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Data Recovery Help – You Need to Format the Disk

A common hard drive fault that I think most of us have run in to at one time or another is : “You Need to Format the Disk in Drive:”. This problem seems to be even more prevalent with the popularity of portable external hard drives like the Seagate Goflex or the Western Digital My Passport. I attribute the need for Data Recovery Help to not safely removing the USB drive from the operating system before unplugging the drive. The reason this causes a problem is that Windows is always caching to the hard drive temporary files needed for operation, when you just pull the USB cord on these drives that data has no where to go and inevitably writes somewhere that is inconvenient.


Data Recovery Help


Do not click on the format button this will only make Data Recovery Help more difficult. In most cases this problem is being cause by a corrupt or missing boot sector (OS Boot Record). In other occasions it can be that it was modified or messed with in some way by a virus. This particular kind of virus is actually called a “boot sector virus”. One other major way the “format” hard drive problem can occur is that for some reason the wrong logic (math) for the partition size (logical drive) has been written to the partition sector (MBR or Master Boot Record). So, because so many things can cause this problem I am going to show you the steps to try to figure out which one it is. If you feel your technical prowess is just not suited for this kind of thing I would recommend downloading the  Recover It All Software and just moving the data off and reformatting the hard drive for use after running the Windows Surface Scanner.

On the other hand if you are feeling up to the task then here we go.

First, let’s get ourselves a hex editor in order to look at the drives 0’s and 1’s. I prefer Winhex, so that is what I will use for this article. (Note: If you own a different hexadecimal editor please feel free to use that. WinHex is free to use for most of the features I am showing you right now.)

Data Recovery Help MBR

Here you will notice I am at sector 0 of the affected drive. Sector 0 has many names Master Boot Record, MBR, Partition Sector, or just simply Sector 0 (for this I will refer to it as the MBR). Take a look to the right and you will see that I have highlighted the ASCII of the sector. We are only viewing one sector. To me at first glance of the ASCII everything looks copacetic. A few different things tell me this, first and foremost would just be experience, the good news is though that even as a novice to this kind of low level recovery can look for a key pointer that should be present no matter what.

Data Recovery Help MVR Identify

I want you to take a look at the MBR text, you will see that it really isn’t all foreign looking characters. In there you should be able to identify actual words and sometimes even a sentence. In the case of the MBR you are looking for the phrase “Invalid partition table. Error loading operating system. Missing operating system. “ This is a tell tale sign you are in the right place and the MBR is in good shape. The next thing we want to look at is the last entry in the sector. The actual hex should read 55 AA and in text it looks like a capital  “U” and lower case “a”. (Note: If the MBR is blank then we have a different problem all together and please refer to my post on hard drives that are not showing up) If both of these look good the next thing we are going to want to do is apply an MBR template to the sector. What this does is convert the ASCII into something us humans can read and understand.

Data Recovery Help

You will want to select the Master Boot Record template, in a different hex editor I am not sure they will call it a template.




Once you have the template applied you can then find out the partition type. This is going to be how the drive was formatted. This is a great place to find a list of all of the partition types. The most common ones for standard computer users to worry about will be:

Partition ID (Hex) Partition Type
0C FAT 32
DE Dell Diagnostic Partition
EE Microsoft EFI Partition
A8 Apple
AB Apple Boot Partition
AF Apple HFS and HFS+


Once you take note of the partition type you want to take a look at the sectors preceding partition. (Note: In most cases this number should be 63 or 2048 but not always.) Now that you know what the partition type is as well as what the partition offset is you can close the template. The next thing you want to do is navigate to the offset. So for the sake of this article mine was 2048 because I partitioned and formatted the drive in Windows 7.


As you can see there is nothing but zero’s where the MBR said the boot sector (OS Boot Record) should be. Usually this is something that would be caused almost exclusively by some kind of virus. The virus payload will whack the entire first sector of the boot sector rendering the drive un mountable. In order to make sure that this is indeed the right place for the boot sector to be we have a few things we can check. First lets try paging down you should see the the rest of the boot record.


As you can see from the screen grab there is a ton of information. If this is an NTFS drive there should be a reference to NTLDR. If you continue to page down and count you should see data for an additional 8 sectors including sector 2. If you see nothing as you page down then we are going to need to check one more place to make sure we are getting the right offset from the MBR.

