The cause for Windows or Chkdsk failing to recognize the file system on a volume, mostly lies with file system corruption within the volume itself. Theoretically it also possible that an error in the partition tables is the cause for the “The volume does not contain a recognized file system” issue.
As it is a file system problem, it can happen on hard disks, Solid State Disks (SSD), USB disks and memory cards etc..
Windows Disk Management will list the file system of the drive as “RAW file system” and may prompt you to format it. However, do not format the drive at this point! This is especially true if the volume is on a SSD drive as Windows will issue a TRIM command which will actually overwrite all data on the volume.
Although it is sometimes possible to repair the volume (see below), I recommend against it.
Typical symptoms and mesages are:
- You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it. Do you want to format it?
- This volume does not contain a recognized file system. Please make sure that all required file system drivers are loaded and that the volume is not corrupted.
- Chkdsk can not be run on the drive
For both magnetic hard disks and SSD drives, chances for successful data recovery are good, in general. As data was not lost due to deletion by a normal Windows procedure but due to file system corruption, Windows will not issue a TRIM command to the SSD.
To recover data from a volume which does not contain a recognized file system:
- Repair the file system. In general I’d recommend against this unless you have a good understanding about on-disk structures and if there is evidence that corruption is limited to the MBR, partition tables or the boot record. Tools that can help you repair a boot sector are TestDisk and DiskPatch. An example repair can be found here.
- Extract files from the corrupt file system. This is the method I prefer for recovering files. You can format the corrupt volume after you recover your data.
Example File Recovery using ReclaiMe
Scenario: “volume does not contain a recognized file system”.
Using ReclaiMe itself is simple and straight forward. Once you have the system set up, you’re just a few clicks away from recovering your data.
- A running Windows system. If it is the system drive that is corrupt, you will need to remove it from your computer and attach it to another PC. An inexpensive USB enclosure is a convenient way to attach the disk to another PC or laptop.
- The ‘victim’ disk where you will be recovering data from.
- A destination disk where you will copy files to.
Now, run ReclaiMe File Recovery Software. All you need to do is select the RAW drive and click Start. Next to the drive letter, ReclaiMe displays the file system. For the corrupt volume it will probably show a RAW file system.
ReclaiMe will normally almost immediately start populating the folder / file lists. You can already preview text and image files. You can also search for and save files (using the Save button).
Wait for the number of files in the left bottom corner if the windows to settle, you can pause the scan. See if the files you need to recover are listed and recover (Save) them. You can resume the scan if needed.
This short video also explains the entire procedure: