How to fix RAW external hard drive without formatting and recover data?

Updated by Tim to Data Recovery on March 31th, 2020

When an external hard drive suddenly became RAW file system, you may get the following errors when accessing it:

Drive is not accessible, access denied.
Drive is not accessible, the parameter is incorrect.
External hard drive says it needs to be formatted.
Drive is not accessible, data error (cyclic redundancy check).
The volume does not contain a recognized file system.
External hard drive not formatted, do you want to format it?.
Drive is not accessible, the disk structure is corrupted and unreadable.
Drive is not accessible, the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
Disk Management shows external hard drive as either unknown or RAW file system.
RAW external hard drive in disk management
External hard drive shows 0 bytes space (Used space and free space) and RAW file system in Properties.

Why does your external hard drive suddenly become RAW?

There are a lot of reasons that may cause your external hard drive to become RAW.

Reset external hard drive which causes data loss.
File table corruption could damage the external hard drive.
Unplug external hard drive from computer without safely ejecting.
External hard drive not recognized or detected by computer for unknown reason.
Accidentally deleted some system files and make external hard drive unreadable by computer.
Virus infection could causes files and folder to be hidden, or becomes shortcut, or external hard drive not accessible.

And many other reasons.

The fast way to repair RAW external hard drive is to format it to a new file system. However, formatting will erase all the data. If there are solutions that can fix RAW external hard drive without formatting and data loss, it will be perfect.

How to fix RAW external hard drive without formatting and recover data?

When encountering external hard drive RAW error issue, you cannot access the data because of external hard drive not accessible. If you click "Format disk" button, you will lose the data. How to fix RAW external hard drive without formatting and losing data? There are 10 solutions to repair RAW external hard drive issue and get data back:

Solution 1: Check RAW external hard drive on another computer

Connect RAW external hard drive to another computer and check if it persists.

Solution 2: Change USB cable and USB port

If there is something wrong with USB cable or USB port, Windows OS cannot access this drive. In this case, please change USB cable or USB port and then check if this external hard drive can be accessed.

Solution 3: Update the driver

Sometimes, the driver is out-to-date so that external hard drive is not recognized by Operating System. In this case, please update the driver with the following method:

Step 1: Right click My Computer or This PC on the desktop.

Step 2: Select Manage and Device Manager.

Step 3: Right click external hard drive in Device Manager and select "Update driver" or "Uninstall driver" to reinstall the driver.

Solution 4: Fix RAW external hard drive without formatting in CMD

Chkdsk is short for check disk. It is a Windows system tool that verifies file system integrity and fixes logical errors on the storage device.

Step 1: Go to Windows start menu, type CMD in the search bar.

Step 2: Right click cmd.exe from the search results and choose Run as Administrator.

command prompt

Step 3: Type chkdsk driveletter: /f and press Enter.

Once RAW external hard drive is fixed, all the data will be got back. Sometimes, chkdsk fails to fix RAW external hard drive and then reports: "Chkdsk is not available for RAW drives". In this situation, you have to try solution 5 to fix RAW external hard drive.

Solution 5: Convert RAW external hard drive to NTFS without data loss

M3 Data Recovery is a RAW drive recovery software which provides RAW Drive Recovery function. It can convert RAW external hard drive to NTFS or FAT32 without losing data in Windows 10/8/7 and Windows Server 2016/2012/2008/2003.

Besides to fix RAW external hard drive, M3 Data Recovery can also fix corrupted external hard drive and recover deleted or lost files from external hard drive.

Step 1: Connect this RAW external hard drive to your Windows computer.

Step 2: Download, install and launch M3 Data Recovery.

Step 3: After launching M3 Data Recovery, choose RAW Drive Recovery module.

Free data recovery software

If RAW external hard drive was Bitlocker encrypted, choose Bitlocker Recovery module to recover lost data.

Step 4: Select RAW external hard drive and then click Next to scan the data.

Scan RAW external hard drive

Step 5: Check and preview the files in RAW external hard drive.

Fix RAW external hard drive

If there are some files missing after scanning, try deep scan option in Data Recovery module to find more files.

Step 6: Click "Fix Drive" to fix RAW external hard drive. Once the corrupted file system is rebuilt successfully, RAW external hard drive will be accessible again.

Sometimes, the file system has been severely damaged so that RAW external hard drive cannot be fixed. In this situation, you have to try solution 6 to recover files from RAW external hard drive.

