How to Recover a Bad Disk That Won't Read or Mount

by Norm Dickinson
hard disk drive image by dinostock from

Data recovery software can often detect and recover files from bad disks that are not detected by the operating system and that refuse to mount. Data recovery labs are extremely successful at this operation but the price can be too high for many users depending upon the importance of the data on the drive. When the data is critical, there is no substitute for a dedicated data recovery lab and no attempt should be made to recover data manually as any drive activity reduces the chance of success by the lab.

Data Recovery

Step 1

Power down the computer that has the bad disk installed immediately after noticing problems with the disk.

Step 2

Obtain data recovery software and install it onto the working computer. Several options for finding data recovery software can be found in the Resources section of this article.

Step 3

Purchase a USB hard drive adapter and attach it to an available USB port on the working computer. Install any necessary drivers for the adapter.

Step 4

Connect the failed hard drive to the USB hard drive adapter and to a power supply. Cancel any prompts that attempt to automatically play or initialize the drive or that ask what to do with the drive.

Step 5

Run the data recovery software and have it scan for external drives attached to the USB ports on the working computer.

Step 6

Perform a full surface scan of the failed drive to recover any data that is on the drive.

Store the recovered data on removable media or on the working computer or attach another storage device to which you can save the recovered data.


  • Repeated attempts at getting the drive to work will only make the situation worse and reduce the chance of success for any data recovery attempts. Important files or critical files on hard drives are at risk of being permanently lost when attempting to recover data with software and if the files are of high enough priority the recovery attempt should be handled by data recovery professionals. Links to two reliable services are found in the Resources section of this article.


  • Contact a data recovery lab for drives that will not detect when using data recovery software. They can often recover data over the Internet or the drive can be shipped to them. Occasionally a drive connected as a secondary drive in a working computer can be repaired by running one of the disk utilities that are included with Windows such as Disk Error Checking, allowing the disk to be used as normal when reinstalled into the original system.


Photo Credits

About the Author

Norm Dickinson began his writing career in 1997 as a content creator for Web pages he designed for clients. His work appears on various websites, focusing on computer technology. Dickinson holds an Associate of Arts in industrial electronics technology and another Associate of Arts in computer science.

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