Is your hard drive not being recognised?

  • When a drive is not recognised due to defective areas on the unit, you should proceed with a software recovery.
  • If it is the drive hosting the operating system concerned, cautiously disconnect it and plug it into another PC in order to proceed recovery in a secured manner.
  • If it is the memory card of a smartphone or a tablet concerned, the best option is to purchase an adaptor and to plug it in a PC.

The hard drive: the different types of failures

Sometimes our storage devices, hard drives, memory cards or other USB sticks are not recognised by the operating system, making it impossible to access our professional or personal data. Here is some essential advice about what to do when a drive is not recognised.

For traditional electromagnetic hard drives, many types of failures can occur. First and foremost, the defective areas of the hard drive, linked to usage or shock, lead to the slowdown and errors, causing missing files/folders.

When the damaged areas are found in the hard drive's file system, you will be prompted to format the partition, which you should not do in order to increase the chances of retrieving data.

If the hard drive is not at all recognised by the system nor the BIOS, be sure to check that the drive is also not making any noises. Click, whurring, or scratching sounds are a sure sign of physical failure which may be causing the drive not to be recognised by your system. Also, check also that the connectors are correctly plugged in. The intervention of a data recovery engineer will be necessary to solve the problem.

SSD drives, USB sticks, and memory cards: what you need to know

The differences between mechanical hard drives and SSD drives, USB sticks, and memory cards are based on flash memory. The non-recognition could be due to poor state of the connectors. By cleaning it with the help of a cotton swab lightly dipped in alcohol, then letting it dry thoroughly, it may be possible to solve the problem.

Alternatively, it is possible that access becomes difficult, or even impossible. This is often linked to a failure in the storage unit clusters. If the SSD drive, the stick or the card is new, this could be an original defect covered by warranty. In other cases, it could be due to excessive usage and wear & tear. It is important to know that flash memory units have several writing/suppression cycles limited for each cluster, going from 1,000 to over 100,000 depending on the quality of the product. When this limit is reached, access is more difficult and it becomes a pressing matter to consider saving the data. If the drive becomes totally inaccessible, professional data recovery is necessary.

Regarding external hard drives...

Today’s external hard drives assume the functions of a USB drive, but with a larger dimension and more significant storage capacity. The transportation of large data is therefore made easier, but the consequence of this advantage is a reduced resistance to various hazards.

Internal hard drives are more susceptible to data loss, including recognition failure following physical shock, exposure to high heat, or simply a non-secured withdrawal. In all the cases, the procedure of data recovery for the external drive is the same as for an internal drive or a USB stick.

Non-recognised external hard drive on a Mac

While it is often recognised for its superior reliability, MacOS sometimes cannot recognise an external hard drive. First of all, it is essential to check if the cable is OK. Also, change the USB port in case one of them happens to be faulty. If the drive is detected, but not accessible, attempt to repair the file allocation table using the system’s disk utility.

It is enough to click on "repair disk" to try to retrieve the data. If the operation fails, a dialogue box will pop up to notify you. If the file systems are not recognised, which sometimes occurs with the older versions of MacOS, do not format as you risk losing your data.

Facing a non-recognisable hard drive: every challenge has a solution

When a drive is not recognised due to defective areas on the unit, you can proceed with software recovery. If it is the drive hosting the operating system concerned, cautiously disconnect it and plug it into another PC in order to proceed recovery in a secured manner. If it is the memory card of a smartphone or a tablet concerned, the best option is to purchase an adaptor and to plug it in a PC.

Free tools like TestDisk  are very effective and offers many tools to recover your files in a non-recognised hard drive. It still requires IT expertise due to its challenging interface.To benefit from an interface that is more intuitive and having the expertise of specialists, our Ontrack EasyRecovery software is an excellent choice.

In the most serious cases, such as following strong physical shock, water immersion or high heat, or if it is a drive that cannot be recognised at all, a professional data recovery in a clean room, will be necessary to save all documents, images, etc.

In all cases, in cases of doubt, it is worth seeking professional advice by specialists to avoid risking losing your data indefinitely.



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