Solution 6: Recover files from RAW external hard drive

As a professional data recovery software, M3 Data Recovery provides powerful data recovery feature which can recover files from RAW external hard drive.

M3 Data Recovery is fully compatible with Windows 10/8/7/XP and Windows Server 2016/2012/2008/2003.

Step 1: Download and install M3 Data Recovery on your computer.

Step 2: Connect RAW external hard drive to your computer and then launch M3 Data Recovery.

Step 3: Choose "Data Recovery" module.

Step 4: Select RAW external hard drive and click Next to scan the lost data.

Scan data from RAW external hard drive

Step 5: Check the found files in RAW external hard drive.

Recover lost data from RAW external hard drive

If there are some files missing after scanning, try deep scan option in Data Recovery module to find more files.

Step 6: Choose the files you expect and then click Recover to start data recovery.

Step 7: After data recovery is successfully done, format RAW external hard drive to NTFS/FAT32 through solution 9.

Solution 7: Recover lost data from the Bitlocker encrypted external hard drive showing as RAW, unknown

If RAW external hard drive was Bitlocker encrypted, M3 Data Recovery is also a professional Bitlocker data recovery software. It can recover lost data from Bitlocker encrypted drive after supplying the password or 48-digit recovery key.

Step 1: Download, install, launch M3 Data Recovery and select Bitlocker Recovery module.

Step 2: Select the Bitlocker encrypted external hard drive and click Next to continue.

Scan data from Bitlocker encrypted drive

Step 3: Enter the password or 48-digit recovery key and click OK to scan the data.

Scan data from RAW Bitlocker encrypted drive

Step 4: After the scan completes, check the found files and then select the files you need to recover.

Recover lost data from RAW Bitlocker encrypted drive

If there are some files missing after scanning, try deep scan option in Bitlocker Recovery module to find more files.

Solution 8: Fix RAW external hard drive was encrypted by TrueCrypt, etc.

If RAW external hard drive was encrypted by TrueCrypt or other tool, you must find a data recovery software that supports this encryption solution. Otherwise, the recovered files won't be decrypted.

If RAW external hard drive was encrypted APFS, try M3 Data Recovery for Mac on your Mac.

Solution 9: Format RAW external hard drive

If RAW external hard drive doesn't have important data, format is the best choice to fix RAW external hard drive. Follow below steps to format RAW external hard drive:

Step 1: Right click the RAW drive in My Computer (This PC) or Disk Management.

Step 2: Select "Format..." from the right-click menu.

Step 3: Select exFAT, FAT32 or NTFS file system and then set other information.

Step 4: Click Start to format RAW external hard drive.

If there is important data in RAW external hard drive, just follow solution 6 to recover files before formatting.

If Windows is unable to format RAW external hard drive, try diskpart command or the 3rd-party format tool.

Solution 10: Ask a local professional for help

If RAW external hard drive has the following symptoms, it means RAW external hard drive has a hardware issue. In this case, please send it to a local data recovery professional for help.

1. The capacity of RAW external hard drive is 0 bytes when checking the Properties.

RAW hard drive 0 bytes

2. RAW external hard drive lost its correct capacity in Disk Management:

3. Drive is not accessible. Data error (Cyclic redundancy check) when accessing RAW external hard drive in My Computer (This PC) or Disk Management:

Data error (Cyclic redundancy check)

4. Data is not found by M3 Data Recovery:

Data not found by M3 Data Recovery

5. Bad sectors: WinHex shows unreadable sectors when reading RAW external hard drive.

Winhex unreadable sectors

6. Disk management showing disk unknown, not initialized, no disk space

Disk unknown not initialized

How to avoid RAW external hard drive again?

For these reasons above, the Windows operating system cannot fetch your external hard drive. To avoid unexpected RAW external hard drive, we usggest you use the storage device properly.

1. Backup

The most effective way to avoid data loss is to create frequent backups of your files.

There are many free backup software in market, such as Aomei Backupper Standard, Macrium Reflect Free, Paragon Backup & Recovery Free. You can choose one of them and create a backup. Once you lost important data, you can restore lost data from the backups without worrying any data loss.

2. Safely remove external hard drive

The most common cause of external hard drive suddenly becoming RAW is unsafe ejection. Always use "Safely remove hardware" to safely eject external hard drive.

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