Formatting external harddrive that already has data

I've used my toshiba external harddrive for a couple years and have important data stored on it, but now when I try to use it, a window pops up that says it needs formatted for it to be used. Will formatting it erase the data on it? How can I fix this?
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More about formatting external harddrive data
  1. Formatting will indeed destroy data. Try the drive on a different PC.
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Hard Drives Formatting External Hard Drive Toshiba Storage