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  • How to Recover Hard Drive Data

    Hard drive data recovery is the process of recovering lost data from a hard drive when the data cannot be readily accessed through normal retrieval methods. Whether the hard drive has locked up or has completely crashed, there is a good chance the data can be recovered with a variety of hard drive data recovering techniques.

    Reasons for Hard Drive Crashes

    There could be multiple causes for hard drive failures. A full blown hard drive crash is generally attributed to a hardware issue. The hard drive is a magnetic disc that spins and has an extended arm that collects data from any area of the hard drive. If the arm fails to function or the motor overheats or stops spinning, there is a chance that the hard drive will crash, rendering data seemingly inaccessible from all hard drive areas. Corrupted registry files or system files can also cause hard drive crashes. Viruses, Spyware, adware, and Trojan horses can also cause system file corruption, resulting in a hard drive crash.

    Here is an overview of some common reasons for a hard drive failure or data loss.

    User Errors

    User errors include accidentally deleting or overwriting files and accidentally formatting a or deleting a partition.

    User errors can sometimes be resolved through the use of off-the-shelf data recovery software.

    Software Errors

    Software errors usually result from software writing data to the wrong part of the disk.

    Errors caused by software are generally much more difficult for off-the-shelf data recovery software to correct. This task may require the services of a data recovery specialist.

    how hard drive recovery works How Hard Drive Recovery Works

    Hard Drive Electronics Failures

    When a hard drive physically fails, sometimes the mechanical parts of the hard drive remain undamaged. This can happen, for example, if the hard drive is subject to a power surge or a discharge of static electricity.

    In these cases, it is usually possible to take the mechanical parts out of the hard drive assembly and place them into another identical hard drive unit. This should be done in a clean-room environment, to prevent dust from damaging the hard drive.

    Hard drive arm failures are very common. When the hard drive arm fails, there is a very good chance that it will damage the hard drive platters.

    Hard Drive Arm Failures

    When you hear the clicking noises from your hard drive which signal a hard drive arm failure, back up all necessary data immediately and power the system down as soon as possible.

    If the hard drive platters have not been damaged, a data recovery specialist may still be able to recover data from a hard drive with a damaged hard drive arm.

    Hard Drive Platter Failures

    No drive platter is manufactured perfectly. There will always be some bad spots on the platter surface. Modern hard drives automatically mark those bad spots as unusable and do not store data there.

    Sometimes bad spots will develop during the life of the hard drive. The hard drive will mark that spot bad and attempt to move the data to a good spot on the hard drive. This may, or may not, result in the loss of some data.

    Serious hard drive platter failures can occur as a result of hard drive arm failures. In these cases, the hard drive platters are being scratched. Your data is being scratched right off the surface of the platters! You can often hear this damage occurring. These failures are very expensive or impossible to recover.

    Determining the Cause of a Hard Drive Crashhow to recover hard drive data

    To determine whether a hard drive has crashed due to mechanical failure or a software related problem is relatively simple. Check whether the flashing light in front of the computer case is blinking or not. If the light is flashing but the computer is not booting up, then the problem may be software related. In most cases, the cause is either virus related or due to a corrupted system file. These types of hard drive crashes can generally be recovered by reinstalling the operating system.

    If the flashing light in the front of the computer case is not blinking, there is no hard drive activity and this is generally attributed to a mechanical problem. In this scenario, a qualified computer technician may have to fix the hard drive issues.

    Techniques for Recovery

    First, the thing that has to be done before rectification of the problem is to determine the extent of damage.

    The recovery process involves procedures such as:

    • Repairing the hardware
    • Imaging of the disk

    Repair of the hardware may involve certain replacements such as:

    • Replacement of the printed circuit board (PCB) on the drive
    • Removing hard disk platters from the crashed disk and putting them into a new disk.

    How does Data Recovery Work?

    Windows never completely deletes the contents of a file. When a file is deleted accidentally or intentionally, Windows just deletes the first byte or the file reference and leaves the file contents stored on the disk. A broken storage medium still has the data stuck in it. Now, the safest method to recover data from failed disks is to take help from qualified engineers.

    How do Engineers go about Solving this Problem?

    Hardware engineers access most of the disk so that they can produce another copy of it, and then give it to software engineers.

