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How to access my external harddrive without having to format?

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OH Smeg

The correct response is to pack up the drive send it to a Specialist Data Recovery Company and pay them to recover your Data.

If you unsuccessfully mess with the drive all you will achieve is making it far more expensive and less likely to be able to recover 100% of the Stored Data for an acceptable cost.

While it is always possible to recover everything that has ever been written to the HDD it involves dismantling the drive coating the platters with some special goup and then sticking the platters into a special machine to read them and it only costs about 1.5 Million to do. The reality is that other than the Authorities Real People can not afford to do things like that and rely on what can be easily recovered. The less Easy that the recovery is the more it costs.

However if it would just be Nice to recover your lost data and here you need to remember that there are only 2 types of Computer Users Those who have lost all of their Data and those who are going to loose all of their data shortly and you can afford to loose your Data you can attack the drive with some Data Recovery Software or even attempt to rebuild the Partition Tables by using the Check Desk Utility supplied in your OS. Note Generally speaking running Check Disc is fairly harmless but here it all depends on how IMPORTANT that the data recovery actually is. If there are Grand Kids Photos involved you can afford to loose those but if there is Financial Data from a company and you are facing a Tax Audit you Can Not afford to loose that so you should Do Nothing tot he drive and send it directly to the Recovery Specialists.

Also External HDD are not very reliable they live in adverse conditions where they get very hot are quite often subject to vibration both of which Kill Mechanical Hard Disc Drives very quickly so you need to understand that relying only on one External Drive is a Recipe for Disaster. That drive is going to fail and you should believe that it will fail sooner rather than latter and it will fail when it is most needed.

Of course the longer it is run the sooner it will die so you need to take that into account. I've touched External Drives in Metal Cases which have been left running 100% of the time and actually burnt my fingers on the Cases, needless to say drives in those positions had a life expectancy of only a few months.