Recover Lost Data & Fix Inaccessible Hard Drives on Windows 10/8/7/XP

By Katrina | Posted to Data Recovery Tips , updated on February 5th, 2020 |

Summary: This is a complete guide to the disk error "Drive is not accessible". It includes how to fix the inaccessible hard drive on Windows 10/8/7/XP. It aslo talks about how to recover lost files from an inaccessible hard drives . More tips and tricks about hard drive repair and recovery are waiting for your detection.

Before we go into details about the hard drive not accessible issue, let's reach a consensus on somethings you care about:

  • You will know what happens to your hard drive when you can't access it through your PC.
  • Yes, you can recover your data from this inaccessible hard drive but with a few conditions.
  • If you are looking for easy-to-use solutions to fix 'drive is not accessible' error on Windows computer, you are in the right place.

Now, let's get started!

"Drive is not accessible" is a pop-up when Windows can't open your hard drive. It could result from file system corruption, bad sectors, etc. To fix this problem, the first thing we need to do is to figure out what disk error message you get when you try to access the hard drive.

Here is a quick checklist in 2020, which covers possible error messages relating to "drive is not accessible".

Table of contents
1. Drive is not accessible. Access is denied.
2. Drive is not accessible. The parameter is incorrect.
3. Drive is not accessible. The volume does not contain a recognized file system.
4. Corrupt master file table. Windows cannot recover master file table.
5. Drive is not accessible. The disk structure is corrupted and unreadable.
6. Drive is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.

When you access your hard drive, you could face one of those drive failures above. You will find the corresponding solution in this guide. Let's look into details one by one.

Bonus tip 1: Before repairing inaccessible hard drives, you could perform hard drive data recovery to decrease the risk of data loss.

How to Fix: Drive is not accessible. Access is denied.

The 'access is denied' error message that you get looks like the following picture, right?

Drive is not accessible. Access is denied

What you get may not be a "E" drive. Instead, it could be "D:\ is not accessible", "G:\ is not accessible", or something like that.

To be clear:

  1. Any storage devices, including hard drives, external hard drives, SD cards, and USB flash drive could become not accessible.
  2. The file system of an inaccessible hard drive could be NTFS, exFAT, or FAT32.
  3. The drive letter is just a mount point for users to access the drive. It could be "D", "F", "G", etc. which would not affect a lot.

iBoysoft's diagnosis: Usually, your access to the hard drive is denied because of three reasons. One is that you did not take the ownership on your PC, and Windows can't recognize that the hard drive belongs to you. The second reason is that the permission and security sectors in the hard drive are damaged or corrupted, and your permission information can't be read by Windows because of those bad sectors. And the last one is that your hard drive is being hold by some programs, so that your access to this drive is denied.

So, if you want to access your hard drive again, you can:

1. Take the Ownership of the inaccessible hard drive on your PC

Step 1: Right-click on the inaccessible external hard drive and choose Properties.

Step 2: Shift to the Security tab, and then click the Advanced button in this window.

Step 3: Under Group or user names, choose your account name to check if you have the permission to access the external hard drive. If no, click Advanced and follow Microsoft's guide to edit the permission further to get the authenticated users permission.

2. Re-install this hard drive in Device Manager

This can check if Windows won't read this inaccessible drive because of faulty connections.

Step 1: Right-click Windows start menu and choose Device Manager to launch.

Step 2: Find Disk drives on the interface and double-click it. Select the inaccessible drive and right-click it to choose Uninstall device.

Uninstall older drive on Windows 10

Step 3: Click Scan for hardware changes under Action bar, and then wait for the uninstalled disk to be detected and recognized. If necessary, restart your computer.

Not working? That makes sense. As we point out in the previous part, the disk location is not available probably due to some internal disk errors.

3. Do a DIY disk error checking and repairing on your PC

Don't be afraid and assume it too complicated to finish. You just need to follow these steps to repair the inaccessible hard drive:

Step 1: Right-click on the inaccessible external hard drive and choose Properties.

Step 2: Switch to the Tools tab, and then click the Check Now button under Error-checking.

Step 3: For a thorough disk check, select "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors" and then start.

Bonus tip 2: It would take a relatively long time to repair the hard drive, so it's better to leave your computer alone and do not use it for any task.

If you can't access this HDD on your Windows computer still, we doubt that this drive is set to exclusive use of some programs and you try the next solution.

4. Try to start your PC into Safe mode

Safe mode starts Windows in a basic state, which would stop unnecessary programs to launch. So, you can try to access your hard drive in Safe mode.

Step 1: Select the Start button, then select Settings.

Step 2: Select Update & Security > Recovery. Under Advanced startup, select Restart now.

Step 3: After your PC restarts to the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.

Step 4: After your PC restarts, you'll see a list of options. Select 4 or press F4 to start your PC in Safe Mode. Then try to open your hard drive again.

How to Fix: Drive is not accessible. The parameter is incorrect.

When you say "Drive is not accessible. The parameter is incorrect", you probably are seeing the image below on the screen.

