Reinstalled Windows, and now I can't read data from my external hard drive--please help!
August 1, 2011 3:55 AM   Subscribe

Reinstalled Windows, and now I can't read data from my external hard drive--please help! I accidentally left my external hard drive plugged in while reinstalling Windows XP. When I noticed that it showed up on that screen where you choose how you want to partition your hard drives and where you want to install XP, I unplugged it. Then I partitioned my internal hard drive, formatted and reinstalled. I didn't format the external drive (to the best of my knowledge).

Now when I plug the drive in, it doesn't come up as E:, it doesn't come up at all. When I go into Control Panel, Computer Management, Disk Management, I can see my external drive.

Other disks say "Healthy (active)", but my external drive says "Unallocated".

Is there any way for me to get all of my data back? I don't believe that I formatted the disk, but if I did, do I have any options?

Thanks very much in advance.
posted by surenoproblem to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your data is likely to be completely salvagable. You'll probably need some sort of recovery software to get the data back. Recuva is a free one. You'll need enough space on another drive to hold all of the recovered data from the external disk, of course.

As to what you did to cause this, it's difficult to say. But the most likely thing is damage to the partition table, which shouldn't have affected the files themselves, just the computer's ability to recognise the disk as containing drive partitions.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:03 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank Bea Arthur! I've downloaded Recuva, but the problem I'm running into is that Recuva asks me to designate a drive to scan for deleted files.

The external hard drive does not show up with a drive letter, so I'm unable to point Recuva towards it.

I can see the drive in Disk Management, but it doesn't have a letter.
posted by surenoproblem at 4:12 AM on August 1, 2011

You may just need to assign it a drive letter in Disk Management. I've had this problem before with thumb drives.
posted by neushoorn at 4:20 AM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks neushorn, I just tried assigning a drive letter in Disk Management, but when I right click on the drive, there are only three options:

New Partition...

When I click on the internal drives that have letters and are marked "Healthy", I get more options and get the option to Change Drive and Letter Paths...
posted by surenoproblem at 4:27 AM on August 1, 2011

Best answer: Sounds like your partition table on the external disk has been damaged/deleted.

You should (hopefully) be able to repair it using a tool such as testdisk or gpart.

The former has a bootable media, or you can run from within windows. It's likely the external drive had only a single partition.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:34 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

You may not be able to assign a drive letter if Windows doesn't see any valid partitions on the disk (which I think will most likely be the case if it's seeing the disk as 'unallocated').

ArkhanJG's suggestions should work, but if you prefer a simpler Windows-based solution, you might want to try something like this product.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:38 AM on August 1, 2011

(although having looked at it, the free offering is pretty limited, so you may just want to go with testdisk or something)
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:41 AM on August 1, 2011

Best answer: 1) Plug it into another computer and see if it mounts. If so, the problem isn't the drive, it's the computer.

2) Ask yourself the $1000 question. "Is the data on this disk worth $1000 to me?" If the answer is yes and it doesn't mount on a different computer, restore your backups onto a different disk. If you can't or don't have backups, do nothing else and contact a professional data recovery service, who will almost certainly get your data back, but it might cost a significant amount of money.

If the data isn't worth $1000, then, well, I'd use TestDisk to try to find the partition table. If it finds that, it'll probably just light back up.
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much to everyone. TestDisk worked a charm, and I have all of my files back.
posted by surenoproblem at 6:04 AM on August 1, 2011

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