Pull your scroll bar all the way to the end of the drive, so you are at the last sector. Now go ahead and open the find or search function.


In the text string area you need to type NTFS in all caps (if this is a FAT32 drive then type MSDOS), next be sure you check the box for “Match Case”. Select to search up and check the conditional: offset mod. In the boxes you want 512=3, this means that it will only look 3 bits into each sector for the text string you type in. This is extremely useful as all boot sectors must follow a certain standard in order for a machine to boot, so the information that identifies what kind of boot sector it is will be in the same place no matter what flavor of file system is being used.

Go ahead and begin the search which should end very quickly. If the back up boot sector is not found right away then this is a more serious problem and I recommend calling me at the office for possible remote support. Not having any sort of jump off point for the creation of a new boot sector can be very difficult to figure out and requires a certain level of educated guesses.


Now that we are at a boot sector lets test and see if the sector information looks good.  You can go in and apply the template for NTFS or FAT 32 depending on which kind of boot sector you have found.


Now that we have the template up we can read the book sector information, note the “hidden sectors” that number should match the “sectors preceding partition” from the MBR. (Note: if these numbers do not match then again this makes the fix more difficult and you should call the office for help.) Next, let’s have a look at the total sectors, take the total millions in this case 488 and half it. This will give you a rough estimate to the partition size so about 240gb which for me would be correct also this number should match the total sectors from the MBR less 1. The reason it is one less is that the boot sector does not count itself but the MBR counts everything. Doing this little step helps to just check we are heading in the right direction, if that number does not come close to drive size then it could be we are not seeing the right boot sector. As for the last 3 numbers these are going to be used to figure out the start location of the Master File Table (MFT) and the Master File Table Mirror (MFTMirr).

Here is the equation we will use:


For the start of the mirror it is the same math except use the start c# $mftmirr.

Here is the math:

786432 x 8 + 2048 = 6293504

6283504 is the next sector we are going to want to go to in order to make sure that the only problem with the drive is a corrupt OS boot record.

Before we move to that sector lets try and save some time by saving out this sector so we will not have to come back in the event it is what we were looking for. Now go ahead and go to the sector you got doing the math from above.


This is what the first record of the master file table looks like. It is a must that you see FILE0 in the upper left and then somewhere in the sector should be $MFT. If both of these items are not here try to page up or page down a few sectors to see if your math might have been off, also recheck you math. If you still can not find the master file table then I would recommend giving me a call at 727.345.9665 so I can either remote into the machine and try and help or at least try to walk you through something that may help.

Next thing you are going to want to do is figure out where the mirror is so here is that math for me:

2 x 8 + 2048 = 2064

Let’s go to sector 2064 and check that the mirror is intact.


If they match then it is finally time to try and fix the drive. Go back to where the boot sector should be and go ahead and paste the backup boot sector there. Make sure you have your cursor set at the very beginning you do not want to write into the next sector by accident. Once the boot sector is written to the drive you can close your hex editor and then go in to windows disk management. (right click on computer and go to manage from there click disk management) You should be able to refresh the drives and the affect drive should appear with a drive letter and may even autoplay!

I hope this article has helped! And of course if you have any questions please call me for Data Recovery Help I would love to be able to solve with your file system problem.


102 Responses to “Data Recovery Help – You Need to Format the Disk”

  1. behrouz April 23, 2012 11:28 am #


  2. daryl June 11, 2012 6:09 pm #

    hi i have ran the winhex programm it comes up ntldr is missing how do i fix this

    • David Mohyla June 12, 2012 9:09 am #

      Hi Daryl,
      I need a little more information. What comes up with ntldr is missing, Windows? Our when viewing the hard drive in Win Hex do you see text that say NTLDR is missing or corrupt?

      • Marwa July 3, 2012 4:12 pm #

        I actually got the same thing. When I checked sector 0 with winhex, the message was “A disk read error corrupted NTLDR is missing NTLDR is compressed press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart. Do I proceed with the same steps or is this something different?

        • David Mohyla July 6, 2012 1:05 pm #

          Yes, you can. That is the text that is supposed to be there on the hard drive. You will see that in the pictures on the tutorial.

