A Drive with All My Data is Showing as Unformatted — What Do I Do?

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I recently replaced my system hard drive and have taken my old internal hard drive out and installed it into a external enclosure. When I plug it in, it shows up on my computer, but without a file system label, only a letter designation (G). Disk management says it is unformatted. It was NTFS as an internal drive. I’m concerned that if I format it, I will lose all of my data now stored on the drive. What steps do I take to format this external drive without losing my files? Or am I missing a step in accessing the information on the drive?

First, don’t format the drive.

Formatting will erase whatever’s on the hard drive, or at minimum, make it extremely difficult to recover your data.

I do have some suggestions of next steps to take instead.

Read moreA Drive with All My Data is Showing as Unformatted — What Do I Do?

NAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

As you might imagine, I have a number of computers and related devices. For the last three and a half years, one of them has been a NetGear ReadyNAS branded NAS – Network Attached Storage.

It’s turned off now. I finished replacing it the other day, and I want to share why, some of the mistakes I made, some of the mistakes I didn’t make, and what I replaced it with.

And yes, how I dodged a bullet: a data loss bullet that had my name written all over it.

Read moreNAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

Another story of data loss, and what could have been

Last week I posted this on Facebook:

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Just had to break the news to a friend that the photos on the hard drive that failed – the contents of which we WERE able to recover thanks to some hard disk utilities – turned out to be encrypted by ransomware (CryptoWall), and we had no way to decrypt them. And no, they didn’t have a recent backup. (And yes, there were some VERY important photos on there. I’m hoping that they’ll recover some at least from friends and family with whom they shared ’em.)

This is why, folks. This is why I harp and harp and harp on backing up. Seriously. Sh*t happens. Sometimes its benign, and sometimes its downright heartbreaking. PLEASE back up.

I want to go into that in just a little more detail, and expand on how this could have all been very close to a non-event.

Read moreAnother story of data loss, and what could have been

How Do I Recover My Data from a Crashed Computer?

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My screen displays a blue screen error message and won’t allow Windows to start. How do I retrieve my files and save them before I reinstall Windows?

Reinstalling Windows is going to overwrite everything that’s already on that hard drive and you would lose it all. There are some alternatives.

Before I begin, I first have to wag my finger at you. Regular readers of Ask Leo! probably already know what I’m going to say.

Read moreHow Do I Recover My Data from a Crashed Computer?

Why is my partially recovered document still not readable?

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Hi, Leo. I have a sticky situation here. My daughter accidentally overwrote a written document and lost 60 pages of her story. We’ve tried recovery tools, such as Recuva and Undelete. She may have recovered some of it, but she’s unable to open it. It’s a Word Perfect 12 document and when we try to open it, it says it’s an “unsupported format.” We cannot understand how it was saved or recovered in a different format. Just to let you know we have it still. I’ve tried emailing it as an attachment to different people who are better at computers and no one so far has been able to open it.

Your situation is actually not that uncommon.

These days, file formats are complex and the programs that read them are often unforgiving when there’s something wrong with the file.

When only portions of a file are recovered, some of the information that the application relies on to open and interpret the file is so badly damaged that the application can’t  even recognize the file to open it.

Typically, that happens when the first few pieces of the file are missing. But it actually can happen if any piece of the file is missing, out of order, or just otherwise unrecoverable.

Read moreWhy is my partially recovered document still not readable?