    Software engineers will use specialized software made specifically for data recovery. In the end, the final data will be written into the new device. It is quite a lengthy process.

    Many specialized software applications are available these days in the market, reducing the complications in the work of the engineers.

    The Role of Hard Drive Data Recovery Software Programs

    Hard drive data recovery software programs play a major role in recovering hard drive data. Several vendors offer these types of programs. Most automatically create backup copies of their files and folders, reducing data loss potential. A good hard drive data recovery program can recover all the important files or folders that vanish after partition loss, accidental format, file or directory deletion, software malfunction, or even a virus attack. Whether someone accidentally deletes files or their computer crashes, data recovery software can locate the lost files and recover them from the hard drive.

    The main contexts where hard drive data recovery software is found useful include:

    • Missing file or directory
    • Formatted hard drive
    • Deleted file or directory
    • Unbootable hard drive
    • Inaccessible hard drive
    • Recovery of deleted files and folders on FAT and NTFS hard drives or partitions
    • Data recovery on damaged FAT and NTFS partitions
    • Damaged or corrupted partition table

    Most hard drive data recovery software programs currently available are easy to install, user friendly, and are virtually self maintaining. However, it is a good idea to purchase these programs from a trusted software supplier.

    Most software companies understand the consumer’s need to be assured of value and ease of use, so if the data recovery software selected has a trail offer, it may be a good idea to give it a test drive before purchasing it.

    Software Applications for Recovery

    To name a few:

    • The Coroner’s Toolkit: This is a checker tool for a Unix system. It can be used for forensic analysis or after a break-in.
    • TestDisk: This is a checker to recover lost or damaged partitions on a wide variety of systems.
    • The Sleuth Kit: This is a checker tool for operating systems like UNIX, Linux and Windows.
    • CHKDSK: This is a utility tool for DOS and Windows systems.
    • DCFLdd: This tool is used for imaging in FreeBSD.
    • ILook Iximager: This tool is suitable for governmental agencies.

    Boot disks may also be used in the recovery process if data loss caused the inability to boot from the hard drive. A live CD, boot floppy disk or USB device containing repair tools are often used. As the complexity of operating systems increased it is common for recovery tools to come with the OS install disk.

    Physical Damage

    Typical computer users cannot repair most physical damage to a hard drive, such as failed motors or head crashes. Physical hard drive damage often results in some data loss and in most cases users may not be able to recover all the lost data. However, the physical damage can also result in the damage of the logical structures of the file system that prevents file system structures from being completely written to the hard drive.

    If the hard drive has any physical damage, seek a technical expert to assist in recovery or choose a data recovery company to recover as much data as possible. Most hard drive data recovery firms utilize the latest tools like magnetometers to retrieve the lost bits from the magnetic media. The recovered raw bits from the damaged hard drive are used to construct a new disk image and the logical damage can be repaired.

    What you should do after the Data is Recovered

    If you managed to recover data yourself, and the drive is still usable, there are a few things you should do afterwards:

    • Take a full backup of the data you need.
    • If the disk is partitioned again and still usable, you can use fdisk to delete the old partition and create and format new partitions.
    • Recreating the partitions is very important because many internal data structures may have suffered damage.

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    1. Sandeep

      28 October, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      Sir, I have a problem that My External harddisk when connected is though shown by the device manager but is not accessible and When I try to format or access it, it just says device not ready, Please if you can help me out.

    2. Oliver

      21 September, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Class 100 clean room is used to perform data recovery process on mechanically failed hard drives. This whole procedure will looks like a lifesaving surgical operation but worth trying.
      Undoubtedly, data recovery services are much more costly than using any recovery utilities. Moreover, 100% data recovery isn’t possible in all type of data recovery cases.

    3. RJ

      23 August, 2012 at 1:57 am

      Our hard drive crashed and the computer doesn’t boot up with it at all.
      We sent it in to try to recover the data and they said the media surfaces were scored making it impossible to obtain any data from the drive. Is this all we can do or is there any other options out there. Thanks.

      • Daniel Memetic

        31 August, 2012 at 6:11 am

        Sounds like physical damage, and if an expert already tried recovery and failed I doubt there’s anything more you can do aside from sending it to another recovery service (akin to a “second opinion”).

