If you have accidentally formatted your hard drive, SD card or USB stick, you might assume that your data is gone for good. However, there is no need to panic, as your data may still be recoverable.
In this post, we will show you exactly how to recover data from a formatted device using do-it-yourself (DIY) methods. If you have deleted data, check out our previous article on that topic, or if your device is physically damaged, we recommend you speak with a professional data recovery company in order to avoid any further damage to your device.
What happens when you format a device?
The term ‘formatting’, from a data storage technology, refers to the practice of creating a file system on a device so that data can be stored and read by other devices. We won’t get into too much technical detail here about how file systems work, but the main point to grasp is that any type of data storage media (like a hard drive, SD card or USB stick) is formatted with a type of file system so your data can be recognized.
When you format a storage device, you are essentially telling it to create a space where files and folders can be saved (a new file system). In the process of doing this, the device will discard any previous files and folder structures and start over again. this is fine if you have a brand new storage device and are using it for the first time, but it is not ideal if you already have data saved to it.
If you accidentally format your storage media, the data will not be completely erased, but it will leave you in a situation where you can no longer view or access the files that were there before. This is quite a common occurrence if you use SD cards in cameras or Android phones, but it is also very easy to mistakenly format USB sticks and external hard drives that contain your personal data.
Attempting DIY data recovery
So, if you accidentally format a device, what can you do? Like we mentioned in a previous post about how to recover deleted data, it is very important to take some initial safety precautions when thinking about attempting any sort of DIY data recovery work.
As a basic rule of thumb, it is important not to save any additional data to the device, as this can overwrite the files you have lost.
It is also worth noting that you can follow this process for any type of removable storage media, all you need is a Windows or Mac computer, your affected device and some reputable data recovery software, such as Ontrack® EasyRecovery™.
Make sure it is installed on a different device to the one you are trying to recover data from and that you have connected your affected storage media as a removable device. If you have chosen to use Ontrack EasyRecovery, follow these simple steps to get your data back:
- Select the types of files you would like to recover (e.g. photos, videos, or select all)
- Select the device you have accidentally formatted from the list and follow the recovery process
- If you cannot see your device, select ‘Can’t Find Drive’ and all of the hard drives connected to your system will be shown
- Choose your device and click ‘Search’ to find lost partitions
- Choose the partition you would like to recover from and select ‘Scan’ to start the recovery process
When recovering your files, make sure that you recover them to a different location than the affected device. Once you are certain that you have recovered everything you need, you can go ahead and start using your device as normal again and save all of your data back to it.
Unable to find the data you need?
If you are unable find your device using the software, or your partition isn’t listed, try using the ‘Deep Scan’ option to conduct a more comprehensive search of your device.
If you are still unsuccessful, it might be time to call your local IT specialist or a professional data recovery company, as there could be a more serious problem with your device.
That concludes our walk-through of how to recover data from a formatted device. If you would like to download the free edition of Ontrack EasyRecovery (which lets you recover 1GB of data for free), you can do so via our website.
Have you used Ontrack EasyRecovery to recover your data? What did you think of the software? Let us know by commenting below.