      • brian May 3, 2013 2:02 pm #

        I don’t understand the last part of your tutorial. Is my noot sector the ( $MFT), and my backup (MFT Mirr)? And how do I copy

        • David Mohyla May 3, 2013 3:44 pm #

          Hi, your boot sector is not the MFT. If you are missing a boot sector at the beginning of the drive you can copy the backup boot sector from the end of the drive.
          The MFT and the MFT mirror is not something you should tamper with unless you know you are missing the first portion of the MFT.
          If you would like further help please detail the problems you are encountering and we will reply or try using Recover It All.

          • Kyle May 18, 2013 11:53 am

            How do you copy the boot sector?

          • Jacqui Best November 7, 2013 4:01 pm


            There are many programs out there that will allow you to make this modification to the hard drive. WinHex is one of many.


  3. Reza June 12, 2012 2:32 pm #

    Great article. Thank you for spending the time on this write up. The article states that if the “hidden sectors” does not match the “sectors preceding partition”, makes the fix more complicated. What are the next steps I can take?

    • Jacqui Best March 7, 2014 12:31 pm #

      By more difficult I meant impossible with out the help of a technician to look through the drive and find the geometry for you. Please call 727-345-9665 and get a technician to help.

  4. Jaymin Rajani June 15, 2012 4:21 am #

    I can’t understand what i have to paste and from where, and moreover 2048 sector does not contain 0’s and is not blank. rest of all are same even 2064 and 6293504 are same. so plz reply me ASAP.

    • David Mohyla June 15, 2012 10:18 am #

      Sector 2048 was an example. Your boot sector could also be at sector 63. What operating system are you using? Also what type of computer? There may also be a restore partition at the beginning of the hard drive.
      You can go to the first sector of the drive and use the template manager in Win Hew. Apply it to view the Master Boot Record or partitions. This will show you where your partitions start and how many sectors proceed them should there be more than one.

    • Jacqui Best March 7, 2014 12:33 pm #

      It doesnt have to be 2048 it just needs to match the “sectors proceeding partition” in the MBR. Its important to read all the text with this article as well the screen grabs are only meant to be reference to be sure you are on the right track.

  5. Powell Gammill June 16, 2012 5:46 pm #

    An argument has broken out of a forum I post upon and I am concerned I may be incorrect.

    It has been stated that a long format (as opposed to a quick format) cannot be recovered from. I disagreed but now am not so sure.

    I know the reason it takes so long is the long format write tests each sector, marking any bad ones and replacing with reserve sectors. If it writes to the whole sector then I assume this must be destructive unless it first moves the data to another sector before testing and then writes it back. But that would seem unnecessary since the party initiating the format presumably does not care about any data on the area being formatted.

    • Jacqui Best March 7, 2014 12:35 pm #

      A long format does not write data to every sector, what it does do is completely remove the MFT from the drive so although you would not be able to recover the data in its original state you would be able to recover raw files that were not fragmented.

  6. recuperar hdn July 2, 2012 7:41 am #

    Haven’t had any issues with formatting when I use my external hard drive. I do believe a lot depends on which operating system you are using.

  7. Phu July 2, 2012 11:55 pm #

    Winhex doesn’t open my hard drive so what should i do?

    • Phu July 3, 2012 12:20 am #

      It’s showing now but the part at the top where it supposed to say “invalid” i don’t see

      • Jacqui Best March 20, 2014 12:33 pm #


        I was wondering if you are on sector 0 and by showing do you mean it is currently showing a drive letter for this disk or that it shows in a raw state?

    • David Mohyla July 6, 2012 1:04 pm #

      If you’re running Vista or Windows 7 make sure you are running as Administrator. Right mouse on the Win Hex program icon and select run as Administrator.

    • Syed August 16, 2012 7:48 am #

      Works fine here.

