Recovering Data After Formatting: Essential Guide for Hard Disks, USB Drives, and Memory Cards

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to recover data after formatting a hard disk, USB drive, or memory card. Whether you’ve accidentally formatted your storage device or intentionally erased data, we’ll guide you through the process of retrieving your valuable files with ease.

Recovering Data After Formatting: Essential Guide for Hard Disks, USB Drives, and Memory Cards

When any of them is formatted, a part of the information which tells us how data is located on the disk gets destroyed. Nevertheless, in most cases it is quite possible to recover data after formatting. The chances for success depend on the file system type, the nature of data and the number of files, and it also matters what information and how much of it was written on the disk after it was formatted.

VERY IMPORTANT!!! You mustn’t write any data or perform other operations involving a freshly formatted disk, because it greatly reduces the chances to recover anything! To avoid this kind of problem, always remember back up your stuff, and it will help you one day.

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💾 How to Recover Data After Formatting a Hard Disk, USB Drive or a Memory Card 💾

💾 How to Recover Data After Formatting a Hard Disk, USB Drive or a Memory Card 💾

How to recover data after formatting a hard disk

Suppose we have a hard disk containing some data. Open Disk Management, and you can see that it’s healthy and it has NTFS file system. In fact, the file system by itself doesn’t matter.

Disk Management

And soon you will see why. Let’s go back to that disk and format it. Right-click on the disk, select “Format” and look at the Format options.

Format a hard disk

If you check the box next to Quick format it will only overwrite the file allocation table. The files themselves will be intact. They will just become invisible for your operating system. After such operations, it is possible to recover information form a hard disk even with the means of the operating system.

Instead, Full format does not only make the files invisible, but also analyzes the disk state and repairs any errors or damage that were found during the analysis. After that, a new file allocation table is formed. If you format the disk in this way, its data can only be recovered with a specialized software tool. However, there’s no guarantee that all information is going to be restored.

Formatting destroys all data

Select Full format / ОК. Now that the disk is formatted, what can we do?

Run Hetman Partition Recovery. The first thing you’ll see is the File Recovery Wizard, select the disk, and then choose “Full analysis,” and select the file system. You can see that the program supports data recovery from almost any file system. That is why I said that the file system of the formatted disk doesn’t matter. In various file systems, data is recovered in the same way.

The tool recovers data from any devices, regardless of the cause of data loss.
Formatting destroys all data

To find out what kind of file system your disk has, right-click on the disk inside the program (or in Windows) and select Properties. The information you need will be displayed in the File system field. Click Next. Click Finish when the analysis is over. As you can see, the program has found several partitions that were created on this disk some time ago. Go to this partition and see that the program has found the files. You can use the preview window to see their contents.

The preview window

To recover the files you need, drag them to the Recovery List. If you don’t see it, go to View / Toolbars / Recovery List.

Recovery List

Specify the recovery method and click Next, after that choose a folder and click Recovery.

Recovering deleted data

Now you can see that the files have been recovered.

How to recover data after formatting a flash drive or memory card

I have shown these steps with the example of the hard disk installed in my computer. However, by following the same sequence of actions, you can recover data after formatting a USB drive or a memory card, an external hard disk, or any other media regardless of the interface used to connect it to a PC: it doesn’t matter if it’s a card reader, a conventional USB port or a Type-C port.

Recovering data from an SSD

Talking of data recovery from SSD drives, there are certain peculiarities about it. The main principle is always the same, but the use of TRIM command in their operation adds some aspects. If this command is enabled, it will be very difficult to recover data. Watch a step-by-step video tutorial about recovering data from an SSD:

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⚕️ Recovering Data from SSD After File Deletion or Disk Formatting in 2021

⚕️ Recovering Data from SSD After File Deletion or Disk Formatting in 2021

Vladimir Artiukh

Author: , Technical Writer

Vladimir Artiukh is a technical writer for Hetman Software, as well as the voice and face of their English-speaking YouTube channel, Hetman Software: Data Recovery for Windows. He handles tutorials, how-tos, and detailed reviews on how the company’s tools work with all kinds of data storage devices.

Oleg Afonin

Editor: , Technical Writer

Oleg Afonin is an expert in mobile forensics, data recovery and computer systems. He often attends large data security conferences, and writes several blogs for such resources as, Elcomsoft and Habr. In addition to his online activities, Oleg’s articles are also published in professional magazines. Also, Oleg Afonin is the co-author of a well-known book, Mobile Forensics - Advanced Investigative Strategies.

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