Western Digital Hard Drive Data Recovery: The Definitive Guide

It can be devastating when you can’t find or access the data on your Western Digital (WD) external hard drive, especially when the lost data are those precious photos and computer backups.

There are many causes for WD hard drive data loss, from accidental deletion, and disk formatting, to device corruption/damage, etc. Fortunately, it’s still possible to recover your lost data.

In this guide, we break down all WD data loss situations into nine different chapters and show you the best resources and solutions to help you recover those deleted or lost files.

Note: this guide applies to most Western Digital hard drives including Essentials, My Passport, My Book, etc. that you use for backing up data on a PC or Mac. Some solutions may not work well with Solid-state Drives (SSDs).

Chapter 1: Restore Files Deleted From WD Drive

If you’ve accidentally deleted some files off your drive, stop using the device immediately. Do not save more items to the drive. Because the erased files are still recoverable provided that they are not written over.

The best way to get them back is to try third-party data recovery software.

Chapter 2: Recover Formatted WD Hard Drive

Similar to deletion, a quick reformat won’t get rid of the data stored in your external drive right away. Instead, the space your lost data took is now marked as available to be re-used. You can often retrieve the data before they are overwritten.

Note: if it’s a low-level format, you won’t be able to recover the data.

Chapter 3: WD Drive is Corrupted Or Shows Errors

If you connect your external drive to a computer, it says “the disk is not formatted”, “Device not accessible” or “I/O parameter error”, etc; probably your device has corrupted or crashed. Follow the step by step in these resources to fix it or recover your data.

Chapter 4: Folders in WD Drive Became Shortcuts

If you open your WD external drive after connecting it to your PC, and you see all the files and folders in it become shortcuts. You try to click on them, and they are all unable to be opened.

Then your PC has infected a virus or malware, which hides your real data by turning all items into shortcuts with only a few KBs in size.

Chapter 5: WD Drive Not Detected By A Computer

If your disk can’t be recognized by your computer, for example, it doesn’t show up under “My Computer” or “This PC” (under Windows OS) or Finder on Mac OS X, there could be some device driver, or file system issues; Refer to the resources below to find relevant solutions.

Chapter 6: Data Recovery from Dead, Broken or Damaged WD Drive

If your hard drive has totally failed or suffered water damage or physical damage because you dropped it onto the ground; Navigate to the following resources to do further diagnosis or fix your device.

Chapter 7: Forgot Password To Unlock WD Drive

If you can’t remember the password to unlock your hard drive or want to recover or reset the password, here’s a list of helpful resources to help you out. Warning: do this only when you own the WD device as you may need to wipe the drive completely.

Chapter 8: WD Data Recovery Software

For most data loss scenarios, a recovery program may help salvage your data without sending your device for expensive data recovery services. However, software only helps when your WD drive can be recognized by a computer, and your lost data are not overwritten.

Here’re some great recovery applications you can try. Note: you’ll need to first connect your device to a computer.

For Windows PCs:

  • Recuva
  • Stellar Windows Data Recovery
  • R-Studio for Windows
  • Wondershare Recoverit

For Mac machines (MacBook, iMac, etc.):

  • PhotoRec
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac
  • R-Studio Data Recovery for Mac
  • Prosoft Data Rescue Mac

Chapter 9: WD Data Recovery Services

If none of the above methods work to recover your data, your last resort is to send your device to a data recovery center.

Please note: do this only if you’ve super important data to be recovered as data recovery services are very expensive, and it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to get all your data back. Also, be aware of data recovery scams.

That wraps up this guide. Any questions or tips about WD data recovery? Leave a comment below.

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  • Steve Iadanza

    My WD Passport external drive now asks for a password. I have had this drive for several years. November of 2018 I decided to put all my images on this drive. I had 7 jump drives of photos/images and put them on this drive. I have never been asked for a password or to create a password for this drive. Two weeks ago I added 2 new folders of pictures to this drive. The screen disappeared and I double clicked on the drive in the left pane. It asked for a password to access the drive. I NEVER password protected this drive. I NEVER was asked for a password on this drive. All my image/photos are on this drive. I cannot access this drive and do not know why it asked for a password. I want to get all these files back. Why did this drive all of a sudden need a password? Understand the password was never assigned and it was not forgotten. I need real ways to get these files and not the usual responses. I know that I should have backed up the drive but I have used it for this purpose for the past 4 months. Any reasonable help iis appreciated.

  • Patrick


    My WD MY Book external drive, I can access it, and only a few files are visible, most of the folders which used to have files in them show 0 bytes and are empty. When I highlight all the files and folders, it shows about 8.5 gigabytes, but the drive used to be full, near a terabyte. When I highlight the drive icon it shows that the drive is near full, just like I expected it to be, so the data is there. Any idea how I can recover the files or make them appear again so I can access them?

  • Eric B

    What about the encryption on the My Book line of drives? The power supply died on mine and the recovery programs brings back unusable files. It was not formatted or initialized, the MBR was rebuilt (destroyed). Any suggestions for that scenario? Data recovery services are too expensive, for me at least.

  • Alex Michael

    Nice information that you have shared in the article. Also you say right in the last about the recovery scams.If anyone considered a professional online to recover their data back, they need to first contact with them through call either they need to make a visit to them to get the proper solution for their problem.

  • Flashback Data

    Hi Chris, sorry to hear your drive seems to be failing. If you have important files and data you’d like to recover you can visit our site, print out a free shipping label, and our recovery team will provide a no cost evaluation.

  • Chris

    My Passport WD external drive wont initialize..any suggestions? Im using Windows 7

    • Avatar photo

      Please check the resources under “Chapter 3”.