  8. Tony O. July 15, 2012 8:27 pm #

    Can I just verify where I think my problem is…?? The first record of my MFT does not show FILE0 instead it is showing FILE* – I do see the $ M F T further down in the record as it should have. The $MFTmirr record is also the same (with FILE*). So does this mean my Master File Table is corrupt?? This is the only thing I found different from your instructions above. Is there any cure for a corrupt master file table? BTW – I am able to access this drive through a usb interface/adapter and copy the data off of it – would this still be possible if the MFT is corrupt. ? (sorry, I am a “database” person and don’t know too much about these hard drives). Any help is greatly appreciated…Regards

  9. Pravin July 23, 2012 6:21 am #

    I have an external hdd (100 GB) with 2 partitions (15GB 85GB). Both were fine until last week when it started showing the ‘You need to format…” error for both the disk as soon as I connect the drive thru USB to my computer(s) (irrespective of my computer OS). Seeing some posts I tried to restore my boot sector with the backup boot sector using DskProbe.exe, I tried only the first partition until now. But it did not work. I came across your post and was trying to match the sector records. I found differences at 2 places:
    i. The message at my backup boot sector read “A disk read error occured NTLDR is missing…” instead of “A disk read error occured BOOTMGR is missing….”

    ii. My MFT and mirror MFT records were found at START C# $MFT x SECTORS PER CLUSTER + HIDDEN SECTORS +1 sector, which means the next sector to the calculated value.

    What could be my problem? Please help.

    Thanks in advance.

    • David Mohyla July 23, 2012 8:56 am #

      Yes, this is where is does get tricky. You can have an EFI boot manager and in that case it would be one sector down.

      • Pravin July 24, 2012 1:01 am #

        So, what should be my problem? And how to resolve it?

        And the sectors at the calculated valued reads something like “BAAD…..”

        I have already copied the backup boot sector to boot sector, but no good. Also like to mention that I can see both the drives but not able to open them.

        Appreciate your help.

        • David Mohyla July 30, 2012 11:44 am #

          The EFI partition should offset the sector by 1. However, if you are getting reads in Win Hex that are indicating BAD reads that may be a problem. The drive may have actual bad sectors.

  10. Tarek July 31, 2012 9:52 am #

    i opened the drive with the hex editor and at sector 0 the editor says “UReadableSector”, how can i proceed??

    • David Mohyla July 31, 2012 12:12 pm #

      Well, that is a problem. If you scroll up and down with win hex are you getting multiple bad sector reads? If a hard drive is suffering from excessive bad reads there are other issues that may need to be be addressed.

      • Jerin James December 6, 2012 10:04 am #

        Mine too shows UNREADABLESECTOR what should I do

        • David Mohyla December 10, 2012 3:26 pm #

          Unreadable sector would be an indication that the head reading that sector is not able to read it. The sector may be failing ECC (error correction control) or the head itself may be faulty. You can try to get a sector by sector clone using DD or Speed Clone.

  11. Landon August 8, 2012 11:47 pm #

    i went through the entire walkthrough and everything looks right until i look for the mirror. what is my nest step?

    • David Mohyla August 9, 2012 3:55 pm #

      The partition repair tool will simply write a new partition to the hard drive. You can go ahead and enter the criteria into the software and write a partition if everything looks correct.

  12. Ik August 9, 2012 6:02 pm #

    Thanks a lot for this tip. Wonderful! I followed the steps up to looking at sector 0 (MBR) and mine had very few characters and no text at all. It still ended with Ua. Then I used the template to get sector 63 which was full of characters including NTLDR is missing. NTLDR is compressed. Which steps am I to follow?

    • David Mohyla August 14, 2012 9:43 am #

      Well, it sounds like your partition is intact and it also sounds as if your boot sector is there. You may have another problem. It may be best to use RIA to recover the data to another drive then simply repartition and format.

  13. momo August 17, 2012 6:48 am #

    hey i have the very same problem but mine dosnt even show the drive .. but when i unplug it tells me i need to format it…. how can i do all this if i cant even locate the harddrive…

    • David Mohyla August 17, 2012 12:26 pm #

      Momo, it sounds like your hard drive is actually having read issues. The system is not reading the drive.

      • momo August 19, 2012 9:25 pm #

        so how can fix it… i got some important data in my portable harddrive

        • David Mohyla August 20, 2012 12:28 pm #

          There are several tutorials showing how to resolve the issue. You can also use any of our data recovery software programs to recover your data. If you have specific questions I will try to answer them for you.

