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Summary :

If you are trying to access an external hard drive but are told that your external hard drive needs formatting, you are likely to find the best solutions here.  MiniTool Power Data Recovery is the best way to recover data from not formatted hard drive. Then, you can format the hard drive without worrying.

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External hard drive is very useful when you want to copy large files between computers, or back up your important files like photos, videos, documents and other data. They typically have large capacities and can be connected to computer via USB sport or FireWire.

External hard drives enjoy different forms, such as SSD, USB flash drive, Sony pen drive and so on, and vary a lot in their capacities from gigabytes to terabyte…However, you may see external USB hard drive not formatted error, saying you need to format the disk before you can use it; considering there are important files on the hard drive, you feel uneasy.

My Seagate External Hard Drive Shows Not Formatted

"So I have a Seagate 3TB External Hard Drive that all of a sudden tells me it needs to be formatted. I have 2.8 TB of files, pictures, videos and more on that drive with no backups of it anywhere. So basically, when it is plugged in, every 10 seconds or so it disappears and then reappears with this pop-up message: "You need to format the disk in drive G: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?" Obviously I don't want to format it as that means I lose all my data…"

Phenomena: After you have plugged your external HD into a computer, you can’t open it to access the files because the Windows pops up an error message which reads “You need to format disk in drive before you can use it” ORThe disk in drive X is not formatted” (appear in Windows XP).

you need to format the disk before you can use it

It seems that such kind of data loss problem happens every day in our daily life. In fact, not formatted error not only happens on external hard drive, but also appears on almost all storage devices such as HDD, SSD, USB flash drive, pen drive, memory card and so on. When not formatted error happens on those devices, Disk management displays their file systems as RAW and users are unable to access the drive in Windows.

RAW drive in Disk Management

Facing such situation, what should you do? Are you going to format the hard drive as you are told? Next, we will tell you more about external hard drive needs formatting.

Why My External Hard Drive Keeps Asking Me to Format It

Before we go to the solutions, we would like to show you the reasons that may lead to this error. In this way, you can avoid the improper operations to your external hard drive OR prevent the terrible things from happening. Below are the possible factors for external hard drive not formatted:

  1. File system is not recognized by Windows. For instance, file system is Ext 2/3/4.
  2. The external hard drive suffers from sudden power outage when it is used to transfer files or something else;
  3. The external hard drive is improperly pulled out or forced to pull out;
  4. The external hard drive gets virus attack;
  5. There are bad sectors in the external hard drive.

External Hard Drive Needs Formatting? Not Now!

When running into external hard drive not formatted error, most users have such misunderstanding: they think they have to take Windows' suggestion and have to format the hard drive without other solutions. Because in their minds, only when they can open the external hard drive, they are able to access files stored on the drive.

The reality? It is true that formatting may enable you to regain the access to the external hard drive, but have you ever think about the consequence once you have formatted the external hard drive? Yes you will find no files on the drive after formatting.

Therefore, for those who have no backups, keep this point in mind: DO NOT FORMAT your external hard drive before you take out the data in it. Formatting is a bad idea if the drive is failing, and that procedure means you will lost the file structure (folders, organization, file names…). As a matter of fact, the data in the external hard drive may get recovered as long as they are not overwritten. So remember the more changes you have made, the less chances you have for data recovery.

So how to fix the external hard drive not formatted error and recover data on the hard drive? Well, you need to use the software without altering the data on the drive or get it to someone who can help you out technically. And this article will show you what to do step-by-step.

Solutions to External Hard Drive Not Formatted

If you have not made a piece of backup, you'd better go ahead reading the following content. What should you do to recover data from not formatted hard drive without data backup?

You can try the following methods, maybe they will help you open your hard drive.

Solution 1. Try the Easy Things First

  • Connect it to another USB port or another operating system and see if you can read the files.
  • Take your chance to restart your computer and see if God opens another door for you.
  • Run anti-virus software to check and kill possible virus on the external hard drive.

These may seem meaningless but sometimes they do help people get out of trouble. If no miracle happens, try the second solution.

Solution 2. Check Your Hard Drive for Errors

  • At the Start button, click Run.
  • Type “cmd” into the blank and hit Enter key.
  • Type “chkdsk n:/f” (replace n with the true drive letter of the problematic partition) into the Command Prompt window and then press the Enter button.
  • It will start repairing damaged files and you will see some of your filenames before it finally asks if you want to save lost chains into another location. Click "Yes" just in case.

If CHKDEK can run this process normally, you can try again reading your external hard drive after restarting your computer. CHKDSK usually takes some time to fix the error, so please be patient. When it is finished, your external hard drive may become normal as before.

