1. In this series I will write about recovering lost data yourself, some times called do-it-yourself’ or diy data recovery. I’ll try to cover:
- Do’s and dont’s. (this page)
- Different approaches to recovering data.
- I’ll go over what you will need to do a data recovery yourself.
- I will describe a straight forward data recovery; a single disk situation.
- And I will get into more complex scenarios such as RAID recovery and NAS data recovery. (coming soon!)
I am the founder of DIY DataRecovery.nl. For examples and screenshots I will use iRecover. For support on iRecover, either use the support options at DIY DataRecovery.nl or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
iRecover is a safe, reliable and comlete DIY Data Recovery solution. With iRecover you can:
- Access the disk’s SMART status info
- Create a disk image
- Reconstruct data from the disk image
- Reconstruct (recover) data from logical damage to the disk – example
DIY Data Recovery. First steps. What to do and what not.
OK, let’s assume that by diy data recovery, we mean the process of accessing data that can not be accessed the normal way. They can not be accessed because they have somehow become ‘invisible’.
There’s a wide variety of possible symptoms:
- you may not be able to see certain files
- you may not be able to see any files
- you may not be able to see the entire volume
- windows may display messages such as ‘this volume is not formatted, do you want to format it now?’.
- A disk may be ‘RAW’
If you just deleted those files, or you accidentally formatted the volume, deleted the volume, the cause for the loss of data is clear. In this case there’s no need to suspect physical disk damage. In all other cases, where there is no clear event or action that led to loss of data, you should always assume a failing disk can be the cause and examine this possibility.
Possible signs of hard disk failure:
- disk is not detected by system BIOS and/or Operating System (such as Windows)
- disk is making strange noises
- disk doesn’t make any sound
- disk sounds normal and is detected: examine hard disk S.M.A.R.T. status (can be done using iRecover)
Don’t try this!
If there are indications for disk failure it is advised to sent the disk to data recovery professionals. If the data is worth anything do not, as it is sometimes suggested on the internet:
- open the disk
- freeze the disk
- tap the disk with screwdriver, hammer etc.
- drop the disk on the floor from a small distance
Under certain conditions it may be possible to extract data from a failing disk yourself. Only consider this if the disk contains non vital data. For example, the disk may show SMART warnings, but it may still allow you to clone the disk (to another disk) or to create a disk image. Once you have that clone or disk image, then you have a good chance of recovering your data.
The advantage of creating a clone or disk image is that you only need to read the disk once, where file recovery software will need to access the disk several times in order to recover data.
If the cause for the data loss if not due to physical disk errors, we speak of logical data loss. Normally file system structures are in place that allow the operating system to find and access files. The location and layout of these structures depend on the file system in use (eg. FAT32, NTFS etc.). Each disk contains pointers to the file system(s); where one or more volumes are located on the physical disk.
Corruption of pointers to volumes and/or corruption of file system structures prevent the operating system from locating your files. Data recovery is possible as long as the actual file data (the data you stored in your Word documents, or you family pictures, etc.) is still present.