In this article we will describe logical data recovery from a hard disk drive or other storage device in perfect physical conditions. If you suspect your storage device has any kind of physical damage – do not try to use any recovery or test software on it. Provided methods can be used right away and without any special knowledge.
Hard Drive Failure? Need Professional Advice from Hard Drive Experts?
The bolt from the blue
So, you boot the PC and see that one of your logical drives has disappeared or even the whole partition marked as “unformatted”? Or the drive seems OK, but you missing some files and folders or getting “File cannot be opened” / “Wrong file format” errors?
Or maybe you have accidentally deleted important files or installed Windows onto a partition where you stored family photos? Selecting wrong drive during the partition table creation is another common reason of data loss.
Who's to blame?
The most common reason for the faults of first type is errors in the partition table or in the file system structures. They can appear after incorrect or unplanned system shutdown, software or hardware failures or as a result of virus activity. Another possible reason is a partial damage to the disk surface (also known as bad sectors). Unfortunately, on modern drives bad sectors can be found after a few weeks or even after a few days of use.
If your data was lost due to the user mistake, then I think we need no further explanation for this reason :)
What to do?
If you haven't copied or moved any new files over, then the old data is still physically exists, but all references to original files and folders in the file system now removed or corrupted. So you need to locate that data on the storage device and read it properly.
When data has been physically overwritten on a hard disk (e.g. you have formatted your drive and installed a new OS) it is generally assumed that complete recovery of the previous data is impossible. In this case your chances to rescue the information depend on your luck and proportion between the lost and written data. For example if you have accidentally deleted 1GB of business data and then copied 50GB of family video onto the same logical drive, your chances to get original data back are very slim. It should be noted that programs like Windows ScanDisk tend to make everything even worse, since they delete file system structures (like MFT in NTFS), which they unable to interpret.
To recover your data you may want to use special data rescue software. Such programs usually scan the whole storage device and collect file system information. These scan results can be used to build a map of file fragments and directory tree. This map describes relations between files and clusters, file names, sizes and other file system attributes — everything that was found during the scan process. If this isn't enough for recovery, then special extrapolation methods may be used to complement scan results. After that recovery program can read selected files and folders in accordance with the file map and copy them to another media.
According to my experience, if your storage device is in good order, then all the recoverable information can be rescued using the tools described below. Only in certain cases low-level recovery can increase amount of salvaged information.
There is a certain probability that data loss has been caused by a physical failure of a drive. And possibly you will not be able to determine nature of such a failure without special tools and skills. Although software that we are going to use does not perform any destructive actions (it will not write anything on the drive we recover the files from), attempts to perform any rescue operations on a drive with physical damage will worsen the situation, up to complete impossibility of recovering anything at all. So if you have lost critically important information, you should contact a professional data recovery company.
What tool to use?
There is plenty of data recovery software on the market offering different algorithms and each of them can be a better solution depending on exact situation.
Besides, authors of this program offer even more affordable software editions, limited to the single file system support. These editions are functional and cost-effective data recovery solution for accidental data losses and a great way to save for experienced users.
If your PC has only one hard drive then it's highly recommended to connect that HDD to another computer, especially if you need to recover data from the logical drive with OS installed. If such option is unavailable then at least do not install the software onto the drive you need to restore information from! As we said above, every writing operation can be tragic for the lost files since the space they occupy is marked as available for writing.
An additional way to perform the same manipulations safely is to run the software from the UFS Explorer Recovery CD: this will help to avoid writing to your storage device and allow saving rescued files to any external drive, flash stick or network folder.
How to do?
Download UFS Explorer software and install it onto your machine (in this article I'm using ver. 4.6). Please note: you should never download or install any software onto the logical drive, containing lost files — this may overwrite your valuable data and cause its permanent loss.
Before purchasing the software you can download the fully functional demo to test if your files can be recovered. The only limitation of the trial version is that you'll be able to save only small files.
Before closing the program make sure that you restored everything you wanted or save the scanning results (right-click on any of virtual folders in the left panel and select “Save this recovery result”). Otherwise you'll need to scan your drive once again even if you need to recover just one more file.
This article has been written exclusively for hddscan.com