Can You Recover Data from a Formatted Hard Drive?

The fallout from a crashed hard drive can range from a minor frustration to a complete nightmare. But don't despair. There's a good chance that your final paper, treasured family photo, or sensitive financial document is completely recoverable. Whether you choose to enlist the help of a professional or save the money and go at it yourself, these hard drive failure recovery tips will help increase your chances of getting back those crucial files.

Step # 1: Stop using your drive

When you format your hard drive, you create a new file system for your data. This means that meta data for all your files before formatting have been deleted. Most or all of your files are still on the disk at this point, but the record of their location has been deleted. Data recovery software can help you find the data without the location records. However, the more you use your computer, the more data you overwrite, thus the greater chances of your data becoming unrecoverable.

Step # 2: Choose data recovery software

The Internet is overflowing with easy to download data recovery software. With a quick search, you'll find everything from free basic software to pricey professional software. Free software can be effective, but isn't always quite as stable or user-friendly as some of the mid-range priced products..

Step # 3: Download data recovery software

During the download step, you'll need to use another computer to download your data recovery software. You can then burn the software onto a CD or DVD or transfer it to a flash drive to use in recovery. Since you've formatted your hard drive, it's unusable unless you've installed a new operating system, something I don't recommend during data recovery.

Remember, writing anything to your hard drive can damage your data. However, if you have already done this, hope is not lost, especially if you have a large drive - your files may or may not have been overwritten.

If you've installed a new operating system on your formatted drive, don't boot into it. Instead, look for a portable or bootable version of your data recovery software. This will let you start your computer without using your system disk.

Step # 4: Run your data recovery software

Good data recovery software will give you step by step instructions to follow as it scans your computer for your missing files. Just follow the instructions and wait for your scan to complete. Once it's done, a list of recoverable files should appear.

Step # 5: Download recovered files to another drive

Most data recovery software allows you to choose between recovering some or all of the files it finds. Make your selections and download your files to another drive. You don't want to download them to your formatted drive as you could overwrite some of your freshly discovered files. Remember: Even though you can now see the files your data recovery software found, your computer still sees them as "free space" ready to be overwritten.

Step # 6: Evaluate the recovery process, then celebrate or seek additional help

So, did you recover the files you were looking for? If yes, great, back them up on another drive and you're all done! If you didn't recover your data, don't panic just yet you can still seek professional help.  Data recovery software is great, but isn't perfect. If the data you've lost is precious, it might be worth it to enlist the help of a data recovery specialist who can search for your files in more ways.

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