not very efficient as NTFS.The most modern of the three. NTFS is standard in Windows and non-removable drives.

Now that you’re familiar with the exFAT format, let’s get started!

How to Recover Data from an exFAT Hard Drive

In this step-by-step guide, we’re going to use a third-party software for exFAT data recovery.

Disk Drill is one of the most efficient and convenient tools used to recover deleted files in Windows 10 (and older versions) and macOS. It is an effective exFAT data recovery tool that can recover data in a few easy steps.

  1. Download Disk Drill Data Recovery Software for Windows and install.
  2. install disk drill

  3. Launch Disk Drill and select the exFAT drive for data recovery.
    disk drill exfat driveFrom there, you’ll find a list of all drives connected to your device along with their details. Select the exFAT drive where you want to recover data.
  4. Select a recovery method.
    disk drill recovery methodsYou can find the recovery methods from the drop-down menu in the right pane. By default, Disk Drill will run using the “all recovery methods” option (which is recommended for more complete results). Other options include Quick Scan and Deep Scan (recommended if you need a more thorough scan).
  5. Click on Search for lost data.
    search for lost data buttonOnce you’ve chosen the exFAT drive and recovery method, click on the Search for lost data button.
  6. Wait for the scan to complete.
    disk drill scanning progressA status bar will appear to show Disk Drill’s progress. Let the scan proceed; you can always pause it if you find the files you want to recover. The scanning time depends on the recovery method you selected.
    Select the file type you want to find or use the “Recover all.” If you don’t see the file or files you want to recover, use the “Reconstructed” files from the scan results. Disk Drill reconstructs files according to file signatures but may have incomplete metadata. You may always review reconstructed files in case you need to recover these.
  7. Select the files you wish to recover.
    select files to recoverOnce the scan is complete, the files that can be recovered will show in an organized list. Check the box beside the files you wish to recover. You can opt to use filters if you want to narrow your search.
    You can also preview each file before recovering it. Just click on the eye button to ensure you’re recovering the correct files.
  8. Recover your lost data.
    recover button
  9. After you select the files you need, click “Recover.” A new window will appear to ask where you want to store the recovered data. Then, a prompt will show asking you to select a location where you want to recover your chosen files. Remember to always store recovered data in a different location to avoid file corruption or overwriting of data during recovery. Then, click OK.
    recover lost data button

  10. Once the data recovery is complete, a dialogue box will show along with details about your exFAT files. You can access all the files you recovered from there.
    data delivery complete

What are the Main Reasons for Data Loss?

Accidental deletion, file corruption, and formatting issues can all lead to minor or major data loss. Hence, you must take proper actions against data loss as soon as possible. This includes efficient data backup and recovery.

The following are the main reasons that can lead to exFAT data loss:

  • Accidental Deletion. Human error is the most common reason for data breaches. Files can be deleted by accident, like emptying the Recycle Bin by mistake. Also, deleting improperly labeled files may lead to severe data loss.
  • Hard Disk Crashes. Crashes can be due to hardware failure, extreme heat, and power issues. This can also be due to corrupted firmware. If a hard disk crashes within a short period, there may be defects in the device manufacturing.
  • Formatting and Partitioning Mistakes. If you format the wrong drive by mistake, then you lose a lot of data. When formatting your hard disk, you may find the error message “Windows was unable to complete formatting.” This is due to a corrupted disk, or you may be in the RAW file. Also, there may be a previous unresolved exFAT partition or exFAT disk format issue which led to this error message. During disk partition, you can also end up losing data when lost partitioning happens.
  • Virus or Malware Attacks. A virus or a malware attack can happen at any time. If you don’t have an efficient device protection tool, all or a part of your files may become corrupted or deleted.
  • Corrupted File Storage. Memory cards can become corrupted when removed from a device after a file transfer. A memory card used on different devices can also become corrupted. You can recover an exFAT SD card using a recovery tool.

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