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Data Recovery

imageThere is nothing worse than the feeling you get in your gut when your computer screen goes black and shuts down. When you start your computer back up the black screen comes up and with white writing flashes ERROR across the monitor. Suddenly you panic and you realize all of the pictures, the music, videos or important documents you may have on the hard drive may no longer exist. Before you decide to throw your now overpriced boat anchor off the top floor of your business or home there is the last line of defense: Data Recovery.

Data recovery comes in a two forms: physical data recovery and software based data recovery. Hardware data recovery is the physical components and structures of the hard drive (or storage device) that has decided to break down and stop functioning. This could be replacement of circuit boards, head imagereplacement, motor replacement or physically moving the platter into a whole new brick (hard drive case). This cannot be done by most users or even end users. They drives are usually sent away to data recovery companies that have clean rooms and specialize in this category of recovery. If a user attempted to open up the hard drive and replace these parts by his/her self even the slightest speck of dust or impurity could have catastrophic damage to the already weakened drive. Also note that attempting this without the help of said companies can also void the warranty you may have on the hard drive itself.
Sometimes you get lucky and the hard disc itself is still readable but not by normal methods. That data can usually be accessed by putting the drive into another computer with a working OS (slaving the drive into a machine) and transferring the data onto a portable drive. This is the best case scenario. Other methods would be to run data recovery software to repair partition tables or file system damage. These methods can be run by end users (computer techs) as it requires no physical equipment. Note that these may sound simple enough but the software requires constant attention due to errors and the recovery process itself can take days to finish. This depends on how badly the software side is damaged.

It is even possible to recover files after the hard drive has been overwritten. This is difficult as the drive itself has for the most part been “erased.” This doesn’t mean that ALL the data can be recovered when the drive has been erased and then written over. It’s like someone taking the Mona Lisa, painting over it with white primer and then letting a small child finger paint for days all over the “blank” canvas. It may be possible to scrap the paint off and get the image underneath, but the chances of it being visible are slim.
Now you ask, what could cause hard drive issues? No before you say it, the universe did not do this to you. It is not trying to give you the proverbial middle finger and make your day even worse. Hard drives physically break down over time. Like anything hard drives are not perfect. Because of all the moving parts things will eventually break down. The motor may go if you leave the disc spinning all the time or the circuit board may eventually become fried. Another issue may be power surges or failure that can cause both physical and software based damage.

How do you avoid the happiness vampire that is data lose? Simply become more proactive. Backup your important files onto a flash drive or portable hard drive every week. That way if your drive was to fail you can still have access to these files. Another option could be Northern Computers Online Backup Solution. I use this myself to back up photos of family and friends that I don’t want to lose. It’s simple to use. Once the software is installed and you have selected the folders and files you want backed up, they are transmitted to an offsite, secure location.

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