  14. invincible September 30, 2012 11:08 am #

    i encountered a severe problem in my external hard drive… in NTFS the bootmgr is missing, press alt+ctrl+del to restart and bootmgr is compressed option is visible..and the hidden sector for MBr and NTFS are different.MASTER FILE TABLE AND MASTER FILE TABLE IMAGE are alike…can you please tell me how to fix this bootmgr error by i m unable to get genuine window vista cd or system recovery cd…can i proceed via same procedure as u did for this article?

    • David Mohyla October 8, 2012 2:46 pm #

      You can use WinHex to search for NTFS. Please describe what you are viewing.

  15. Johnny November 16, 2012 10:42 pm #

    I have another drive that i installed another copy of Windows XP to replace the drive I already have installed on my desktop computer.

    I have two other drives i use with my operating system disk and they work very well.

    When i replaced the operating systems disk it sees my other two disks but it thinks they need to be formatted.
    I take out the operating systems disk, put back in the other and all my data are back available to me in the drives.

    What’s up with that?

    • David Mohyla November 20, 2012 12:18 pm #

      I am not sure, however, you may have some type of boot handler. There could be some type of EFI or other boot strap on the disk.

  16. Neel December 2, 2012 1:44 am #

    My master file table and mirror table match.
    Didn’t get the next step though “Go back to where the boot sector should be and go ahead and paste the back up boot sector there. ”

    from where should I copy the boot sector and where should I paste it ?

    • David Mohyla December 2, 2012 3:14 pm #

      You may want to refer back to the tutorial just to have a guide in process. You probably want to check and see if you have a valid boot sector at the front of the drive. If you do not then a copy is located at the end of the drive.

      • crisel February 4, 2013 3:55 am #

        Still can’t get it. Please be as layman as possible. We don’t talk computers.

        • David Mohyla February 4, 2013 1:02 pm #

          Well, you can try running automated data recovery software.

          • crisel February 4, 2013 9:34 pm

            Hi. David, I sent you an email at Didn’t you receive it? It contains screenshots of my attempt to follow your instructions. It seems that the boot sector is not blank.The partition type is PQSERVICE for Acer Netbook, Windows 7 Starter.The rest, however,are the same as your post. Please help me.

          • David Mohyla February 7, 2013 3:03 pm

            Yes, I did reply. Did you download any of the automated data recovery software? Recover It All or any other Data recovery software?

          • crisel February 7, 2013 7:03 pm

            Hi. It didn’t show up in my inbox. Sorry. But thanks 🙂

      • crisel February 4, 2013 4:04 am #

        I can’t get the very last step too. But thanks. My computer’s problem is PQSERVICE for acer laptop.

  17. Amr Haggag January 17, 2013 7:41 am #

    First nice how to.

    In my case sector0 was not blank with 55 AA at the end, also the boot sector was not blank and the next sector has the ntldr only (no bootmgr), any ideas what could be the problem?

    • David Mohyla January 22, 2013 11:39 am #

      What is the drive doing? Does is indicate that it needs to be formatted? Is there more then one partition on the hard drive?

      • Amr Haggag February 21, 2013 5:54 am #

        Hard drive contains only one partition with no operating system (its an external hard drive), and yes it indicate that it needs formatting same as the first screenshot in the tutorial.

  18. crisel February 4, 2013 12:07 am #

    Hi. What if I can’t access HARD DISK 1? Please email me. Thanks. I’m not a computer genius so I don’t know how to do this.

  19. missy February 5, 2013 3:52 am #

    Hi. Where is the backup boot sector and where is the valid boot sector? I mean, WHERE EXACTLY? you didn’t add a screenshot where you “copied and pasted” the backup boot sector. It confuses an ignorant computer owner like me.

    • David Mohyla February 7, 2013 3:05 pm #

      The Back Up Boot Sector should be at the end of the partition. If you go toward the end of the partition you can search for NTFS. When you find that sector you can define a block to copy that sector in Win Hex and place it where it should be at the beginning of the partition.
      Good luck.

      • missy February 8, 2013 2:01 am #


        So in your illustration, in what sector does Back Up Boot Sector fall? And in what sector are you suppose to paste it? Are you going to paste Sector 6293504 on Sector 2048?