    4. Kilian

      29 July, 2012 at 12:14 am

      With which tool can I unlock my Windows 7 Harddrive after a Virus and how? I really need my Computer.

    5. Dairo

      25 May, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Good day,
      Pls I plugedmy external hard drive to my computer but the external hard drive could not be recognised.
      As a photographer, I have lots of important pictures in the drive. What should I do.

    6. Orlando

      27 February, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      My old laptop motherboeard died, and I would like to know how can I recover everything from the internal hardrive? The laptop will not turn on. I need some good advise. Thank you.

    7. prabhat

      13 January, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      hi ,
      i have a samsung hard disk and is unbootable and haz very important family photos. is it possible to recover the photos with the help of any softwares. i have bought a new hard disk now but still need the photos … my digi camera memory also got currupted.

      plz help. 

    8. William Smith

      23 November, 2011 at 6:00 am

      Hi Sameera,
      You have to immediately stop using this hard disk because your hard disk data is corrupted. If you keep using the hard disk then there is a possibility that you may not be able to recover the data from important file.  You need to purchase Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery Home Software CD to recover your data from hard disk. You need to run the Windows Data Recovery CD on your system and save the setup on Hard disk drive to currently access drive. Before you run the software you have to connect an External Hard disk or Pen drive to your computer so that you can save the recovered data on different location. You need to connect hard disk or pen drive as per your important data file size to recover with the help of Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery.
      William Smith

    9. sameera kumar

      22 November, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      I am using Seagate 500GB external HDD.
      1. System is showing used space of the HDD as 361 GB. Empty space as 84 GB.
      2. One of the folders where all the important data that I have kept is showing as zero files
      3.  Leaving this folder, the space occupied by other folders/files  is being shown as 36 GB. That only means that the folder which is being shown as with zero files is occupying a space of  320GB.
      When I access this folder which is being shown as with zero files, a msg is being flashed is  ” harddisk is not formated, format – yes /no.”
      Please suggest how I can retrieve the data from the folder

    10. Gerry

      19 November, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      My laptop failed to boot one day and could not self repair itself. So I took some advice and using a Windows 7 64bit disk I tried to repair my computer. However my ‘Operating System’ did not appear on the windows repair and recovery and so I could not recover and repair my internal hard drive with the CD. So taking some more advice I used Ubuntu Live on a USB and booted my computer through that, running it on the USB. But my hard drive did not appear on Ubuntu either, making me think that my hard drive must have hardware damage if it is not being recognized by either OS. But my BIOS recognizes my hard drive which just confuses me even more and I’ve reached a point where I don’t know what to do, any ideas would be great. Thanks.

    11. Michael

      14 October, 2011 at 7:46 am

      Hi I have a Gateway NV53. My HDD is locked I have no idea how it got locked I have tried backdoor passwords and all the passwords i could think of is there anyway of unlocking it without professional help or even just getting files off of it without unlocking it? 

      • Michael

        14 October, 2011 at 9:03 am

        Also the HDD is a WD Scorpio Blue 320gb

    12. mike

      28 September, 2011 at 1:52 am

      So im on my computer that has a problem. It says i have a hard drive citical error. Some other messages, about 20 of them, come up and say something about a corrupted file as well. My computer has absolutely nothing on it though except for skype and oovoo, and the only reason im able to get on the internet is because i got on it through some update on oovoo. it wont let me recover anything and it says my hard drive is running normaly, but none of my files or programs are on my computer anymore. I was initially on google looking up hartley peavey for a school project and clicked on the images tab and thats when it crashed. i have no idea what to do and i cant do anything on here because i have no way to get programs back or down load them to do something… help please?

    13. shirls

      23 September, 2011 at 11:50 am

      I have a damaged Internal HDD (WD SATA 250GB Samsung R509 laptop) When I check in windows 7 I see Device I/O Error and it shows there is 0MB data stoted on it, and also I cannot see the partions I created before. It also show by disk management that the hard drive is unallocated and not initialized it shows in bios
      I want to know if I can retrieve any data on the hard drive? witch software i can use?

