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How can I open data from an inaccessible external drive?

Ranging from tiny memory cards and USB sticks to pocket-sized external hard disk drives and more capacious NAS/DAS solutions no larger than the size of a shoe-box, modern portable storage devices offer a fast, cheap and incredibly convenient way to share data between different systems. Still, like with any technology, their use may present certain challenges among which are compatibility issues which result in the loss of access to important files.

Many users, especially ones who have dual-boot desktops or laptops, run into a common scenario: faced with the need to transfer some information from one machine to another, they take the drive out of the device and find out the host computer detects the storage but is not actually able to read the files on it. This problem often arises when data is shared between different environments for each OS family has its own set of file systems and is not able to work with drives of a non-native format. In Windows, such drives are listed in Device Manager but are not mounted and cannot be accessed from File Explorer.

As a rule, the OS prompts to format such a disk, but this operation will destroy the existing data instead of providing access to it. The use of FAT32/exFAT which can be recognized by all major computer systems partially solves this issue, yet, its applications are quite limited due to certain design peculiarities. Fortunately, having installed reliable data access software one can fix this problem and copy the data for further manipulations as easy as ABC.

Copy files from incompatible drives formatted in Windows, macOS, Linux, Unix, BSD

SysDev Laboratories recommends UFS Explorer and Recovery Explorer as handy software solutions for users who need work with data located on external drives formatted in a non-compatible environment. Supporting a wide range of file systems of Windows, macOS, Linux and Unix/BSD, the software will immediately enable you to access and copy the files, no matter what storage they are found on, while that the original file system structure won’t be corrupted or altered in any way.

To use UFS Explorer Standard Access for copying intact data stored on an incompatible drive, do the following:

  1. Download and install UFS Explorer Standard Access on a computer running Windows.

    Download and install UFS Explorer Standard Access

  2. Run the application and modify its parameters in the settings tab, if it is necessary.

    Run UFS Explorer Standard Access

  3. Attach the device in question to the host computer using any valid type of direct connection. Find this disk under "This computer" element in the left pane of the program interface and select the corresponding logical volume.

    Attach the device in question

  4. Go over the files and folders you will see in the main program area and find the ones you need to copy. You may sort them by name, date, type, preview them in the internal viewer or check their properties with the help of the "Object properties tool". The quick search field and the advanced "Find in this folder" tool are also at your disposal.

    UFS Explorer Standard Access folder tree

  5. Click "Define selection" and mark all files/folders to be saved.

    Define selection

  6. Copy the selected files to the host PC or any other location using the “Save current selection” tool.

    Save current selection tool

Note: UFS Explorer Standard Access facilitates access to undamaged data and intact file systems. If the files were deleted or lost, opt for a data recovery tool which is applicable to your data loss case.

Last update: May 16, 2019

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