Drive is not accessible. The parameter is incorrect

iBoysoft's diagnosis: Many disk features, including the disk partition, the storage capacity, the read-write access time, and the hard disk's performance, are determined by various parameters. So once those parameters are incorrect after a revision or damage, your hard disk is not accessible.

An incorrect parameter frequently is manifested as a hard drive failure. The general idea of fixing such drive failure is to make those parameters correct logically.

Try these solutions then:

1. Uninstall or update the old disk driver

This solution works efficiently if you meet this disk inaccessible problem after a recent Windows update.

Step 1: Run Windows shortcut keys Win + R and type in device manager or devmgmt.msc into the search bar. Then hit Enter to open Device Manager.

Step 2: Find the inaccessible hard drive, for example, a WD drive, in the list and right-click on it. Check if there is any driver update available. If so, you can click and update your driver as the wizard told.

Step 3: Restart your Windows computer and then see if this external hard disk is recognized by your computer.

2. Use CHKDSK cmd to repair incorrect parameters

CHKDSK can check the file system and file system metadata of a volume for logical and physical errors. So it's recommended to repair disk corruption using cmd when a disk is not working properly.

Step 1: Click Start and type in Command Prompt in the search box, then run it as an administrator.

Step 2: Enter "chkdsk /r drive letter:" in the pop-up window and press Enter. For example, if the inaccessible external hard drive is disk G, enter "chkdsk /r g:" in the prompt.

chkdsk /r drive letter:

Step 3: Reboot your Windows 10/8/7 computer and try to open this hard drive again.

Bonus tip 3: If you hear any unusual sounds coming from your inaccessible hard drive, you'd better stop using your PC right now. Instead, try to clone the data of your disk with free disk clone tool to a new drive to avoid further data loss.

How to Fix: Disk is not accessible. The volume does not contain a recognized file system.

This inaccessibility of hard drives is one of the MOST COMMON disk errors, and file system corruption usually should be responsible for it.

iBoysoft's diagnosis: A file system manages how data is stored and accessed on a hard drive. Therefore, when you get the error message : "The volume does not contain a recognized file system" or "You need to format this disk in drive before you can use it", the drive become not accessible due to file system corruption. Once the file system is corrupted or damaged, your hard drive would be a RAW drive, and it's impossible to access the RAW file system in Windows 10/8/7 normally. CHKDSK is not available for raw drives either.

In short, when a file system is corrupted, the hard drive is not accessible because Windows can't distinguish how and where data is stored on this storage device.

To fix this inaccessible hard drive, try to:

1. Change the drive letter of the inaccessible drive

Changing the drive letter of the corrupted hard drive will reload the file system, as well as repair some minor errors.

Step 1: Right-click on My Computer/This PC icon on the desktop and choose Manage.

Step 2: You need to choose Disk Management in the left pane under Storage.

Step 3: Find your hard drive in the right menu and right-click it. Choose "Change Drive Letter And Paths..." in the context list and click on the Change button.

Step 4: Choose from a list of available drive letters. (Don't use A or B, which have historically been reserved for floppy drives and can sometimes confuse older software.) And finally click OK and follow the wizard to finish the drive letter change process.

2. Recover lost data from this inaccessible hard drive and reformat it

Bonus tip 4: Any operations relating to "erase", "re-partition", "reformat" would rearrange or wipe data off this target drive. As a result, your hard drive will be formatted with a new file system. But the files on it would be lost or removed. So back up your files or recover lost data from this inaccessible drive first for the sake of your data security.

iBoysoft Data Recovery is a free hard drive data recovery tool that can recover lost data from inaccessible external hard drives, hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, pen drives, digital camera, etc. It is powerful in photo recovery, video recovery, Microsoft word file recovery and so on. Besides, it can also recover lost data from formatted, RAW, unreadable, and corrupted drives.

Step-by-step guide to recover lost data from inaccessible external hard drives with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 1: Free download, install, and launch iBoysoft Data Recovery.

It's available for Windows 10/8/7/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003. So simply install this hard drive recovery software on your PC and get your data off the inaccessible hard drive.

Step 2: Select the inaccessible external hard drive and click Next to start scanning for all lost files.

Once the software is launched, you will see your hard drive listed in the main interface with file system and storage capacity. You can select this inaccessible hard drive and continue the following steps.

recover lost data from inaccessible external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 3: Select target files from the scanning result and preview your files, photos, etc. if you need.

You are allowed to preview your photos, TXT files, etc. before you decide to recover them. This is able to check if the files are corrupted, which will save your energy.

Preview data on inaccessible external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 4: Click Recover to recover files from this inaccessible hard disk. Once your files are recovered, you can access your data again. So, you can go ahead to reformat  the inaccessible hard drive without worrying about data loss.

Step 5: Go to This PC/My Computer, find this inaccessible hard drive and right-click it.

Step 6: Choose Format and complete this process by filling in the required information.

If you are into watching visual tutorials, this YouTube video is your cup of tea.

