Posted on October 11, 2017 · Posted in Tools, Windows 10

Recovering Files from a RAW Partition using TestDisk

Recently my old USB drive became unreadable in Windows and started to be seen as RAW. This indicates that Windows cannot determine the structure of the file system on the disk. The reasons why this partition is defined as RAW may be different: the disk may not be formatted, the partition table header may be erased / corrupted / missing, there can be damaged sectors or any other physical problems either with the drive or with its controller.

From the user point of view, this RAW drive is displayed in Windows Explorer, but its size is detected as 0 (zero). When trying to open or read the data from the RAW partition, different errors appear, e. g.:

You need to format the disk in Drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?

Cannot Access Disk. The volume does not contain a recognized file system.

windows 10 raw partition

Note. We deliberately don’t consider the option with the physical damage of the drive, since it cannot be recovered using any software. The general recommendation it is advisable to first check the drive using any utility that allows to view its S.M.A.R.T. status.

As a rule, the easiest way to recover the drive is to delete the current RAW partition and rebuild it when formatting. However, the data will be obviously lost that may be absolutely unacceptable. Let’s try to run disk check using the standard utility CHKDSK:

chkdsk e: /f

The utility returned that CHKDSK can not be executed for RAW-formatted drives.

The type of the file system is RAW.
CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives.

The type of the file system is RAW. CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives.

To restore the original file system on the RAW drive without formatting, let’s use the free command prompt tool TestDisk.

Note. You can download TestDisk from the official website. The versions for Windows, Linux and Mac are available.

  • Download the archive, unpack it and run the testdisk_win.exe file in the No Log mode.testdisk_win.exe
  • Find the drive, which file system is identified as RAW and select Proceedtestdisk select raw disk
  • Then select the type of the partition table on the drive. As a rule, it is automatically identified as Intel for MBR partitions or EFI GPT for the GPT table. However, in some cases you should select Nonetestdisk select partition table intel (mbr)
  • To start analyzing the drive  data structure, select Analyze and then Quick Search on the next screenanalyse volume
  • TestDisk will display the list of the partitions it found. Using P key, you can display the list of files in a partition (Q lets you quit the view mode). If the partition has the P label (the partition is highlighted in green), the partition is recoverable. If there is the D label, it will be deleted. To change the label, use arrow keys (right/left) on your keyboard.

Tip. Quite a useful feature of viewing files in a file system gives an opportunity to recover separate folders or files to another drive. To do it, press C in the view mode.

found old ntfs partition

After you selected all the partitions you want to recover, press Enter and then click Write (you have to be attentive here in order not to overwrite the partition table with the things you don’t need). If you have to run a deeper analysis of the drive, select Deep Search.

Tip. Bear in mind, that if you recover the system disk this way, besides the partition containing Windows OS, there can be other partitions, like boot partition, recovery environment, etc. To understand the structure of Windows partitions, I recommend to read the articles one, two, three. If the boot sector of the drive is damaged, TestDisk will prompt you to try recover it using Rebuild BS option.

write partition structure to disk

  • After that (you may need to restart your computer), the tool will recover the original structure of the partition table and the file system (as a rule, it is either NTFS or FAT32) on the RAW drive and you can get access to the files stored on it.

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