Beginner’s Guide to Data Recovery

When data is lost on a hard drive, it can result in two scenarios: 1) the operating system is fine, hard disk is still accessible, but files are missing 2) the computer doesn’t boot up and weird noises are heard from the hard disk. Now let us see step by step procedure to tackle both the scenarios.

To tackle scenario 1:

a) Don't write anything to the hard disk after the data loss. This is because whenever you delete the files from the hard drive, the OS does not delete the information permanently. It shows you that there are more free spaces but they are still occupied by the deleted information. You will not be able to see it, but data recovery software will.

b) If you have taken the backups of all the important information, check the backups and restore them to retrieve the lost information. If you have not taken the backup, follow the data recovery steps as mentioned in the steps below. It is always good to take back-up of important information on a regular basis.

c) Never install the data recovery software in the drive where the data loss has occurred. The reason is that if you install on the same drive, you might overwrite the lost data.

d) In order to be safe, always switch off the computer after the data loss. All the operations of the OS depend on the reads and writes with the hard drive and this may result in overwriting the lost data.

e) Remove the hard disk from the computer and connect a new hard drive. After you have installed an OS in the new hard drive you can connect the old hard disk to the computer as a secondary drive and access it without writing anything to it. If you prefer not to install an OS then you run a Linux live CD instead. You can also do this by putting your hard disk into a USB hard drive enclosure. Then connect it to the computer via USB to access the files.

f) If the data loss has happened due to a virus attack, make sure you have installed an anti-virus software on the second computer where you will be performing the data recovery.

g) There are several free data recovery softwares available on the internet, select the appropriate one and recover your data.

To tackle scenario 2:

Whenever there is hard disk failure, it is impossible to access the hard drive. One of the most common reasons is head crashes. The head is responsible for reading the disk’s magnetic surface. But a hardware failure means it grinds against the metal surface and makes the reads impossible. If you have a hard drive failure follow the steps below:

a) Switch off the computer and don’t try to start it again as this can result in further damage to the hard drive

b) Keep the hard disk secure, for instance if the hard drive failed due to the external problem like flood, preserve it in water and don't try to dry it by your own.

c) Whenever the physical error occurs, we cannot fix it. So contact a good data recovery company and identify which components need to be replaced.

d) Most of the data recovery companies will not charge anything if they are not able to recover the data. They may give and estimation time for analyzing the hard drive. Use a wrapping material while handing over the hard drive. Also use foam to prevent the sudden movements and to secure the hard disk inside. Hopefully they will be able to fix the physical errors and recover your data.