The data within your hard drive is susceptible to numerous issues. Not only is it threatened by sudden data loss and corruption, but, in some cases, your data may become RAW. This can occur to specific sectors on a hard drive, to an entire partition, or to the whole drive itself, and, regardless of the scenario, the affected data will always be rendered unreadable.
Partitions and drives that have become RAW can be identified through a variety of ways, including:
All of these issues are clear indicators that a file, partition, or drive has been reverted to RAW status. But how did this happen in the first place? Well, data can be reverted to a RAW state from a number of reasons, including:
Depending on the issue, simply re-formatting your hard drive with a full format will usually diagnose and repair the issue. However, this process also deletes all of the data on your hard drive. While this is certainly a quick fix, it isn't the ideal scenario if your RAW drive or partition contains valuable data.
Restoring Data from a RAW Partition or Drive
Since RAW is technically considered a file system like NTFS or FAT32, data contained within a RAW partition or drive is considered unreadable by modern operating systems. If you're running Windows, however, you might be able to repair the drive without formatting via the chkdsk feature. However, this only works if your RAW partition or drive still has a drive letter assigned to it.
If the affected partition or hard drive doesn't have an assigned drive letter, you'll have no choice but to turn to your latest data backup to restore your valuable files. In the absence of a recent backup, your only option at this point is to seek the assistance of professional data recovery software or services.
Once your data has been recovered, you should be able to re-format the partition or drive from its current RAW file system to one that is usable with your system – such as NTFS or FAT32. If you're unable to re-format the drive at all, you'll have no choice but to replace your hardware.
Working With RAW Data
As you can see, RAW data isn't easy to work with. Although most users are capable of running chkdsk or r-formatting a RAW drive, the corrupted data within can present some complications that are best left up to the professionals. If nothing else, the threat of RAW data makes a great case for the importance of consistent data backups.
You may read more about data recovery in Wikipedia: Data recovery.