        • David Mohyla February 11, 2013 5:12 pm #

          Sector 2048 is an illustration showing where the boot sector is supposed to be on Windows 7 which uses an EFI partition. Prior to that the boot sector for and NTFS partitions without a restore or other hidden diag partition at the front of the drive would be at sector 63. What you are proposing to do at this point is copy the beginning of the Master File Table to the boot sector. Don’t do that. What is going on with with the drive. Please provide details.

  20. Gabriel Abello February 8, 2013 7:02 pm #

    Yesterday, I was using My WD my passport 1.82 tb hardrive, when the power went out during a file transfer. When i tried using it, The thing where windows asks me to format it happened. I tried to follow your steps, but when I go to sector 2048 it is not empty, its full of Characters. i dont know if this is abnormal. What would happen if i rewrote the MBR with a typical one?

    • David Mohyla February 11, 2013 5:21 pm #

      This may have a FAT 32 partition and it may not be using an EFI partition like the Windows 7 illustration in the blog. You might also want to look at sector 63.

  21. KEITH February 21, 2013 8:22 am #

    Agree with several other readers. The copy and paste MBR instructions are not very clear. A graphical example would be of use, as in the rest of the guide

    • David Mohyla March 6, 2013 4:23 pm #

      I will look into posting another blog article or video on this subject.

  22. Cecelia April 21, 2013 10:45 am #


    Thanks for the instructions, they worked perfectly until I stumbled at the end!

    I found the NTFS back up boot sector, highlighted it and hit “define a block” , but then when I went to the 2048 boot sector I could not figure out how to paste it there. (This is more of a Winhex question haha)

    Secondary question: should the backup boot sector be pasted at the front end of the 2048 section, or overwrite the section entirely?

    Thanks very much for your help 🙂

    • David Mohyla April 22, 2013 11:03 am #

      The sector containing the back up boot sector should be copied to sector 2048. Assuming 2048 in Win 7.

  23. John May 5, 2013 6:28 pm #

    I tried following this to repair my external Seagate 1.5 TB Free Agent GoFlex harddrive that is reading RAW, but I am unsure on where to go from here.

    Unlike the first part of the repair where Sector 0 has all the text on the right hand side, mine has nothing other than a little bit on line 1B0, 1C0, and 1F0 ends in 55 AA and UA.

    I saw the part of the post that says if it is blank to try to follow the other link, but I wanted to explain everything I did and see what you recommend.

    I followed the rest of the guide from the beginning and when I got to Sector 63, it says “A disk read error occurred. NTLDR is missing. NTLDR is compressed. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart”. NTDLR is listed at the top of the second sector of the boot sector, but unlike a total of 8 sectors with text in the post, I only have a total of 6 sectors with text.

    After getting to the step where you do the calculations, I see the sector with “File 0” and “$.M.F.T.” listed in the appropriate spots. In the next step, both the “Master File Table” and “Master File Table Mirror” are a match of each other.

    Do you think this indicates that I should copy the boot record and paste it at Sector 0 or Sector 63? I am unsure as to what spot this post says to paste the boot sector to. Or do you think that since Sector 0 is blank and doesn’t look like Sector 0 in here that I should follow the guide posted for “Hard drives not showing up”?

    My drive shows up as “Drive L” when I plug it into my computer, but says that it must be formatted to use. There are no weird noises such as clicking sounds when it is trying to run, and I have used RECUVA to retrieve as much data as I could (almost all of the data shows up as being able to be recovered, I just don’t have the room to copy all of it).

    I have been trying to return the drive to working condition for at least a week now with no luck. If this doesn’t work, I think I will have to reformat it and try to recover the data after that.

  24. Joan May 14, 2013 3:54 pm #

    The external hard drive shows up on our computer. We have a program on internal harddrive that is always indexing and adding new things but the space on intermal is running out so the program won’t index. I clicked on program and told it to send it to external which the icon shows up there but the program is not indexing to it. What can I do? If I delete the program from internal all together will it stay on external and begin working there or will it delete altogether? Thank you.

    • Jacqui Best November 7, 2013 4:03 pm #

      My guess is that you only sent the shortcut for the program you would need to reload the program and select the external as the install drive.


