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External hard drives are commonly employed for storing and sharing data. They come in various forms including hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), USB thumb drives or flash drives, network attached storages (NAS), and optical drives (CD/DVD). Many photography enthusiasts are familiar with the practice of backing up their photos (captured on a camera and stored on a CF/SD card) onto external HDDs due to the substantial volume of data, as CF/SD cards often lack sufficient storage capacity. When attempting to process images, connecting the external HDD to your PC/laptop may result in an unexpected error message stating, ‘You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it.‘ Despite repeated attempts to plug and unplug the drive from the USB port, it remains unresponsive. This situation can be both frustrating and disheartening.

You need to format the disk in drive : before you can use it

It appears that formatting the drive is the only remaining option for you. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that formatting will result in the deletion of all data on the drive. Surprisingly, it’s true that data recovery is still possible even after formatting. In this blog post, we will explore various methods and solutions to overcome this troublesome error, both with and without resorting to drive formatting. When encountering this error, inspecting Disk Management will reveal that the file systems are displayed as RAW, preventing access to the drive.

Open Disk Management

Before we delve any further into the solutions, we shouldn’t overlook the reasons behind this issue. Below are the possible factors for this error:

  • Malicious attacks on the drive
  • Existence of bad sectors on the drive
  • A sudden power surge while the drive is in use
  • Improper handling of the drive

If you don’t have the backup of your data, or you don’t have a third-party data recovery tool, it wouldn’t be a wise idea to format your drive. Just try the following solutions if you want a quick fix:

Fix #1

  • Connect the external drive to another system to check if it can read it
  • Restart your computer to check whether it works or not
  • Run the antivirus software to get rid of any malicious program or virus on the external hard drive
Fix #2
  1. Go to the start button and click ‘Run.’
  2. Type ‘cmd’ into the text box and hit enter
  3. Type ‘chkdsk x:/f’ (replace the letter ‘x’ in the command with the drive letter that you want to format) in the command prompt and press the enter button.
  4. Next, CHKDSK will start repairing the damaged drives.

If CHKDSK ends without an error, then you should restart the computer before attempting to read the files from the drive. This process will take some time to fix these errors, so please be patient. However, it is to not that the CHKDSK process is not applicable to the RAW drives.

Hard drive formatting- the process behind it

Data loss primarily occurs due to accidental deletion and drive formatting. When a file or folder is deleted from a drive, it is marked as empty in the file index, allowing new information to overwrite it. Both formatting and deletion result in the removal of data from the drive, with the key distinction being that formatting wipes all data at once. Typically, the system doesn’t immediately overwrite the space once occupied by a deleted file; it simply designates it as “available.” Unless the system encounters low disk space, it will refrain from overwriting this available space. Consequently, there is always a possibility of data recovery.

Using a professional data recovery tool

If you have tried both of the two fixes mentioned in this blog post but had no success with them, then it is time to consider a professional Windows Data Recovery Tool. One such tool is Kernel for Windows Data Recovery. It can efficiently repair, recover, and restore the data from corrupt Windows partitions/ drives. Most importantly, it can also extract all deleted files and folders, MS Office documents, emails, and media files.

Now we will be discussing the features of the tool in detail in a step by step manner.

Read Also : How to backup and restore files from corrupt drive

  1. When you open the tool, you will be prompted to choose from three scan modes. Select the mode according to the level of corruption.Select recovery mode
  2. Next, from the left pane, choose the drive/partition for recovery.Select drive to recover data
  3. Next, the tool will search for all the lost and deleted files from the previously specified drive. The progress bar shows the recovery progress and status.Searching lost data
  4. After the scan, the recovered items will be displayed in the right pane. One can also preview the content in the preview pane. Check the items that you want to recover and hit “Recover” to recover deleted Windows files.After done, its showing recovered items in the right pane Note: To find a specific file or files with extensions, select “Find” from the Menu Bar. Next, you can either choose to save the selected file or start a new search.
  5. If you are looking for a specific file, then you can select ‘Find’ from the Menu Bar. Next, you can either choose to save the selected file or Start a new search.To find specific file, enter pattern in search box
  6. Next, you can use the recovery settings option to manage the recovery of duplicate and deleted files.Check recovery settings option to manage duplicate and deleted files
  7. Next, you can provide a location where you would like to save your recovered files.Select the path to save recovered data
  8. The progress bar shows the status of the saving process.Saving recovered data
  9. A popup window displays a message once the files are successfully saved.Files are successfully saved


Here, we have discussed the “External hard drive, not formatted” error. Then we briefly have explained the causes for this error message. Moreover, we have also described two quick fixes. Finally, we have discussed a Professional Data recovery tool – Kernel for Windows Data Recovery, which is a very sophisticated tool to recover deleted Windows files. We have discussed the various capabilities of this high-end tool. The tool process is also explained in detail, which will help the user to get acquainted with the tool.

Kernel for Windows Data Recovery