What are your best data recovery tips?
As a data recovery
specialist, I've worked with many people who have
suddenly found their hard disk drives failing or who
have accidentally hit delete on an essential file. It's
a situation that can cause a high level of stress. But
armed with a few tricks of the trade, data recovery is a
straightforward process. So take a deep breath, keep
reading, and try these tried and
true data recovery
tips. Your files are most likely recoverable!
Tip # 1: Stop using your disk.
Step away from your
computer. Don't write any new data to the disk. Doing so
may cause recoverable deleted data to become
irrecoverable. That's because deleted files don't
instantaneously disappear, they remain on the disk until
other information replaces it. So, each time you write
to the disk, you risk overwriting the file you are
trying to recover.
Even a seemingly harmless activity like opening files or
browsing the web can damage or overwrite deleted
materials, especially on a damaged or failing disk.
Avoiding shutting down and restarting your computer more
than necessary, as considerable reading and writing to
your disk occurs during this process. However, if you
are comfortable removing your drive, you should turn off
your computer and remove the drive to stop all activity
on the disk.
Tip # 2: Create a duplicate image of your disk.
This tip is best for
recovering data from unbootable, reformatted, and
heavily damaged disks. Using a tool like R-Image, you
can create an exact duplicate of your drive on an SD
card, USB drive, or another partition. Now you can work
with your data as much as necessary to recover your
files without inflicting further damage on the original
Tip # 3: Recover your data from another computer.
Ideal for extensive
data recovery (like pulling many files from an
unbootable or reformatted disk), remote data recovery
can be just as effective as recovering local data. There
are two main ways to approach this. You can
physically remove the hard drive from one machine and
place it in an external docking station (usually runs
$50+) or a FireWire or USB hard drive enclosure (usually
about $10). Then, you connect it to another computer as
you would an external hard drive. You can now work on
retrieving your data without booting directly from the
If the disk cannot be physically removed, you can also
try a data recovery over network, even if the computer
isn't bootable. For example, R-Studio Network comes with
a bootable version for the nonoperational computer and a
network data recovery module that lets you recover the
data from another machine.
Tip # 4: Conduct a raw file search.
Conducting a raw file
search allows you to search your computer more intensely
than a basic recovery utility or file undelete scan.
With a raw file search, you're searching for file
signatures, effectively asking your computer for exactly
what you want. For example, if you're looking to recover
picture files deleted from your camera, you could search
file signatures for JPEG files from a Canon camera.
R-Studio, made by the same company as R-Image, lets you
search using custom file signatures, which is incredibly
useful for recovering less common types of files.
Raw file search or digital file signature scans are
often the only solution for certain Unix and Linux based
file systems. Additionally, if the deleted file is
fragmented, partially overwritten, or on a disk that has
been reformatted or repartitioned, a raw file search
will get you the best results.
Tip # 5: Know when to seek professional help.
Even with the best
tips, sometimes you'll need to seek professional help to
recover your data. Even if you try all our tips and
can't recover the data yourself, don't lose hope. Your
file may still be out there! If you're frustrated with
doing it yourself or your hard disk drive is making any
kind of odd noises (like clicking or scraping), take it
to a professional. Take some time to research a
reputable company and let them do their best for you.
Tip # 6: Take preventative measures.
No one wants to spend
their time trying to recover their own data - it's nerve
wracking and time consuming. It's also a preventable
situation. Put together a backup system for your data
and then use it. Frequently. You can't back up your
files too often, trust me. If you find daily, weekly,
monthly or yearly backups tedious, get a program that
automates it for you. Dropbox
Windows Live Mesh (part of Windows Live Essentials)
are two free cloud-based solutions that are simple and
reliable. While they may not give you enough free
storage space to back up your entire hard drive, they
make excellent repositories for your most crucial