When Windows Disk Manager does not find partitions it will display the message “You must initialize the disk before Logical Disk Manager can access it”. In other words the hard disk, SSD or removable device is “unallocated” or not partitioned.
To store data on a hard disk or SSD, Windows (and other operating systems) need file systems. If no partitions are present the OS will not be able to access the data on the drive. If the disk does not contain data you need to access, you can initialize the disk. After initializing the disk can be used to store data. Initializing will create partitions, format the partitions and assign drive letters to the newly created volumes.
If you need to recover data from the disk however, do NOT initialize the disk!
Recovering data from an un-initialized disk
Basically there are two ways to gain access to lost data on a disk that contains no partitions.
- Repair the disk. 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 GUID partition table. Tools that can help you repair a partition table are TestDisk and DiskPatch.
- Extract files from the disk, SSD or external drive. This is the method I prefer for recovering files. You can initialize the disk after you recover your data.
Example File Recovery using ReclaiMe
Scenario: “You must initialize the disk before Logical Disk Manager can access it”.
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 physical disk (Disk [number]) and click Start.
ReclaiMe displays the model name and size of the disk. It gathers a device self-diagnostics information as well (S.M.A.R.T.). The program selects the color of the icon for a particular device according to the self-diagnostics data. Gray color means that a device is in good condition which corresponds to a normal (working) state; red icon color indicates that a hard drive (or one of the drives in a complex volume) is faulty.
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 (usually after 2% – 3% scanning). 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:
Software mentioned for repairs: