What to do if your external storage suddenly says ‘Unallocated’

Here at Dave’s Computers in New Jersey, we are strong advocates of having backups. Even if it’s a basic backup of all your documents and pictures, it still makes a huge difference should anything happen to your drive or computer. One of the backup mediums we are always suggesting is external storage. But what happens if that storage suddenly tells you it is ‘unallocated’?

In an ideal backup situation you would have one copy of your files on your computer, preferably on a different physical drive and one stored externally. USB hard drives are an economical way to move data around and secure store it while not on your computer but what if something happens to that? This is exactly what happened to someone who came into our store this week.

They had a USB external drive that they had been using for over a year. Then, one day they turned it on to do their backup and Windows reported the drive as unallocated.

Unallocated space

When Windows says a drive is unallocated like this, it means the file system has been damaged or corrupted and Windows cannot access the index that tells it what the drive contains and where. The data itself is still there but Windows doesn’t know where it is.

File system errors can be caused by physical damage to the drive, power loss while writing to the drive, driver errors and malicious code. There are a number of common causes for this, all of which can be overcome.

Dave’s Computers are data recovery specialists. If you lose data or a drive we can recover everything for you. If you prefer to do it yourself, do this:

  1. Connect the drive to your computer and power both on.
  2. Right click the Windows Start button and select Disk Management.
  3. Write down the disk space available within the unallocated partition. This is important.
  4. Download and install a free data recovery program. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a decent bet.
  5. Select the drive in the software you choose and identify the correct partition using the size you wrote down earlier.
  6. Scan for lost data and then recover it when the option appears.
  7. Save the data in another location for now.
  8. Right click the Windows Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin).
  9. Type ‘diskpart’ and hit Enter.
  10. Type ‘list volume’ and hit Enter.
  11. Type ‘select volume X’ and hit Enter. Where X is the partition letter of the unallocated partition.
  12. Type ‘delete volume’ and hit Enter.
  13. Type ‘list volume’ and hit Enter.
  14. Type ‘select volume X’ and hit Enter.
  15. Type ‘delete volume override’ and hit Enter.
  16. Type ‘chkdsk /r /f X:’ and hit Enter. This will check the drive for errors before we copy the data across.
  17. Right click the Windows Start button and select Disk Management again.
  18. Create a new volume with the spare space on your drive.
  19. Copy the data from where you stored it back to its original partition.

The process is quite involved but is simple enough if you follow these instructions exactly. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is free software but isn’t the only one of the market. Have a look around and select the product you are happy using and go from there. The steps should be largely the same regardless of what data recovery product you use.

If you need help with unallocated space or data recovery, we can help. The computer repair guys at Dave’s Computers in New Jersey can assist with any data recovery issue you may have. Bring your computer to our store and we will see what we can do!