      • jayaesimha

        19 November, 2011 at 12:12 am

        hello friend, there are so many partition recovery software available on net , if possible download EASE-US Partition Master PRO 6.5.1 and install this software and try to recovery partition, the software automatically recovers partition, now your 250gb  hard-disk is ready for use, immediately copy all the data and others file  and enjoy

    14. mubshe

      18 September, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      Please Help , 
      My LENOVO Think pad T61(windows 7)  showing Missing operating system . How can I collect Data from C drive ,because I didn’t Partition yet. It showing Total size 74.4GB free Space 35.8 GB when I insert Win 7 Boot DVD.
      thank you

    15. deepak

      16 September, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      my system became slow & didn’t boot next day. Then I tried to repair the OS(XP-II), the process continued but later on it became very slow. I turned off the system, agian followed the same procedure but did not find any result. Can any bodu suuggest how to recover my data from that hard disc?

    16. charlie

      12 September, 2011 at 11:39 pm

      Using an external source my 12 year old (more?) Quantom hard drive started hot and smoking when I went to retrieve some data. Any chance of finding any of the data or should I play TAPS?

    17. carlos

      18 July, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      being an absolute C**K i plugged the wrong power lead into my 250G hard external hard drive and fried the PCB i suspect, ive tried to connect it via my pc internal wiring but it keeps cutting power to the computer, i have obviously blown the circuit board, is there any way i can retrieve all the data that is on it?

    18. Sharon

      25 June, 2011 at 4:39 am

      I desperately want to recover my files from a bad hard drive.  My laptop had been overheating and shutting itself off, and I was planning to have it serviced, and then managed to drop it.  When I tried re-booting, it couldn’t load Windows; I kept getting a Windows Recovery option, but it would just stall out while trying to recover Windows.  Did not hear any clicking or buzzing noises.  Then, the computer itself would not power up at all.  After a frustrating day of this, mysteriously the computer was turning itself on, and I was getting the Windows Recover option again, same lack of completion.  At one point, I did get an error screen (it was blue) with some suggestion that I had faulty hardware attached.  When I brought the laptop to a local computer shop, he checked it out and just told me the hard drive was “bad”, and said he couldn’t recover any data.  I got emotional and teary-eyed about some videos I had, and he agreed to keep trying.  That’s where it stands.  Based on this info, would you say the failure is due to a hardware problem, even though I don’t hear any clicking or buzz, or a software problem?

      • Marlon Franco

        26 June, 2011 at 5:32 am

        yes, you’re right that an HDD can be faulty even if it doesn’t emit sounds or clicking noise. Maybe you can try to look for professional services to recover your videos. But i guess the tech tried already. Well, you can still look for other options, if you really want to recover your videos.

    19. askpcguy

      20 June, 2011 at 2:37 am

      Seagate 750gb hard drive.  I was deleting files and noticed the delete performance was very slow on many small files under 10 MB in size.  I cancelled the delete but that was taking a long time.  At this point I plugged in an USB bootable flash drive and attempted to shutdown Windows Vista using the start menu.  Windows would not respond.  After 5 minutes I held in the laptop power button.

      Now the hard drive is unreadable.  The laptop hdd led remains on but still I cannot get any recovery utilities to read the drive.  I am fearing the worst.

      Any suggestions?

    20. Holie

      21 May, 2011 at 7:09 am

      Hi everyone,
      I had a partitioned laptop harddrive (IDE) failing on me. I was not able to reinstall windows xp on the C: partition (could not format the partition and then, eventually, setup couldn’t even find the haddrive…), so I replaced it with a new one and everything is running smoothly again, except for all my previous data being lost.
      Now, I tried to read the old harddisk from a harddisk-case by USB, and the new USB device was being recognized, but apart from that nothing showed up in the explorer window! I suspect this is due to the failed c: partition on the harddrive, but I think there should be several other partitions intact on the drive.
      Is there any way to recreate the c: partition on the drive (despite not being able to read it in windows), mount it and access the original partition table with all its data content ?
      Best regards,

      • memenode

        22 May, 2011 at 3:45 pm

        Aside from professional hard drive recovery services I can only recommend giving something like PartedMagic a try. First thing you can try is just mount your partition and see if PartedMagic shows any data so you can copy them to your new hard drive. If it doesn’t you can try the myrescue utility on it.