  25. Marwa May 21, 2013 10:23 am #

    The number of hidden sectors and sectors proceeding partition did not match for my external hard drive. You’ve mentioned that this makes the fix more difficult, but I’d just like to know what does it mean exactly i.e. what’s the problem or what causes it.
    Since I’ve recovered all the files from it (with winhex which I’ve learned about from you and it saved me several times so far, so THANK YOU!), I’m just going to format it but I’d like to know the cause since it was very sudden. I was using the hard drive before I simply restarted my machine with it still connected and it wasn’t working anymore when the computer started. It was just showing the drive letter without its size or type (just like in your screenshot at the top)

  26. Ali Qamar July 5, 2013 10:34 am #

    Nice article…

    However, in my case the external hard disk (Western Digital) done not contain an empty boot record. I was prompted to check my drive for errors. Unfortunately I cancelled it in between and since then the hard disk cannot be accessed and I am asked to format it.

    What should I do? Thanks

    • David Mohyla July 5, 2013 1:21 pm #

      Was the attached to a Windows system? If so, chkdsk ran. You can go to a command prompt and run chkdsk to let it complete. You can also right mouse click on the drive in Windows. A list will appear, one of the choices will be “Properties”, choose Properties. A dialog box will appear with tabs. One of the tabs will be “Tools” choose tools. Choose check disk for errors. This will allow chkdsk to finish. You may want to image the drive prior to letting chkdsk run. It may fix the problem or cause further damage.

  27. Tahau July 28, 2013 4:18 pm #

    Hello, David! Thank you very much for your instruction. Hovewer, it didn’t work for me. My boot sector (number 63) is intact (at least it’s identical to backup sector) but there are some suspicious things about the sectors right after it. In fact, there are only 6 sectors with data following the boot sector (sectors 64-69), and sector 69 looks truncated (it’s empty at the end). Sectors 70-78 are empty, and 79-86 are filled with FFs. I wonder if it should be like that.

    Also there’s at least one bad unreadable sector (495), and “total sectors” number for the backup sector template is actually “total sectors” from the MBR less 2.

    Finally I was somewhat confused by the fact that my backup boot sector was preceded by its exact copy; I virtually have two backups in a row 🙂

    So I don’t know what all these inconsistencies mean. Could you please help me? Thanks.

  28. Sameer August 2, 2013 4:56 pm #

    Hi David,

    Thanks for this nice article.
    Mine is a WD 500 GB disk. I followed all your steps and my numbers came the same as like yours in screenshot other than the Total Sectors which is around 976 million.
    I am stuck at the last step. Your last screenhot shows, Master file table mirror (Sector 2064) and Master file table (6293504). I can see the FILE0 and $MFT in sector 6293504, but at Sector 2064 it says, UNREADABLESECTOR. I can also see that FILE0 and $MFT at sector 6293506.
    Can you please help how to fix this? Thanks for your time.

    • Jacqui Best October 16, 2013 3:53 pm #


      If where the MFT mirror is supposed to be the sector is unreadable then I recommend you use a forensic cloning software and then run data recovery software on the clone. The affected drive is bad and would need to either be RMA or junked if it is out of warranty.

  29. psalmuel August 5, 2013 8:24 am #

    my hidden sector value is not the same for the proceeding sector 1 but its equal for to the proceeding section 2. and doing the maths. where I arrive at says unreadable sector

    • Jacqui Best October 16, 2013 3:49 pm #

      If you did the math right and when you try to go to that sector and get “unreadable” I would recommend cloning the drive off before continuing. You can then use data recovery software on the clone. The faulty drive is done it has bad sectors in the “system area” therefore you should RMA it or junk it.


  30. Dakota Dugger September 8, 2013 2:48 pm #

    I tried this method but unfortunately WinHex wouldn’t open my HD it said…

    J: is not accessible

    Data Error (Cycle Redundancy Check).

    • Jacqui Best October 16, 2013 4:00 pm #

      Dakota Dugger,
      When this happens it can be many different things wrong, bad sectors, bad heads, or even a bad board. No matter which it is a physical problem with the hard disk and should be sent in for recovery in a clean room.

  31. Kean September 27, 2013 7:17 pm #

    Hi, Thanks for your article.

    I think my issue is a little bit different from what you described.

