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Is Data Recovery Possible After a “Quick Format?”

July 5, 2023

A laboratory worker examining a hard drive.If you’ve accidentally formatted your hard drive before backing up important data, the data may be recoverable — provided that you turn the drive off immediately. Don’t install software (including an operating system) and keep the drive powered off until you’ve got a recovery plan. 

Generally, you only get one chance to recover lost data. If you install data recovery software and fail to restore your files, your chances of a successful result diminish significantly. 

If the data is important, we strongly recommend working with a professional data recovery provider. But in most cases, the chances of recovery after a format are extremely high. That’s particularly true if you perform a “quick format,” and below, we’ll explain why. provides risk-free price quotes for hard drives, solid-state drives, and other data storage devices. Set up a case online or call 1-800-237-4200 to get started. 

Related: Is It Possible to Recover Data from a Formatted SSD?

What is a “quick,” and how is it different from a “normal” format?

Microsoft Windows operating systems offer two options for formatting hard drives: 

  • A “quick format” takes a few seconds. Files are removed from the partition, but the drive is not overwritten.
  • A “normal” format also removes files from the partition, but additionally, the drive is scanned for bad sectors. The scan for bad sectors takes time, which may be extensive depending on the size and speed of the hard drive.

When you scan a hard drive for bad sectors, the drive does a lot of work. In plain language, file fragments are moved around to improve data reliability. 

A quick format simply removes the part of the file that tells the computer how to find it. With the right logical recovery processes, the file can be recovered. 

For a “normal” format, data recovery may still be possible — but the act of scanning for bad sectors may raise the risk of file corruption.

Related: Logical Data Recovery Guide: Using Software to Recover Data

Steps to Take After an Accidental Hard Drive Format

If you’ve accidentally formatted your hard drive, turn it off immediately. Don’t attempt to run software on the drive. Read why we don’t recommend using data recovery software for restoring important data. 

A professional data recovery provider will follow these basic steps to treat the issue: 

  • The hard drive will be cloned, which allows engineers to attempt logical data recovery processes without endangering the original media.
  • The missing data is reconstructed to restore files to an operable condition.
  • Data corruption is addressed as necessary.
  • The recovered files are returned to the client. A copy of the data is maintained onsite until the files have been verified, at which point the copy is securely destroyed.

When data loss occurs, we’re here to help. At, all of our services are supported with our no data, no charge guarantee: If we can’t recover your files, you don’t pay for the attempt.  

Call 1-800-237-4200 to schedule an evaluation or set up a case online.