How to fix RAW external hard dive without formatting and recover files?

Updated by Tim to Data Recovery Tips on April 8th, 2021

Your external hard drive suddenly changed to RAW file system? Confused how to fix it without losing data? This post gets you all covered. You can recover files first with M3 Data Recovery.

Computers are great, right up to the moment that they're not.

Whilst failure rates for hard drives are as low as 1.25%, that's still more than one in a hundred hard drives that will fail at some point.

If you suddenly find that your external hard drive is throwing up errors and not letting you access it, it may be because your hard drive has become RAW.

The good news is that before you take it in for external hard drive repair, there are a few things you can try to fix the problem yourself. Read on as we take a look at how to fix a RAW external hard drive.

External hard drive became RAW file system

It's so common that when you connect an external hard drive to your Windows computer, you may receive one of these messages as below, which means your external hard drive probably became RAW file system.

1. The disk in drive X is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?

2. X:\ is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.

3. You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?

4. X:\ is not accessible. The volume does not contain a recognized file system. Please make sure that all required file system drivers are loaded and that the volume is not corrupted.

Moreover, if your external drive showed "unknown" file system in partition information under Disk Management or capacity of the external hard drive was 0 bytes and showed RAW in File Explorer, you have a RAW external hard drive.

RAW drive

Before fixing your RAW external hard drive, you need to know what is the RAW file system.

What is the RAW File System?

A RAW file system is one that has not been formatted to work on your computer.

In other words, it is an unformatted file system that needs to be formatted before it can be used to store your files and folders. The trouble is, formatting an external hard drive will wipe any data on it. That means if your external hard drive has suddenly become RAW, you'll need to find a way to fix it without formatting.

Why does an external hard drive become RAW?

There are a number of reasons why an external hard drive says RAW file system.

It may have become corrupted, either due to an internal failure, or because it was not safely ejected before being removed. It may be caused by the accidental deletion of system files that cause it to become unreadable. It may also be caused by a virus or malware.

1. Bad sectors

If there are bad sectors in the area of an external hard drive where stores the information for the operating system to recognize the file system, the external hard drive will not be recognized by the operating system and becomes RAW.

2. File system structural damage

The RAW external hard drive is surely involved with the problem of file system, so a damaged file system structure will be showing as a RAW drive or partition.

3. Partition table corruption

If the partition table is corrupted in the external hard drive, the operating system is not able to recognize the file system and takes it as a RAW partition.

4. Virus and malware attacks

Virus and malware attacks can cause damage to key information for the operating system to recognize the file system, like partition table, root directory, etc.

5. Unsafely ejection

It is very common that people just pull out the external hard drive violently without ejecting it safely first. This action probably results in damaged or corrupted external hard drive or even hardware issues.

6. Unexpected shutdown

When the operating system is reading from or writing to the external hard drive, the sudden power off will interrupt the process and cause damage to the file system or hardware.

If your hard drive has become RAW file system, you will usually see one of the following error messages:

Drive is not accessible, access denied.
External hard drive says it needs to be formatted.
Drive is not accessible, the parameter is incorrect.
The volume does not contain a recognized file system.
Drive is not accessible, the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
Drive is not accessible, the disk structure is corrupted and unreadable.
Drive is not accessible, data error (cyclic redundancy check).

With any of these messages, the likely cause is external hard drive RAW format.

The widely-accepted way to repair the RAW external hard drive is to format it into a recognizable file system such as NTFS . However, directly formatting the RAW external hard drive will erase the original data, which will possibly cause severe data loss.

Keep reading to see how to fix RAW external hard drive without formatting and data loss.

How to fix RAW external hard drive and get data back?

If you have important data on your external hard drive that you don't want to lose, you need to find a solution that can fix RAW external hard drive without formatting.

Formatting external hard drive will wipe all your data, so it isn't an ideal solution. Instead, there are a number of things you can try to convert external hard drive from RAW to NTFS without formatting.

Option 1: Do a basic hardware troubleshooting

Following are some basic hardware troubleshooting steps:

Try Your External Hard Drive on Another Computer

Your computer may be the problem. Try plugging your external hard drive into a different computer and see if the same issue occurs. If it does, the issue is probably the hard drive or cable.

Try a Different USB Port

Another thing you can try is switching which USB port your external hard drive is plugged into.

Sometimes specific USB ports can cause issues, but by plugging your external hard drive into a different USB port, the problem disappears. You should always try this before taking more drastic measures.

Try a Different USB Cable

If a change of USB port doesn't help, a change of USB cable might.

If you're using a USB external hard drive, try switching out the USB cable for a different one that you know works without any issues. It may be that your USB cable has become damaged and is causing the problems.

Verify the drive light is on

Desktop hard drive typically requires a power adapter. No light could indicate the power adapter is not connected to power.

Option 2: Update the Driver

It is possible that your external hard drive may have come with bundled software that may be incompatible with the newer operating system.

Try updating the driver to the latest version and see if this fixes RAW external hard drive problem.

To update the driver, follow these steps:

Step 1: Right-click on My Computer in Windows Explorer or on the desktop.

Step 2: Click on Manage and then Device Manager.

Step 3: Find your external hard drive in the Device Manager, right-click on it and select "Update Driver".

