How do I recover files from a Western Digital external hard drive?

Recovering a drive at home (DIY):

Recovering files from an external drive aren’t always easy, and can sometimes require a person who is an expert in the data recovery field. Though some data recoveries are difficult, not all of them are. There are many different problems that can occur with a hard drive which lead to data loss. Below is a DIY at recovering the data yourself as a first attempt.

When a drive has crashed, usually the firmware has become corrupt or the heads have become broken – in event that this has happened, then you will need a professional who can recover your data for you. However, if your drive only contains some minor faults, like bad sectors, then most of the time these bad sectors can be recovered in your own home! There are tools such as DDRescue which will be discussed below to help you recover your data at home.

The process of this DIY recovery does require that you have some basic tools. You will need a systemrescuecd, a bootable linux drive with this tool, a usb drive to install it to, and a HDD connected externally via a USB so that you can clone your data.

Firstly, we will need to boot into the systemrescuecd. Some computers you can use F11 or F12 in order to pick the specific drive you would like to boot too, or if you’re using a mac, then hold the option key – in this case, we want the USB containing systemrescuecd. Note that some computers may only show the name of the USB, rather than the operating system.

Secondly, we now need to find the source drive. With Linux being the operating system that we’re using, it typically names them in the format ” /dev/sda, /dev/sdb, /dev/sdc, etc”. The source and target drive now need to be found – proceed with CAUTION has this part cannot be undone.


We type the command:

# fdisk -l | grep dev

WARNING: fdisk GPT support is currently new, and therefore in an experimental phase. Use at your own discretion. Disk /dev/sda: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes, 976773168 sectors”

The following command will show us a list of all the drives attached to your computer. You should mainly see two – the one in your system (so the larger one), and the smaller systemrescuecd. If you have only one drive in your system, and that is the drive you wish to proceed to recover, then the drive you see will be our source.

If the bad drive is plugged into your system that you would like to recover, you now know it is /dev/sda. Now, we can plug in the external drive. NOTE: All files on this drive will be wiped and written over. Please backup before proceeding. 


“# fdisk -l | grep dev”

WARNING: fdisk GPT support is currently new, and therefore in an experimental phase. Use at your own discretion.

Disk /dev/sda: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes, 976773168 sectors

Disk /dev/sdc: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes, 976773168 sectors

/dev/sdc just showed up, so we know that is our target.

Using ddrescue to make a clone copy of the bad source drive


Now, we type the following command:

“ddrescue -f -n -a 5120000 /dev/sda /dev/sdc logfile.log”

The commands we have run above clones everything from /dev/sda (the source drive) to /dev/sdc (our target drive). The use of the line -n keeps DDRecscue from preforming the scraping phase where it puts an unnecessary heavy load on the drive, and -a 5120000 means it will skip any area that cannot be recovered at a speed of at least 5 megabytes per second. The logfile.log is exactly how it sounds, if the drive was to die, or the machine shut down, then it knows exactly where it left off rather than starting over and putting even more stress on the drive. We’re attempting to recover as much data as possible before it requires a data recovery expert. Easy stuff is copied in this stage, then we move onto the next stage – we don’t want to kill the drive just from attempting to recover a 200kb file over and over when we can recover 500gbs elsewhere.


“ddrescue -f -d -r 3 /dev/sda /dev/sdc logfile.log”

This command will copy everything directly from our source drive to our target drive. The -d is for direct disk access. .r 3 means it will try to recover unrecoverable sectors three times before giving up. The lack of -n and -a forces the drive to now go over the more difficult areas. We do this as a last resort so that we have the best attempt at recovering as much data as we possibly can.

Didn’t work? We can help!

If you were one of the unfortunate people who were unable to recover any data using DDRescure then don’t worry! This more than likely means one or more heads have failed on your drive, and is something the Rossmann Repair Data recovery team excels at repairing. We have been recovering people’s precious date for years, so you don’t have to worry, your data will be in safe hands.

Our highly trained technicians have worked on some of the most complex cases with great success. If your hard drive or SDcard is no longer responsive, we’ll get your information back!

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New York, NY 10001

Have a failed external USB drive? We can by-pass the USB on your drive and go straight for your data!

We can do clean room data recovery on premises when necessary.


Stuck heads? No problem! We have the tools and the clean room to un-stick your heads.

Inspecting a 6 head stack from a donor drive before it goes into a recovery drive.

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  • We stock a very large variety of spare parts & donor drives.
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  • The person you speak to in the store is the person actually recovering your data.