A RAW hard drive refers to an unformatted disk. When data corruption occurs, the drive on which you've saved important data can fail, resulting in the recognition as RAW. This failure can result from a number of factors, including a computer virus, format failure, power failure, disk corruption, improper operation and even physical damage. This occurrence is also common in external hard drives since these devices go between being connected and disconnected from their operation source. Consider the following information when attempting to recover data from a RAW hard drive.

Diagnosing a RAW Disk Issue

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If your hard drive has become unformatted, you won't have access to any of your files until you find a solution to the problem. You'll know it's a RAW hard drive issue if you receive any of the following error messages:

  • "Sector not found"
  • "Invalid media type/Abort, retry, fail?"
  • "You need to format the disk before you can use it"
  • "The disk/drive is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?"

With this last option, don't click "yes" or you'll lose all the data stored on the hard drive. This warning is worth repeating: Do not format the drive. At this point, you'll want to back off and use a RAW data recovery software.

Recovering the Data

Logical errors, meaning those related to the information stored on the drive, are easier to recover than physical errors. If you spot any physical damages to the drive, don't try to repair the device by yourself. Physical damage repairs need to be performed very carefully, and since errors in repairs can make the damage worse, you should consult a professional. With logical errors, however, you can attempt some ways to recover the data.

Clone or back up the drive to put your mind at ease. This step is optional, but having copies of the drive ensures everything is saved in the state the data was in when you began the recovery.

Many DIY RAW data recovery programs are available for free, but paid options are often easier to use and help navigate you through the process step by step. These programs may also scan for more issues than free programs. For example, software such as Data Rescue PC and Ontrack EasyRecovery scan RAW data, similar to recovery programs, but these software packages also offer recovery lab services, pause scan options and the ability to save the scanned information.

The program you use is up to you, but be sure to follow instructions carefully, even if you've used other types of software before.

Preventing the Hard Drive From Becoming RAW

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You'll want to avoid having a RAW hard drive problem in the future; here are some ways to prevent the problem. Since your hard drive can become a RAW drive following a power failure, be sure to unplug the drive from the power adapter or USB port when not in use. Failing to safely remove hardware can also lead to a RAW drive, so always choose the "safely remove hardware" option when you're disconnecting the device from the computer.

Recovering data from a RAW hard drive can be a pain, but recovery software options exist to help when you need access to your important files.

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