How to recover data from a damaged hard drive and which are the best programs

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Before You Begin: Is it physical or software damage?

Even before moving on to the programs to use for recovery, we recommend that you do some preliminary operations. The first of these being a physical control of the device, just to understand if it is a damage to the structure:

  • Then remove any cables connected to it and examine its outer surfaces.
  • Try to remove dust, or any residue which could block the connection to your PC.
  • If it looks intact, with no dents or missing pieces, proceed to check whether it turns on or not. Once the button is pressed, you should be able to hear the typical ignition noise, therefore without strange sounds coming from inside. If it doesn't show signs of life, make sure that there is no problem with the power supply.
  • Verify that i cables are connected correctly, and if needed, change those that show obvious traces of damage.
  • And finally, do the connection to a different PC, to make sure that the problem does not stem from a malfunctioning computer. If it starts working again, then the damage is almost certainly due to an external casing or simply the power supply.
If you notice physical damage to your hard drive, contact a specialist immediately!

In the latter case, unfortunately, you just have to wait for the diagnostics carried out by a professionalbut knowing that in most cases, the data could be lost forever. If, on the other hand, the structure seems intact and turns on, let's proceed with the next step to repair the hard disk.

"The disc structure is damaged and unreadable"

If once you connect your hard drive you find the error: the disc structure is damaged and unreadable, do not worry! It is one of the most common Windows errors affecting external devices (be they USB, SD or other storage devices.)

The reason it appears is damage to your hard drive's file system, causing it to become RAW making the files stored inside inaccessible. To fix this error you will need to run a CHKDSK from the command prompt.

  • Open Command Promptby pressing the button Windows and X at the same time
  • Type the command: chkdsk x:/r - replacing the letter x with that of the hard drive showing the error
  • Press on Submit to complete the process

To perform data recovery from inaccessible drive, just use one of the software mentioned below.

Free Broken Hard Drive Data Recovery: Datarescue DD

One of the best tools to recover data from damaged hard drives is Datarescue DD. It is an application completely free for both Windows and MacOS which allows you to carry out images, which is a single file containing all the data on the disk.

It is the best way to avoid writes on the damaged disk that can prevent you from recovering every saved file. Then download the software by connecting to the official Datarescue website and pressing the button correspond to the Windows version. Then click on the downloaded folder, and start the program by clicking on drdd.exe. To start the recovery you will need to:

  • Select the damaged hard disk drive from the menu Source
  • Press on KATEGORIEN and choose the folder in which to place the image file once completed
  • Click on Play to start the process and wait for it to finish

You can even decide to limit the creation of the image, by setting specific areas of the HDD. By setting the numbers of Sectors o MB In fields Start, Size, End you will decide where to start it and when to stop the recovery operation. If the creation of the image file gets stuck, you will be able to bypass those sectors using just these indications.

If you need to recover on a Mac, choose the OS X version of the software and install it by opening the package.dmg and dragging the DataRescue DD icon into the Applications. The procedure is then identical to that for PCs with Windows.

The best software for recovering data from damaged external hard drive

Once the preliminary operations listed above have been completed, we then proceed with the recovery of your files or documents. Let's see together what they are the best programs of 2021 to restore as much as possible from your storage drive.

HDD Regenerator

HDD Regenerator is compatible software with Windows XP / Vista / 7/8/10 which allows you to repair secondary or external hard drives. Available in both version participation that for a fee, at $ 99, the first is limited only to the recovery of one sector per scan.

Then start the download from the main page of HDD Regenerator and once completed start the program. The first choice you will have to make is whether to copy the program to a CD / DVD, to a USB or to run it directly on the PC. Once you have decided, you will have 4 options available which are:

  • Prescan: or quick scan of the hard disk, highlighting bad or corrupt sectors
  • Normal Scan: normal scan with or without repair
  • Version Info: information about the program, its version and legal notes
  • Show Statistic: which will show you a summary chart of bad and / or repaired sectors

We therefore advise you to choose the Normal Scan and then select the item you are interested in from the three shown on the screen: scan and repair, scan without repair or scan e fix all hard disk.

Then start the one that seems most suitable for the recovery of your hard disk. It is important to know that the more storage space, the longer it will take for it to complete. You can select recovery by sector, thus avoiding waiting for the completion of the total reset of the device.

At the end of the scan, sector detection and regeneration you will get a report of the operations carried out. If this program is not enough, try HDD data recovery with one of the next software!

TestDisk e Photorec

PhotoRec is a program open source, completely free and that allows you to recover files from both Windows and Mac or Linux. Once obtained the image file, you will need to download the version suitable for your device from the official PhotoRec (and TestDisk) website.

For the sake of simplicity, we will cover the Windows version, so once downloaded, run the application qphotorec_win.exe from the zip folder. Then add the image file by selecting the option Add a raw disk image by pressing on the menu at the top. To recover data from external hard drive you will need to:

  • Select Unknown from the main screen
  • Place the small snack next to Whole and next to the file systems FAT/NTFS/HFS+/ReiserFS
  • Click on KATEGORIEN and indicates the destination folder for saving
  • Start the search for all the files that can be saved by pressing on Search or select some types to recover by clicking on File formats (for example: only photos, videos or documents)

At the end of the procedure, you will find your recovered data in the folder indicated above!


This software, compatible for both Mac and Windows is available in both one version participation, which in a paid one at the price of 89$ or 399$. The first, however, allows you to view the files that can be recovered, showing you a preview. Then download the trial version from the official DiskDrill page and press the green button.

