Hard Drive

How to Fix Corrupted External Hard Drive Without Formatting: 6 Methods

7 min read

Reading Time: 7 minutesExternal hard drives are lifesavers. Most of us use them for creating backups of files and folders that hold importance. But even external hard drives are susceptible to corruption. It is an absolute state of dismay because you cannot access the data present on the hard drive.

But don’t fret! This article will discuss the methods to fix a corrupted external hard drive without formatting and losing all the data.

Common Problems with External Hard Drives

External hard drives can become corrupted due to malware infestation, improper usage habits, and other factors. Here are some common problems with explanations that lead to data corruption on an external hard drive.

Problems Explanation
Improper Usage HabitsExternal hard drives are expensive yet fragile in construction. They cannot withstand excessive temperature or humidity. Moreover, never unplug the connecting cable without ejecting the hard drive. All these habits and unfeasible working conditions lead to data corruption and sometimes even hard drive failure.
Malware InfestationData on hard drives, like on any other storage device, can become inaccessible due to malware. Malware can corrupt, encrypt, or even delete the data stored on the hard drive. So, you won’t be able to access the data unless you remove the malware from the hard drive.
Manufacturing DefectsA poorly manufactured hard drive will encounter problems when you use it. Despite passing numerous quality checks, it is possible to have manufacturing defects. You can physically examine the hard drive and check for any clicking or tapping noise.
Read/Write ProblemsExternal hard drives have varying read/write speed and capacity. A sudden drop in read/write speed means something is wrong with the head or other parts of the drive. Bad sectors can accumulate over time which leads to files and folder corruption.


How to Fix External Hard Drive on Windows without Formatting

There are multiple methods that you can use to recover files from an external hard drive without formatting. These methods include scanning the external hard drive for viruses, updating the drivers, and using built-in Windows tools like Check Disk and SFC scan to fix the hard drive. Let’s explore each of these methods in detail.

Method 1: Scan for viruses

A computer virus can seep into the external hard disk without much difficulty. If data transfer happens between an infected computer and an external hard drive, the external hard drive will also become infected. So, you need to remove the virus from the external hard drive to make it accessible again. You can scan for virus presence on your external hard drive using Windows Defender.

  1. Press the Win key and search for Windows security. Click on the first search result.
  2. Windows Security app will launch. Click on Virus and Threat Protection option on the home page.Access virus protection in Windows Security
  3. Scroll down and click on the Scan options label. Then select the Customized scan option on the next page.Selecting Customized scan option
  4. Click the Scan now button located at the bottom. The app will ask you to select a location to scan. Select the external hard drive and click on the Select folder button.
  5. Windows Defender will begin the virus scan. Let it complete and check if it found any threats on the drive.

Method 2: Use chkdsk

Windows offers the chkdsk utility to help you scan for logical errors and bad sectors on the external hard drive. You can run chkdsk using the command prompt and repair a corrupted hard disk without formatting.

  1. Press the Win key and type cmd. Then, right-click on it and select the Run as administrator option.
  2. Now, input the chkdsk /x /r Drive letter: command. Replace the Drive letter with the letter assigned to your external hard drive and press the enter key.Run Chkdsk using CMD
  3. Wait for the scan to complete and check if it reports any errors.

Method 3: Change the drive letter

If your external hard drive and system disk drives have the same letter, Windows will identify only one of them. So, you can try to change the drive letter to fix the external hard drive and make it accessible again.

  1. Press Win + X to launch the Power Menu. Locate the Disk Management option and click on it.
  2. Now, right-click on the external hard drive and select the Change Drive Letter and Paths option.Selecting the Change Drive letter and path option in Disk Management
  3. Click the change button and pick a different drive letter from the list. Then click on the OK button.Change drive letter of hard disk
  4. Windows will warn you about the change. Click on the Yes button to apply changes.

Method 4: Update the Drivers

Hard disks and other hardware devices need drivers to function correctly. If drivers are corrupted or outdated, it becomes difficult for the OS to access the devices. You can use Device Manager to update the drivers and fix your corrupted external hard drive.

  1. Press Win + X to launch the Power Menu and select the Device Manager option.
  2. Expand the Disk Drive section and right-click on the external hard drive device.
  3. Select the update driver option from the context menu.Update hard disk driver
  4. Then choose the Search automatically for drivers option.search automatically for drivers
  5. It will find and install the latest drivers for your external hard disk.

Method 5: Run an SFC scan

SFC is a built-in Windows utility to repair corrupted system files. If system files are corrupt, it can pose issues while accessing connected external hardware.

  1. Search for CMD and click on it while holding the Shift + Enter key. It will launch the command prompt with admin privileges.
  2. Enter sfc /scannow command and then press the enter key.SFC scan in CMD
  3. Wait for the scan to finish. Exit the cmd window and restart your computer.
  4. Try to access the hard drive to check if this method was successful in fixing the external hard drive or not.

How to Recover Files from External Hard Drive

Recovering corrupted data isn’t a cakewalk. You should use a reliable data recovery program like Disk Drill to recover your files. It will create an image of the external hard drive and use it for data recovery. Using the image file for recovery is safer because it doesn’t require rescanning the hard drive multiple times, which can aggravate data corruption.

You will be able to scan the drive only if it’s present in Disk Management and its size is correct. DiskDrill offers a trial version with access to all the features and a 500 MB data recovery limit. Moreover, it can recover data from most hard drive brands, including Seagate.

  1. Visit the official Disk Drill download page for Windows and download the tool. Install it on your system and launch it.Download Disk Drill app
  2. Navigate to the left-hand side and click on the Drive Backup option under the extras section.
  3. Now, select the external hard drive and click the byte-to-byte Backup button on the top.
  4. Select the path which has ample space and keep the Format as bytes.Create a disk image of hard drive
  5. Click on the OK button and wait for it to create the disk image.
  6. Next, click on the Data Recovery option and click on the Attach disk image option and mount it.Selecting and mounting disk image
  7. Select the mounted image and click the Search for lost data button.
  8. Wait until Disk Drill to finish the scan and then click the Review found items button.Files available for recovery
  9. Select all the files you want to recover and click the Review button at the bottom. Pick a location that has ample storage for saving the files.Recovering files to a storage drive in Disk Drill
  10. Click on the OK button. You will get a confirmation message once the restore process is complete.selected files recovered successfully
  11. Click on the Show recovered data in Explorer button to view your files.

However, if the external hard drive is physically corrupted, you will need to seek the help of a professional data recovery service. It can be difficult for you to recover from an external hard drive that has some degree of physical damage. In that scenario, your best bet is a Data recovery professional who holds experience in critical data recovery cases. They possess the tools and expertise to recover contents from an external hard drive which is impossible by using basic data recovery methods.


Drive corruption issues can pop up abruptly, which is why maintaining multiple backups of critical data is a good practice. Never connect your external hard drive to an infected system or lift your drive while it is in use. If you cannot access the drive, it is best to clone it and then scan the image for files using data recovery software.