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Home      Articles and Pages      Data Recovery Basics
Data Recovery Basics
Originally Published on Suite101.com 
 

Have you ever lost files on your computer due to a hard drive crash, deletion, or even a virus? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to recover your data, photos, or email?

Data recovery is a field which is often misunderstood as a service for large corporate clients who have had a catastrophic failure. While this is a facet of data recovery, there are many other aspects which are targeted toward the small business and consumer markets.

Data is the most important part of any computer system, and is in fact the only reason we have computers in the first place. Without data, your computer would become a simple communications and gaming console, or worse yet, completely useless depending upon your needs. When a computer fails, it is the data that is lost which concerns most users, not the hardware itself.

In most cases, any information on a computer can be recovered fully intact, even with serious hardware or software malfunctions that seem to completely destroy the machine. The data in a typical computer system is normally stored on one or more hard drives, and this magnetic information is available after a crash, if the right tools and techniques are applied in a timely fashion.

How  Is Data Actually Recovered?

There are many ways to recover data. One way to recover files that are lost or deleted is simply looking in the recycle bin and restoring them back to where they belong. For step by step instructions on this, see Microsoft's advice on emptying the recycle bin.

Another popular method goes one step further, and requires removing the cover, removing the hard drive and hooking it up to a second computer, usually right where the CD ROM drive is located. You then boot up the second computer and read the data from the hard drive in order to copy it to a new location, such as the second computer's hard drive, or a USB Flash Drive, or to a CDR or FTP location. Some tips on copying files.

Advanced data recovery takes all these steps, but also applies specialty data recovery software (such as OnTrack Easy Recovery Pro, at www.ontrackdatarecovery.com) to the situation. This software can search the hard drive for files that have been deleted, partitions that have been removed, or raw file fragments which it can sometimes reassemble into whole files again. It even has the ability to recover files from a formatted drive or a corrupted partition which won't boot or display files, or show up in the My Computer window. Many professional computer repair shops are capable of this level of recovery.

The success rate of this approach is related to how soon it is attempted after a failure; the longer you wait and the more attempts you make to try to recover the data yourself the less likely this approach is to recover your files. This is why it is important to bring a drive to the experts as soon as a crash occurs. Tools such as defrag and scandisk, while useful in their own way, severely hamper the data recovery efforts of this and the next approach.

If this approach fails, there are also large data recovery labs (i.e. www.ontrackdatarecovery.com) that specialize in extreme recovery scenarios. Their services are accessed by connecting to the Internet, or sometime sending the hard drive (or the whole computer) off to the lab for analysis. This approach is typically very expensive, and can run upwards of several thousand dollars for a single hard drive. The benefit of lab work is that files can be recovered from badly damaged drives, including those where the electronics have been destroyed.

Data recovery is only necessary if you fail to back your data up, so keeping a safe backup copy of all your files up to date is highly recommended. If you are experiencing any problems with access to your data, the best approach is to power off your computer and call the experts for assistance. Any attempts to resolve data loss issues on your own could lead to the permanent loss of the data.

 
 
 
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Norm is a 30-year veteran of the IT world and genuine computer guru, offering local businesses a single point of contact for all of their computer-related needs.  TQF.US is Dell Partner Direct authorized and offers professional sales, support and installation of products from Dell, Microsoft, Intel and other top brands.
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