    21. deskeng

      15 May, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      i have a TOSHIBA 1 TB portable hard drive, with 96 GB files of music, docs, pictures and videos on it. but when i plugged it in my laptop it says, empty folder. what should i do? pls help me retrieve my files.

    22. Simon

      14 May, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Nice info. I’d like to see added some recovery tools though.
      I was in the process of buying a new external harddrive to perform backups (since the one I have now is full) and my laptop’s hard drive decided to crash yesterday, without a warning.  Physical damage unfortunally. The feared clicking sound kicked in for a couple of times and stopped a couple of tries after. It will still try to boot and recover windows (although it takes 10mn to get to the windows loading bar).
      I’ve tried booting an ubuntu live cd in order to recover some files, and although the hard drive is recognized and its partition mounted, only a couple of text files are accessible. Trying to copy/open other files will hang the computer…
      Any advice on some good tools (linux or windows) that I can use to try recovering some work and photos?

    23. Greg

      12 May, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      Seagate external drive failure (death-click):
      I’ve a 500gb external Seagate exhibiting the renowned click-death wherein the drive’s either not visible or displays as unformatted.
      I managed to connect the drive via a SATA/IDE Adaptor kit (excellent value) and it read intermittently, but once showed up with the correct folder paths telling me that the data may actually still be around.
      As the data is irreplaceable design graphics media and design, photos used for dvd compilation and also 1000’s of family photos, I am a little annonyed right now to say the least.
      Can anyone suggest anything that I can use to retrieve even part of the data?
      I have a suspicion that the issue is with the drive data connector between the SATA cable plug and the actual hard drive is flawed because I briefly saw the valid folders and some of the root files when I gently manipulated the SATA cable attachment.
      Anyone go any relavent suggestions?
      Thanks in advance (& hope)

      • memenode

        13 May, 2011 at 2:08 am

        If you suspect the cable attachment maybe you could try replacing the cable (along with the attachment) and see what happens. That said, if you hear the “death click” that would indicate something being wrong with the drive itself. From what I’ve read long time ago people who get the death click typically just replace the drive.

        If you were able to see the files for the moment, however, you might be able to get the data recovered by professionals. If it’s still under warranty you might be able to get this for free, along with a replacement hard drive, depending on what the warranty terms are.

        Alternatively you could try looking for third party hard drive recovery software and see if any help.

    24. sujay

      31 March, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      I checked my External drive for the type of damage. The light flickers on and sometimes is steady. But my computer still does not read files. Task bar shows usb device plugged in. I need the data will buy recovery software if necessary. But what?

    25. jose Quiles

      19 March, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      My 9 year old HP desktop computer died. It was malfunctioning for awhile (not staring properly), but before it stopped turning on, I ran the HP disk recovery program, and for one week it worked quite well. My question is, how can I recover the data? I extracted the hard drive unit from the dead computer. My intention is to destroy the drive eventually. Your assistance is much appreciated.

      • Will.Spencer

        19 March, 2011 at 9:38 pm

        I would start by putting the old hard drive in an external case and connecting it to my computer to survey the extent of the damage. This will help you to determine if you need to escalate to a professional data recovery service.

        • jose Quiles

          20 March, 2011 at 3:34 pm

          Great idea! & thanks for your prompt response. Can you direct me to options for external cases to connect the hard drive?

    26. maa

      25 February, 2011 at 11:04 am

      my hard disk is damage .can i repair it?

      • memenode

        25 February, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        Depends on what kind of damage is it. Is it physical damage, bad blocks or what?

    27. Mohammed

      29 January, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Hello ,
      First of all nice information. It was really helpful. Well i have a laptop hardrive which crashed suddenly . Well before crashing it used to show Blue screen errors often, But I didnot give any care towards it . Thus I lost my precious files with the Hard drive. I tried to access it externally using an adapter. Well the computer could Identify it and show the process of driver installation ,but the folder is not shown in My computer. Do you have any idea how to repair this problem . I just want to take all the files . Please help !!
      Thank you

      • memenode

        31 January, 2011 at 9:56 pm

        What adapter have you used?

    28. arijit

      18 August, 2010 at 4:40 am

      That is good

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