Most computers automatically perform data recovery when their hard drive is accidentally deleted. On all operating systems, even the act of erasing a file will immediately mark the used data as clear without actually overwriting it. The next time your computer needs to read data, it will simply use some of that space still available from the previous file.
For most users, this situation is only of concern if they were using an operating system other than Windows. Windows only uses its file recovery facilities for operating systems which are based on it, namely Microsoft. It is this lack of support for third party software which has led to so many PC’s becoming ‘too old’ for data recovery in spite of having a decent hard drive. The primary cause of this is the way in which certain parts of the operating system are written differently. Even though Windows offers excellent protection against deleted data, there are some major weaknesses in the way in which some of its functions are operated.
Operating systems like Linux and Mac OS X have been known to have a number of problems with corrupt / damaged data recovered from a hard disk. This is not because these operating systems write differently to Windows, but rather because they are more ‘general’ and rely on some general ‘building blocks’ to function. Data recovery software, on the other hand, is designed to be run specifically on Windows based computers, hence the need to make changes to the registry and program settings to allow it to run correctly.
When you look at how much memory is available to Windows based computers, you might think that data recovery is simple. On the contrary, this is a lot harder than recovering files that have been accidentally deleted. Why? Because most people just copy their data onto another disk, without worrying about whether the disk has already been completely overwritten with new information (and no one does). As such, if your PC has suffered a serious failure, then you will have to do a bit more work for yourself in order to recover files that have been accidentally deleted or otherwise lost.
How does a data recovery program actually work? It starts by scanning your hard drive for any files that may still be there. These files will normally show up in the recycle bin, or in the recycle and free spaces on your PC. They may also appear in the startup configuration menu and can even be found in your internet cache – all indications that something may still be on your disk, but that it has been unfortunately deleted. However, these indicators are not always accurate, as sometimes it takes more than just a deletion to make a file inaccessible – there may be bad sectors or other issues with the file that make it unrecoverable.
After discovering the file that has been accidentally deleted, you should then use a data recovery program that supports the file type of which it is. For example, if it is an mp3 file, then you should be looking for a data recovery tool that can recover the data from a wma file, as these files are typically sector-ripped and can not be easily extracted via simple defragmentation. You should check the settings of the tool you use, and ensure that it works well on your system; some tools have been known to cause more harm than good on Windows systems. Also, before trying to recover any data from a deleted file, make sure you run the program “safely”, as deleted files can sometimes return after being “recoverable” via certain tools.
When you are unsure about your data recovery needs, then you should contact the emergency services. Many data recovery companies are extremely popular, and many people actually prefer to use them instead of professional data recovery services. However, these services are usually beset with problems of their own – issues such as corrupted discs, damaged spindle motors, etc., which may mean that they cannot even start fixing your data. If you choose to try and fix the problem yourself, then you need to be sure that you can do so without damaging any other programs, and that you can back up your discs and disks regularly in order to ensure that if you do need to reformat the disc, you will be able to restore all data from the backup.
Data recovery from physical media such as hard drives can also be problematic, especially if the drive has been badly damaged. Most people choose to use a data recovery tool that is compatible with most common file formats such as HTML, WPD, diff and other compressed file formats. The problem is that these tools are usually not designed to work effectively on extremely damaged disks, and can often format the disk incorrectly in the hope that it will be able to recover the lost data. It is therefore essential that you do not use a tool that will only work on one file format – if one format gets corrupted, then the rest of the drive will not be able to be salvaged.