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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | File System Problems ]

I accidentally formatted a disk volume, can I still get the information that was on it back?

Explanation: A hard disk volume has been accidentally formatted, and it is desired to get the information on the disk back again.

Diagnosis: Performing a high-level format on a hard disk doesn't really "format" it the way a low-level format does; it just writes the file system structures. As a result, reformatting a drive just wipes out the existing structures (the root directory entries, etc.). The data itself is still on the drive, unless you specifically used a special application that wipes all the data in the files as well (these programs are used sometimes for security reasons). There are unformatting utilities that will reverse the formatting process, perhaps only partially depending on the circumstances.


  • In order to maximize the chances of unformatting the disk, stop using it immediately. Turn off the system (safely) if possible.
  • Obtain an unformatting utility and run it, following its directions. For example, there is one included as part of the Norton Utilities.

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