How to Fix: Corrupt master file table. Windows cannot recover master file table.

When you see the error message showing up, the first question in your mind might be "What the heck is the master file table?"

Corrupt master file table. Windows cannot recover master file table.

iBoysoft's diagnosis: The master file table (MFT) is a database of an NTFS volume. All information about your file, including its size, time and date stamps, permissions, and data content, is stored there. When you try to repair an inaccessible NTFS drive with CHKDSK command, it will return an error like 'Windows will attempt to recover master file table from disk. Windows cannot recover master file table. CHKDSK aborted.'

To make the inaccessible hard drive work again, two things you can try:

1. Repair the inaccessible hard drive with CHKDSK command line.

Trust us, it is worthy of trying most of the time, even though this command prompt would not work as we expected if the hard disk is seriously damaged.

2. Recover lost data with iBoysoft Data Recovery and reformat this inaccessible drive

Last, but not least - in fact, you need a happy ending anyway. So, you can take a shot at data recovery, as we recommended earlier. Hopefully, recovering data from this inaccessible hard drive and reformatting would work better.

Bonus tip 5: When you meet any hard drive failures, including hard drive not accessible, try to check the connections before you blame your hard drive or PC. Checking connections like the USB port, cable, electric power, etc. is reported by our users as one of the most useful solutions.

How to Fix: Drive is not accessible. The disk structure is corrupted and unreadable.

Image this, you are standing on the street while the traffic control system is corrupted. You can't tell which part goes wrong. Is it the traffic light, the road direction, or other factors? Anyway, you know that the transportation is at a standstill and you can't tell where to go.

Similarly, if you see this error message below, the Windows are facing such problem as you. It can't tell where to locate and access your data on the drive due to structure corruption, so it refuses to go further.

iBoysoft's diagnosis: "The disk structure is corrupted and unreadable" means some essential parts of your disk structure are damaged or corrupted. As a result, Windows is unable to recognize the hard drive’s structure, let alone to open this drive and access files.

Under this situation, you can try to reformat this drive in Disk Management.

Warning: Formatting a drive erases all data on the drive. So, make sure you have backed up any important information or recovered data from this inaccessible hard drive before attempting to reformat a drive.

Step 1: Type Control Panel in the search box and open Control Panel.

Step 2: Click Administrative Tools and choose Computer Management.

Step 3: Click Disk Management. Right-click on the inaccessible drive or partition to format.

Step 4: Select the file system and set the cluster size, and finally click OK.

How to Fix: Drive is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.

When you see the error message 'Drive is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable', you may be wondering what is a directory exactly.

Drive is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable

iBoysoft's diagnosis: In computing, directories are known as folders or drawers, and files are organized by storing related files in the same directory. When the directory or some core files are corrupted, the disk is unreadable for Windows.

So, this key to make your hard drive accessible again is to repair such data and directories.

Two solutions are advised here.

  1. Repair the inaccessible hard drive with CHKDSK command line.
  2. Recover lost data and assign a new file system by reformatting.

Plus tips for hard drive failure

Thanks for your patience and read this post so far.

In this bonus part, we will share a few quick tips to help you access hard drive.

If you are using an external hard drive, an SD card, a USB drive, a pen drive, or any other hard drives, this checklist is really helpful.

1. Safe and Proper Ejection.

An external drive can be recognized on the condition that it is safely and properly ejected the last time you used it. However, there is no denying that many people have ejected their hard drive abruptly. And that is the main reason why you can't access your hard drive actually.

An improper ejection does severe harm to your hard drive, especially during files transferring. It's like you are asked to break short by the referee when you are in a sprint!

See the downsides of unsafe ejection?

Thus, always eject your hard drive safely before removing it from your PC.

2. Take Care of Your Hard Drive

Hard drives are venerable to damaged and corrupted by environmental, electrical and stress-related issues. When it comes to such external hard drive failure, we see no more solutions from manufacturers like Toshiba, WD than harder drive case. So, to avoid hard drive failure when you access hard drives, the better idea is to protect your drive by keeping it away from heat, water, vibration, and dropping.

3. Common Sense of Hard Drive Failures

There are two types of hard drive failures, logical and mechanical failures.

A physical disk failure often relates to mechanical and electronic elements, which usually is along with repetitious clicking and grinding noises. And logical hard drive failures occur when you access hard disks as well, which usually is a result of bad sectors, data corruption, destroyed file table, etc.

What you need to know is that, logical hard drive failures are likely to be repaired without opening the drive, while a hardware disk failure can only be fixed by repair services or specialists.

Bonus tip 6: Hard drives are often used to keep important files and system backups, while hard drives are prone to be inaccessible and corrupted. So, keep a regular backup can efficiently avoid data loss.

Now, it's your turn

That is our guide to fix inaccessible hard drives and similar hard drive failures in 2020.

Now, it's your turn to try them out. Let us know which error message you got on your Windows 10/8/7/XP and which solution successfully helps you to fix the "drive is not accessible" issue.