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Recovering Files from an External Hard Drive on a Mac

written by: Austin•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 4/27/2011

If your external hard drive goes bad, how do you get those files back? Here's a guide on what you can do to get your essential files back.

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    External Hard Drive: What Is It and How Does It Work?

    With more and more people downloading more and more files every day, the need for extra storage space is becoming one that almost every one has. Sure, hard drives are getting pretty big as time goes on, but ultimately people will need to find an external storage area for their files. This is where external hard drives come in. What an external hard drive does is provide a place for you to place files that you want to keep, but don't need to access right away. The problem some people run into, though, is trying to get those files back when disaster strikes.

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    First Things First: Make Sure You Have Everything

    seagate-freeagent-go-for-mac-external-hard-drive To my surprise, you need a lot more stuff to set up an external hard drive than I would've thought. Here's a short list of necessary materials that you can't forget:

    - Hard drive itself: It's a no brainer to make sure you have the hard drive with you, but a lot of people tend to leave their hard drives in other casings. Make sure you remembered yours!

    - External hard drive casing: Some external hard drives are simply normal hard drives in a casing that allows you to connect it to your computer. If you need this extra casing, be sure it's compatible before you rely on it to retrieve your files.

    - Power Cord: External hard drives need power, too! Make sure you don't lose your power cord.

    - USB Cable: Most external hard drives come with a cable to connect it to your computer. This is necessary for external hard drive recovery, so make sure you have it!

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    Using Disk Utility to Repair External Hard Drives

    Picture 9 External hard drive recovery can be a tough process, but thankfully every Mac comes with a piece of software that can make the situation less painful. It's called "Disk Utility", and it's arguably the easiest program to use on a Mac, which is saying a lot considering the nature of the operating system. In order to use Disk Utility to repair your external hard drive, first, boot up your Mac with the hard drive plugged in. Sometimes, doing this in and of itself can fix your hard drive problems, but if it doesn't, open "Disk Utlilty".

    Now, select your external hard drive from the left sidebar and click "Repair Disk". You may have to select "Verify Disk" before "Repair" becomes an option, but either way you should be able to access it no problem. Once you repair your disk, your external hard drive recovery (Mac) is likely complete. Try and access your external hard drive afterwards. If it works, then you're done. If not, you may have to try another option.

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    Still Nothing? Call in a Professional

    If trying to recover your hard drive on your own doesn't work, you're really only left with one other option: Call tech support. Start with the manufacturer of your external hard drive, and if they can't help, move on to your local (or commercial) computer shop and see what they say. Many places will offer free diagnostics and give you a rough estimate of how much it will cost to fix. It's up to you whether you want to pay them, or keep trying at-home methods.

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    References:

    1. Information Reference: Reminder that Disk Utility exists came from EHow.

    2. Information Reference: All other information came from prior author use/knowledge.

    3. Image Reference: (Disk Utility): Screenshot taken by the author.

    4. Image Reference (Mac External Hard Drive): http://www.externalharddrives.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/seagate-freeagent-go-for-mac-external-hard-drive.jpg