Question Quick-formatted my external HDD backup drive :-( Unformat?

Feb 20, 2019
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Yup, I did that. Fat-fingered & did a quick format on my external HDD (NTFS, not SSD) with tons of photos & video files! Arghh. (I'm running Win10.) I'm looking at some of the recovery software (Disk Drill, EaseUS, Recuva etc.) and several of them do find my files - but with generic names like recoveredfile0001.jpg, no metadata, no path. You see the problem with 50,000 or more files to recover! I've been careful not to perform any file ops on that drive since.

Can I recover the entire disk & contents? Is there any way to "unformat" it?
Can I recover filenames & paths, and recreate the directory tree?

I guess my hope is I can just recover the MFT and restore everything will be as it was. Am I dreaming? Should I be looking at partition recovery instead? Ideas appreciated!!
 

clutchc

Titan
Herald
You want to try removing the drive from the (USB?) external drive enclosure and attach it to your PC like a normal SATA drive. (I'm presuming the drive itself is a typical HDD with a SATA interface)

It might be the USB interface that is preventing un-format apps from working. I won't bother posting "how to unformat" links, as I'm sure you already searched them all out. EaseUS is one of the better ones. So if it failed, maybe the SATA connection will work.

If all else fails, check if there's is a good PC repair shop in your area that can work on the drive.
 
Feb 20, 2019
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Thanks for replying!

I won't bother posting "how to unformat" links, as I'm sure you already searched them all out.
Well, I have - but everything I find is pretty much the same: Use [apps]'s scan & recover function to recover your files - but in each case it looks like I still get massed folders of "recoveredfileXXXX.jpg" I'd still have to pick through & do mass renames etc. I'm not seeing a solution that preserves the filenames/paths/metadata. (A tech at Disk Drill suggested any files found using their "Quick Scan" would have all that, but that found 0 files; failing that i'm stuck with their "Deep Scan" which would not.)

You want to try removing the drive from the (USB?) external drive enclosure and attach it to your PC like a normal SATA drive
Now that's an intriguing idea! You really think that might help?
 
yes, it might help indeed.
take it out of the enclosure and put into your PC just like any old hard drive.

I must warn you though, before doing this, you need to power down your PC, unplug the power cable from the back of it, then press and hold the power button for 10 seconds to drain residual electricity.

THEN, you can plug it into sata power and sata connector on motherboard.

Same goes for removing it, or doing absolutely ANYTHING inside of your PC with the components, so as to remove the risk of shorting something.
 

clutchc

Titan
Herald
Thanks for replying!



Well, I have - but everything I find is pretty much the same: Use [apps]'s scan & recover function to recover your files - but in each case it looks like I still get massed folders of "recoveredfileXXXX.jpg" I'd still have to pick through & do mass renames etc. I'm not seeing a solution that preserves the filenames/paths/metadata. (A tech at Disk Drill suggested any files found using their "Quick Scan" would have all that, but that found 0 files; failing that i'm stuck with their "Deep Scan" which would not.)



Now that's an intriguing idea! You really think that might help?
Thanks for replying!



Well, I have - but everything I find is pretty much the same: Use [apps]'s scan & recover function to recover your files - but in each case it looks like I still get massed folders of "recoveredfileXXXX.jpg" I'd still have to pick through & do mass renames etc. I'm not seeing a solution that preserves the filenames/paths/metadata. (A tech at Disk Drill suggested any files found using their "Quick Scan" would have all that, but that found 0 files; failing that i'm stuck with their "Deep Scan" which would not.)



Now that's an intriguing idea! You really think that might help?
Yes, I think it might.
My fingers are crossed as well. Let us know how it goes. I've never had to use an undelete app, so it is a learning experience for me too. (at your expense, unfortunately)
 
Feb 20, 2019
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Update: EaseUS is working! But this is gonna take a loooonnnnngggg time (hardly surprising as I'm trying to recover 3.5TB!) About 20,000 files (mostly LightRroom previews) went into an "Other Lost Files" folder - no paths but all other metadata (including filenames) are intact. I can live with that. For the rest, it's accurately recreating the tree on the target drive! It may well take a week to recover everything but the prognosis is good!

Still wish there was a magic "unformat" command but no complaints.

Thanks for the input!!
 

clutchc

Titan
Herald
Wow! 3.5 TB at mechanical HDD speed. Yep, gonna take some time.

The reason a true "unformat" command likie you suggest wouldn't work, is because when one does a (quick) format, it doesn't erase the drive. It just wipes the data in the FAT (file allocation table). There's no roadmap to what data is there and where it is. The OS sees the drive as empty and ready to write new data, overwriting the old data on the disk as it pleases. Fortunately, you stopped as soon as you realized your mistake and didn't write any new data to the disk.
 
Feb 20, 2019
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My (admittedly very limited) understanding is that the MFT (the drive is NTFS) has a backup of sorts. I was hoping the mirror file could be found & the primary MFT restored from it, and poof! But I suppose if that were possible I'd have heard about it by now ...
 

clutchc

Titan
Herald
My (admittedly very limited) understanding is that the MFT (the drive is NTFS) has a backup of sorts. I was hoping the mirror file could be found & the primary MFT restored from it, and poof! But I suppose if that were possible I'd have heard about it by now ...
Yeah, I think the quick format creates an empty MFT when it does its task.
How did the project work out? Get all your data back?
 
Feb 20, 2019
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How did the project work out? Get all your data back?
So far, so good! I've been doing it in chunks to avoid tying up my work computer 24/7 and have restored about 10%. I may try moving the project to a different computer I can just leave running the job. A few files seem to be missing but it looks like I'll get almost everything back!
 

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