The driver should now update-to-date. Once the update has completed, try to access your external hard drive again and see if this has resolved the issue.

Option 3: Fix RAW External Hard Drive Using CMD

Chkdsk is a free utility that comes as part of Windows. This system tool checks file system integrity and can fix errors on the external hard drive.

To fix RAW external hard drive without formatting in CMD, complete the following steps:

Step 1: Type CMD in the Windows search bar.

Step 2: Right-click on cmd.exe and choose "Run as Administrator".

command prompt

Step 3: After seeing Command Prompt, type chkdsk driveletter: /f and hit Enter.

If you are lucky, chkdsk will then get to work trying to repair your RAW external hard drive. Otherwise, you will receive an error message saying that "The type of the file system is RAW. Chkdsk is not available for RAW drives external hard drive". In this situation, try next solution.

Option 4: Convert RAW External Hard Drive to NTFS

If you want to fix RAW external hard drive without data loss, you need to use a software that can fix RAW file system on that external hard drive.

As a professional RAW drive partition software, M3 Data Recovery can fix RAW external hard drive by converting RAW to NTFS without data loss.

To convert RAW external hard drive to NTFS, simply complete the following steps:

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

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

Step 3: Choose RAW Drive Recovery module.

Free data recovery software

If RAW external hard drive was BitLocker encrypted, choose BitLocker Recovery module.

Step 4: Select RAW external hard drive and choose Next.

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: Choose "Fix Drive".

The corrupted external hard drive RAW file system will now be rebuilt and you should be able to access your external hard drive once more.

If your RAW external hard drive file system cannot be fixed, try next solution to recover files.

Option 5: Recover Files From a RAW External Hard Drive

If you're unable to rebuild the external hard drive RAW file system, you may still be able to recover files from RAW external hard drive.

To recover files from RAW external hard drive, follow these steps:

Step 1: Download and install M3 Data Recovery.

Step 2: Connect RAW external hard drive to your computer.

Step 3: Launch M3 Data Recovery.

Step 4: Choose Data Recovery module.

Step 5: Select RAW external hard drive.

Step 6: Click Next to scan for your data.

Scan data from RAW external hard drive

Try deep scan to find more files if any files are missing after scanning.

Step 7: Check through the files and click Recover to start the file recovery process.

Recover lost data from RAW external hard drive

Step 8: Once you have recovered your files, it is time to format your RAW external hard drive to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT file system and make it working again.

Option 6: Recover Files From a BitLocker Encrypted Hard Drive Showing as RAW

If you used BitLocker to encrypt your external hard drive, you should still be able to recover data from BitLocker encrypted drive.

To recover files from BitLocker encrypted external hard drive, follow these steps:

Step 1: Download, install, launch M3 Data Recovery and choose BitLocker Recovery module.

Step 2: Select your external hard drive.

Scan data from BitLocker encrypted drive

Step 3: Click Next.

Step 4: Enter your password or 48-digit recovery key and click OK.

Scan data from RAW BitLocker encrypted drive

Step 5: Check the found files and then select the files to recover.

Recover lost data from RAW BitLocker encrypted drive

Step 6: If you cannot find the required files, try a deep scan.

You should now be able to recover your files and reformat your hard drive, before encrypting your hard drive once more.

If your external hard drive was encrypted with a different tool, you'll need to find data recovery software that supports that kind of encryption.

Option 7: Fix RAW External Hard Drive by Formatting

If you don't need any data from that drive, you can opt to reformat the drive to restore accessibility. This will return your external hard drive to being usable with your computer.

How to format RAW external hard drive, follow these steps:

Step 1: Right-click on your external hard drive in Windows Explorer

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

Select format

Step 3: Choose the type of file system you want to use.

Step 4: Select Start to begin formatting your external hard drive

Once the format process is complete, your external hard drive should be working again.

If Windows is unable to format RAW external hard drive or your RAW external hard drive cannot format, try formating your RAW external hard drive in CMD by diskpart or the 3rd-party tool.

Option 8: Contact a local specialist

If you've tried all of these solutions and none of them have been successful, then you may need to seek expert help.

Try taking your external hard drive to a local computer repair shop. They may be able to repair your RAW external hard drive issue that you are having.

Option 9: Consider a replacement

If you don't need the data and the drive is still within warranty, you will want to have the drive replaced or ask for a refund.

How to Avoid RAW External Hard Drive Problem in Future

No one wants to lose their data. External hard drives do sometimes fail, however.

To avoid the same issues in the future, always make sure that you back up your files to another location. This could be another hard drive, or you could use a cloud-based backup system that will save your files and folders in the cloud. It means that if you do have hard drive problems, you won't have to worry about losing all of your data; you can easily restore it from your backup.

You should also ensure that you always safely eject the external hard drive before you remove it from your computer.

Are You Looking for a Data Recovery Software to Fix RAW External Hard Drive?

If you're in need of RAW external hard drive repair because your external hard drive is showing as RAW file system, then we're here to help.

Our all-in-one M3 Data Recovery is a powerful data recovery software that can help you recover lost or deleted files from an emptied recycle bin, hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card or external hard drive. It's reliable and easy to use and can be used to recover files from formatted, corrupted, deleted or lost partitions in more than 300 different file types.

It's compatible with Windows 10 as well as macOS. Download one of our solutions for free today.

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