Recovering data from a hard drive partition

Author: Vlad Brown

Data recovery specialist, guest author, journalist.

Updated on 02/04/2019

Deletion of a logical hard disk partition and its formation are different actions and the consequences of them also differ from each other. After formatting, especially a low-level one, it's often impossible to recover the information you've erased. Deletion or disappearance of a partition isn't as dangerous, especially if you're willing to figure out how to use programs for recovering files from a hard drive.

1. Why a hard drive partition goes missing

The reasons for the disappearance of a system or extended partition from an HDD can be software and hardware ones. The hardware reasons refers to the natural deterioration, degaussing and overheating of a storage drive. The software reasons include the consequences of getting a virus, file fragmentation and system failures.

Rarely there are causes of the deletion of a logical partition by mistake. This usually happens because of the poor use of utility software for hard disk drive partitioning, for example, Acronis Disk Director, or during the installation of Windows.

The main thing is to keep calm and avoid performing unnecessary actions or formatting.  You can recover a deleted HDD partition and we're going to show you how.

2. How to recover deleted partition data via TestDisk

TestDisk is a popular utility for recovering deleted information. The program is console and it works on all versions of Windows / Linux and Mac OS operating systems. TestDisk can be also run from a live cd, if you have deleted all the partitions of your HDD.

The console interface of TestDisk is quite simple so you won't be confused by it. In order to recover information from a deleted partition, you should follow the instructions:

1. Download the installation file, unzip it and run TestDisk in the console.

2. Immediately after being launched the console interface will offer you to create a log file. Click on "Create" in order to agree on doing it.

3. Further select in the displayed list the HDD drive from which you've erased a logical partition. Select Intel for IBM-compatible computers and Mac for Mac OS.

4. On the next screen use arrows to select "Analyze → Quick Search → N" if your computer isn't running under MS Vista.

5. During the search, the console will display the process of memory analysis in a percentage.

6. When the process of analysis is completed, the list with the found partitions will be displayed and it only remains to select the desired ones and press on "P" on the keyboard.

7. Select the desired files or all of them, if you want to recover an entire partition, click on "C" in order to copy and assign the path where you want to copy it to, for example, external storage drive.

8. When copying is finished, press on "Q" to safely close the utility.

3. HDD partition recovery via GUI apps

Programs with a modern shell, buttons and the step-by-step Wizard of automatic recovery can be an alternative to the primitive interface of the console utility TestDisk.  Ontrack EasyRecovery and R-Undelete are considered to be the most popular ones among them. The principle of their work is similar, but graphical interface is slightly different.

Ontrack EasyRecovery program helps you to recover files from deleted partition step-by-step, even if an HDD doesn't want to be displayed.

Download Ontrack EasyRecovery

In the main window after the start the shell offers to select the type of storage drive from which you've deleted the information. The list of hard drives and partitions is displayed in "Hard Drive". Click on "Continue" and choose what you want to do next:

  • "Explore Volume" will open the contents of an HDD via an integrated file explorer. This is useful when you want to open a disk that has been formatted in a file system that is incompatible with the current OS.
  • Deleted File Recovery starts the mode of searching for deleted files or folders on the selected storage drive or only in free space, i.e. the former disappeared logical volume.
  • Formatted Media Recovery searches for the files that have survived high-level partition formatting. It runs quite slowly, scans 250 GB for up to several hours; however, sometimes it manages to find what other software considered as hopelessly lost.

By using the option of Formatted Media Recovery, you're more likely to restore partition and files in one click, so choose it from the beginning. Scanning will start and the found files will be opened in a built-in file manager after the scanning process is finished. Sorting is done by the type of a file (image, document or audio). The file titles won't be recovered, so you need to either view each of them ("Open") or manually sort the files by saving them to an HDD ("Save as..").

R-Undelete is another user-friendly program for recovering deleted logical partitions on an HDD. There is no step-by-step configuration wizard. On the main screen of the program in the right column you can find the list of connected storage drives. R-Undelete supports usb flash drives, memory cards and multimedia-storage drives, so all of the storage devices will be displayed in the window.

Download R-Undelete

In order to start scanning the storage drive with a  lost partition, open the context menu by right-clicking on the desired item and select "Scan". In the opened scanning parameters you need to check the item "Disk size": if it shows 0 Mb, the disk has hardware damage and the program won't help you. If the amount of memory is displayed on an HDD, everything is fine and you need to run "Scan" again.

Scanning results are opened in a built-in file manager with a treelike structure. Different colors of the indicator show the quality of recovery:

  • red means that a boot sector was found,
  • yellow indicates that there is a file system, but with no boot, which is fine for the sectors without an operating system,
  • green shows that both file system and boot sector were found.

To view any file you have to select it and click on "Preview" in the context menu. In order to recover data on another storage drive you need to mark the file with a checkbox and select "Recover marked". In the opened window select the path for saving (Output folder) and wait for the process to complete.

Didn’t manage to restore files? Send us a question

Describe your issue using our feedback form. Give us details on where the files were deleted from, when and how, and we will try to give you an answer. Besides, your question will clarify and make more complete questions by other users, which is of great help for us in making our recovery guides more helpful.

Ask the question