    First, my case is this: I had a hard drive get out of my old computer, and I bought a connector to transform it into an external hard drive. When I first connect it to my computer, it pop up the small window as you showed in the first image. I thought it’s the first time so I did format it. I can transfer files on it, deleted, anything looks fine. But when I connected it to another computer, the format window pop up again. If I do not format it, it can’t be used in this computer, but it still can be used in my first computer; if I format it in my second computer, it works well in second computer, but will not work on the first computer.

    Looks like the external hard drive only work with one computer.

    What’s wrong and how can I fix it?

    • Jacqui Best October 16, 2013 3:35 pm #


      What OS’s do these 2 machines have?

  32. Love Sharma December 7, 2013 2:53 pm #


    I am using WD My passport. I followed the steps till looking at template “sectors preceding partition 1”. In my case it is 4028.
    But when I navigate to 2048 sector I am not getting 0 or blank in OS boot record or Boot sector.
    Instead I am getting “A disk read error is occured NTLDR is compressed press CTRL+ ALT+DEL to restart” as human readable message aand also getting other values.

    Please help with this.

    • Jacqui Best February 24, 2014 1:58 pm #

      I would try looking at 4028 since that is where you are being told the partition starts.

  33. Anonymous January 4, 2014 6:28 am #

    Hi there,

    my “File0” sector is 5 sectors down from my calculation (also mirror). And there is no “$MFT” line in it (it says “$ V o l u m e P”).

    Is there something i can do to bring back my partition to life.

  34. Duke January 4, 2014 6:29 am #

    Hi there,

    my “File0” sector is 5 sectors down from my calculation (also mirror). And there is no “$MFT” line in it (it says “$ V o l u m e P”).

    Is there something i can do to bring back my partition to life.

    • Jacqui Best February 6, 2014 5:14 pm #

      That is not where the file 0 is that is where the Volume Information is. Also 5 sectors down would be a little early in the drive. Did you follow the math in this post?

  35. Mohammed January 13, 2014 6:47 pm #

    i tried doing this but i think i made it worse , i followed the steps one by one till the end.
    but now the hard disk wont even show on my computer and i cant open it in win hex.
    is it possible to fix it or is it time to throw it away???

  36. Rahul Gupta January 23, 2014 2:25 am #

    I have 1TB Dell usb Hard Drive. Accidentally i try to format it with hp usb format tools, mistaken it as a 2 GB pen drive. Now the tools unable to format it and get crashed in the meantime. When i come to know the mistake then i saw that it is unallocated, and asking format the drive. but i a lots of data so i don’t need to format it , how is it possible to recover the data. Pls help me.

    • Jacqui Best February 6, 2014 5:02 pm #

      I would recommend data recovery software running a LONG scan that is not looking at the partition information. This way it will find lost files and directories.

  37. Hà Lê March 16, 2014 9:21 am #

    Does completely reinstalling Windows solve the “You need to format the disk” problem?

    • Jacqui Best March 20, 2014 12:27 pm #

      No the drive that is having this problem would still want to be formatted.

  38. Benjamin Owen August 3, 2015 9:55 pm #


    I was able to follow all of your directions until finding FILE0 and the M.F.T. I checked and double-checked my math and I have the correct sector, however, there is no FILE0 or M.F.T that I can find.

    In Sector 0 my error is:
    Invalid partition table Error loading operating system Missing operating system (external TB hard drive for storage)

    In Sector 2,048 my error is:
    A disk read error occurred NTLDR is missing NTLDR is compressed Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to restart

    Any suggestions would be appreciated, however, I was able to get 80-85% of my data back with another program so this is just for my learning purposes/curiosity before I just format it.


    • secureadmin August 14, 2015 10:39 am #

      Hi Benjamin,
      I was wondering did you use WinHex? What did you see for the numbers when you applied the template?


  39. Steve November 14, 2015 3:42 am #

    I have followed through the process outlined and I have 55 Ua showing at the end of sector 0. When I use the template MBR, the number I get in the section preceding partition 1 is showing as 1. When I get to the Boot Sector the number in my hidden sector is showing as 468,992.
    Any ideas why I am getting a reading of 1 in the MBR?

    • secureadmin December 16, 2015 12:37 pm #

      I would call the office and ask to speak with Richard, he should be able to help you find the correct geometry of the drive.


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