But be careful! To recover data or files from your hard drive you will need to purchase a license for the full version!

To perform file recovery on Mac, you will need to open the package .dmg and drag its official icon into the iOS Applications folder. Double click on the icon to start it e remove all ticks from the home screen and after pressing Continue, enter your password and username on macOS.

Choose the item "Attach img" top right, enter the file created with DataRescue DD I awarded her Recover. Once the process is complete, you will be able to view previews files divided by type, by simply clicking on the eye icon next to their name.

What determines the failure of a hard disk

It has been found that when a hard drive fails in 30% of the circumstances the cause is due to human error. In fact, apparently, not everyone knows how this small device must be handled, nor are they aware of the periodic maintenance operations to which it must be subjected.

On the other hand, then, the hard drives are involved in mechanical damage, inconveniences which, unfortunately, in most cases cannot be prevented.

In the first case we speak of physical damage of external memory, in the second hypothesis we are faced with a logical damage. But exactly what kind of breakdowns are we talking about?

Physical corruption: how can a hard drive be damaged?

When we decide to use an external memory to collect all our data, we must take into consideration the hypothesis that the security of this object could be compromised. Indeed, the hard disk may suffer accidents due to various oversights, or it may start to malfunction due to the poor maintenance it receives. Among the most common physical damages we find:

  • Falls and bumps. Since, often, the hard disk is placed next to the PC as if it were an extension of this, accidents due to shocks and consequent falls of the HD are quite frequent.
  • Electrical fault. Sometimes, delicate electrical components can be compromised by failures caused by thermal shocks. Therefore, you must always avoid exposing the device to high temperatures.
  • Involving accidents are also very common the water. In fact, you should avoid getting close to the hard drive with liquids of any kind.
  • If you connect the hard drive to a inappropriate power source, there is a risk of burning the plate and permanently damaging the device.
  • Engine seizure. The motor rotation block occurs following a shock or a fall of the HD.
  • Damage to GMR sensors. Again, head damage can occur as a result of a disc drop.

The hard disk is a very resistant piece of hardware, but it should not be neglected for this. To avoid wear damage, you have to perform a periodic maintenance operation to safeguard its performance.

Logical Damage: The damage a hard drive can suffer

A hard drive that stops working will never do so at any moment without giving any warning or without throwing gods clear signs of malfunction. In general, before a disk can be defined as broken or damaged it has already begun to operate incorrectly. It, for example, has failed to memorize of some data or has started making unusual noises.

These types of errors do not involve a physical defect of the device, but are related to its mechanical system, consequently, it will be said that the hard disk has logical damage. This is caused by a file system problem which, in general, results in data loss. Let's see together what are the cases in which this can happen:

  • FAT file system errors, which cause the files allocation table not to work.
  • Extraction during the writing phase, in case this is an external hard drive.
  • Momentaneo black out, this incident prevents the writing of the data, which are not recoverable as they have never been written.
  • Bad connection or malfunction of the cables, resulting in white hole, i.e. the writing in holes.
  • Hard disk firmware corruption, which can result in failed initialization, data loss, or hardware component malfunction.

Useful tips to prevent hard drive failure

Unfortunately, data loss is a moment that all PC users, sooner or later, are forced to go through. In some cases this unpleasant incident cannot be anticipated and can leave us dumbfounded little chance of recovering our most important files.

Other times, however, the unpleasant inconvenience can be avoided simply by following a few small tricks for safeguard the health of our precious device.

So, what can be done, which is in our power, to prevent the hard drive we are using from getting damaged, permanently damaging our data?

Trust in quality

Taking the time to choose the right hard drive for us could save us a lot of inconvenience in the future. For example, depending on our needs we have the possibility to choose the disk size, power and write speed, data transfer speed and connectivity.

In addition, it is also good to rely on quality brands, which are often synonymous with reliability, such as: Maxtor, Toshiba, WD Elements, Verbatim, Seagate, Transcend, WD My Passport, LaCie, WD My Book, WD My Cloud, SanDisk and Samsung, just to name a few.

Evaluate the status of the hard drive

We must not just assume that the device we own is in good condition and suitable for storing the amount of data we have established. To ensure that the hard disk is in optimal condition, special checks must be carried out to avoid the occurrence of future problems. For this specific case, there are a number of software on the market that can be used to analyze if the disk has any problems.

With the SMART monitoring system the reliability indexes of the device are detected and, moreover, appropriate measures are recommended to be taken in case of malfunction of the external disk.

Check its life cycle

Also thanks to SMART technology it is possible to check the life cycle of our hard disk. This allows us to evaluate whether the time has come to put it to rest after many hours of work, to avoid a malfunction.

Examine the environment in which the hard disk is to operate

We must never underestimate the delicacy of this external memory. For that reason, we recommend that you place it in a dry placeaway from heat sources, to prevent thermal shocks from overheating it. Then, it is always recommended keep it well sheltered, where it is difficult to reach it with distracting shots and, therefore, drop it.

Protect the disc properly

HD is a small and delicate device that must be handled with care. In addition to this, you also have to protect it from external agents, such as blows and accidental spills of liquids, but also from dust, the sneaky enemy of all electronic objects. To do this, we recommend buy a durable case suitable for our record in order to be able to safeguard it from any inconvenience of a physical nature.

Turn off the device correctly

As with any other external device that is connected to our computer, even in the case of the hard drive this it must be turned off in total safety. Therefore, before physically operating on it you must eject the disc by safe removalby clicking on the icon that appears in the notification area. This will prevent the loss of important information.

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