How to Recover Data from RAW Hard Drive [Free & Paid Methods]

David Morelo
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Raw data recovery

Has your hard drive or some other storage device suddenly become unreadable and marked as RAW? This common problem has many potential causes (bad sectors, virus attack, formatting error, etc.), but it also has many possible solutions. In this article, we describe two free and two paid methods that you can use to recover data from a RAW drive, and we even help you decide which method is right for you. 

What Is a RAW Drive?

You can think of your hard drive as a file cabinet with multiple drawers, each full of document binders. When you store a file on your hard drive, it automatically goes inside an appropriate binder. This ensures that all files have their place and can be easily retrieved. 

The specific system for controlling how data is stored and retrieved is called a file system. Examples of commonly used file systems include NTFS, FAT, exFAT, AFPS, and ext4, just to give some examples. Without a file system, your hard drive would be just like a file cabinet without drawers and document binders: all files would be placed on one huge pile, and it would be extremely difficult to tell where a specific file is located. 

When a hard drive becomes RAW, it’s as if someone took out every single binder from a file cabinet and dumped all documents on a pile. That’s bad news because it means that you can access your data anymore. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to recover files from a RAW drive—you just need to know how to maximize your chance of successful recovery.  

Is It Possible to Perform RAW Drive Recovery Without Data Loss?

Formatting message

Yes, it’s possible to perform RAW data recovery without any data loss, but you need to keep in mind that certain actions can make RAW hard drive unrecoverable. Here are a few RAW drive recovery dos and don’ts to follow: 

  • Don’t format your hard drive: Formatting a RAW hard drive doesn’t solve anything. Instead, it makes RAW file recovery more difficult because it destroys the original file system.
  • Don’t write new data to the RAW hard drive: Any attempt to write new data to a hard drive that doesn’t have a working file system is guaranteed to be unsuccessful, and it may even result in a permanent loss of important files. 
  • Don’t use random RAW drive recovery software:There are many capable software applications that you can use to effortlessly recover files from a RAW drive, but there are also shady applications that are guarantee to do more harm than good. 
  • Do start RAW disk recovery as soon as possible: The sooner you begin the recovery process, the more likely you are to get your files back. 
  • Do follow our instructions: If you’ve never recovered a RAW drive before, you don’t want to experiment with solutions that may or may not work. By following the instructions in the next chapter of this article, you are guaranteed to successfully recover as many files from a RAW hard drive as possible. 

How to Recover Data from a RAW Drive?

The methods you can use to recover a RAW file system can be roughly divided into two categories: free and paid. Let’s take a closer look at two free and two paid methods so that you have multiple options to choose from. 

Free Method 1: CHKDSK 

CHKDSK (short for “check disk”) is an extremely handy Windows utility that can be used to rebuild a RAW partition and make it readable again. This utility is included with all versions of the Windows operating system, and it can be accessed from the Command Prompt. 

Here’s what you need to do to recover data from a RAW drive using CHKDSK:

  1. Open the Start menu and type “cmd.”
  2. Launch the Command Prompt as administrator. Command Prompt as administrator
  3. Enter the following command: chkdsk X: /f (replace “X” with the letter assigned to the RAW hard drive)CHKDSK command
  4. Wait for CHKDSK to finish. 

If you still can’t access your files, you can try using “chkdsk X: /r” instead. chkdsk /r does the same thing as chkdsk /f, but it also checks for bad sectors on the hard drive and recovers any readable information.

Free Method 2: TestDisk 

TestDisk is a free and open-source application whose purpose is to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again. As such, it comes in handy when attempting to recover data from a RAW hard drive or any other storage device. 

TestDisk runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and you can download it directly from its official website. Its biggest downside is the lack of a graphical user interface, but the process is pretty straightforward, especially if you follow the step-by-step instructions below. 

To perform a RAW disk recovery using TestDisk: 

  1. Launch TestDisk.
  2. Select Create to create a new log file.create new log file in Testdisk
  3. Select the storage device with the deleted partition. Select the device
  4. Select the partition table type.Select partition
  5. Press Enter to analyze the current partition structure and search for lost partitions. Partition structure
  6. Perform a Quick Search for the deleted partition.Search for deleted partition
  7. (Optional) Perform a Deeper Search to find deleted partitions that Quick Search wasn’t able to recover.Deep search in Testdisk
  8. Write the new partition structure.Write the new partition structure

No luck with TestDisk? Then you should move on to the two paid methods for performing RAW drive recovery. 

Paid Method 1: Professional Data Recovery Service 

If the files on the RAW hard drive mean a lot to you, then you should consider paying professionals to recover them for you. That way, you won’t risk making a beginner mistake and making it impossible to get your files back. 

Most data recovery centers offer a free evaluation, and they charge only for the data they actually manage to recover, so you don’t need to worry about having to pay hundreds of dollars for nothing. To get started, you simply need to pack your RAW hard drive and ship it to a data recovery center of your choice. 

Paid Method 2: Disk Drill 

Disk Drill is a freemium data recovery application that can recover RAW files with a few clicks. While there are some free RAW data recovery software solutions that offer similar functionality, they lag behind when it comes to usability and performance. 

With Disk Drill, you can restore all kinds of files from a RAW partition, including documents, images, video, audio, file archives, and more. The basic version of Disk Drill can preview all recoverable files, which means that you can upgrade to Disk Drill PRO only when you’re 100% certain that it will be able to recover all important files. 

This is how to recover data from a RAW drive with Disk Drill: 

  1. Download and launch Disk Drill for Windows. Disk Drill installation
  2. Select the RAW storage device and click Search for lost data.Select raw drive
  3. Use the file format filters on the left to narrow down the scan results until you find the file you’re looking for. 
  4. Click the checkbox next to the file and click the blue Recover button at the bottom. Select the files for recovery
  5. Specify the recovery folder and click OK.Recover raw files

As you can see, RAW partition recovery with Disk Drill is so straightforward that even complete beginners can perform it with confidence. 

Which Method Should I Choose?

The answer to this question depends on two things: your budget and how much you value the lost data. Here’s how the two factors influence which method you should choose: 

  • Budget high, value high = professional data recovery service
  • Budget low, value high = paid data recovery software 
  • Budget low, value low= free methods  

Overall, paid data recovery software is the best option for most people since it delivers excellent RAW recovery results without costing much money.

David Morelo
David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche, covering everything from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry application.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.