However, if you are unable to go through this process, and encounter the following message: the type of the file system is RAW, CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives, what should you do?

CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives

Any other tips for how to restore these files from not formatted external hard drive?

Solution 3. Recover Data from Not Formatted Hard Drive

If your external hard drive keeps asking you to format it after you have tried the above solution, you can download free MiniTool Power Data Recovery which is an excellent program that brings file recovery to Windows to have a try. This software works great on Windows 7/8/8.1/10, both 32 bit and 64 bit, and is able to recover the mainstream file types on audio, video, image, email, documents, etc. With this tool, you can easily get your inaccessible files out from unformatted hard drive (RAW drive).

Free Download

MiniTool Power Data Recovery composes of four data recovery parts, and they are This PC, Removable Disk Drive, Hard Disk Drive, and CD/DVD Drive. Before you choose any part to begin, you can move the mouse over them to identify whether the external hard drive appears for you to perform data recovery.

Follow these steps to recover data from not formatted hard drive:

Step 1. Launch MiniTool Power Data Recovery, and then select "This PC" as the RAW partition is shown there (shown as Unidentified). You should be able to identify the external hard drive which needs formatting, double-click on it.

double click the RAW drive to scan

Step 2. Then please wait for the scanning process to finish. The scanning time depends on the capacity of your data in it. When finished, Power Data Recovery will show you the files it has found in tree structure. At this time, you can check whether the files are the one you want.

Note: You can pause/stop the progress once you have found the lost files from the left catalog. Besides, you can press "Filter" button to choose specific file types to be shown in the middle pane.

find the files you want to recover

Step 3. In this step you are expected to tick the files you want, click "Save" and then choose a safe location (usually it is another hard drive) to store all data you have selected. However, the Trial Edition do not support file saving. At this time, you need to purchase a license from official MiniTool.

register Power Data Recovery Trial to recover data

At the end of the process, you can format the external hard drive by using Disk Management or MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition. Both are OK to help format your external hard drive. Their differences are the latter one offers more flexible features and is more user-friendly.

Run “diskmgmt.msc” to load Disk Management, then select the partition which needs formatting and choose “Format” from the context menu. Just follow the guidance to finish. (See Also: Windows Was Unable to Complete the Format)

format RAW drive in Disk Management

In Partition Wizard, you have more file system choices. Click on the partition of the external hard drive which needs formatting and then choose "Format". Select the file system you want and click "Apply" finally.

format RAW drive using Partition Wizard

Click to tweet

Why Some Files Are Corrupt after the Recovery

Sometimes, you may find out that you are unable to access the recovered files from not formatted external hard drive and Windows tells they are corrupted. You may wonder how it is corrupted because the last time you open it, it is in sound condition.

the file is corrupt and cannot be opened

Here, we would like to inform you that MiniTool Power Data Recovery can only help you recover the lost files with their original states, instead of changing anything on them such as repair the corrupted files or destroy the files. That is to say, if the files Power Data Recovery recovered are corrupted, they were corrupted before the recovery due to some certain reasons before your external hard drive requires formatting. In this case, if the files mean a lot to you, then it is better to find a reliable data repair service to help you out - which is normally a huge expense.

Bottom Line

In this article, we mainly focus on how to fix external hard drive that saying "external hard drive needs formatting". Also, you may run into pen drive not formatted error due to the similar reasons. The good news is that Power Data Recovery is possible to recover data in all kinds of hard drives including the pen drive.

All in all, if the data in it is meaningless or you have backups, format it directly. If not, you should recover data from not formatted hard drive or turn to the other solutions offered in this post before formatting. If you have any questions while using MiniTool software, don’t hesitate to contact us via [email protected]. For any questions or suggestions, please leave us comments below, we read every thread.

External Hard Drive Needs Formatting FAQ

How do you fix you need to format the disk before using it?
  1. Change another USB port.
  2. Check your hard drive for errors with the command chkdsk n:/f. (n represent the drive letter.)
  3. Recover data before formatting with MiniTool Power Data Recovery if you have important files on the disk encountering this error.
What does it mean to format the disk?
To format a drive is the process of preparing a drive for the initial use. The formatting operation may also create one or more new file systems. Formatting the disk will erase all data on the drive and set up a file system. The most popular file system to support Windows is NTFS, but sometimes the FAT32 is also used.
Do you need to format SD card before use?
If the SD card is new, there is no formatting required. You can directly put it in your device and it can work well. If the device needs to do something, it will prompt you or format itself automatically when you save items to it for the first time. However, if the SD card has been used previously or it is purchased from online, it is recommended to format it before use.
Why do you need to format a hard drive?
  1. The most common reason is to remove data.
  2. Change the file system.
  3. Delete partitions on hard drive.
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