Crash Data Recovery – Options And Tools For Finding Lost Data After Disk Crashes

by Rod Dunne on July 30, 2010

in Data Recovery

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Whenever a disk failure occurs, the initial priority for most people is to recover lost data. Here, we’ll look at crash data recovery approaches for restoring as much data as possible.

Assumption: The working assumption in this post is that your computer is capable of rebooting. If not, then you need to resolve that issue first or call upon data recovery services/experts if you suspect mechanical faults (e.g. a broken hard drive that was dropped, flooded, heat-damaged or received a power surge). Try reading our earlier article on how to fix computers.

Saved Documents

Start your file recovery by checking for any saved versions of the documents you were working on. It would be rare for a disk crash to affect saved versions, unless the crash occurred because of mechanical damage to the disk or virus damage (which may affect the registry file).

Use the ‘recent documents’ feature of MS Office to help find documents if you are unsure which folder they are located in. Even with non-Office applications a disk crash data recovery can often be as easy as restarting the application and opening recent documents.

Work In Progress Data

If you were working on documents/files/data at the time of the disk failure then you have to consider what may have happened to the files.

  • If the application uses RAM to store the file while it is work-in-progress then this data will have been cleared by the reboot. No form of Windows data recovery services could retrieve that.
  • If the application auto-saves the document to the disk drive as you work on it then it may be possible to simple reopen the document. The danger is that the file was corrupted while being partially saved so file recovery will not work. Alternatively, try to restore an older saved draft of the document.

Lost Files

Finally if you feel that your documents may have been saved to the hard drive but are not appearing in their working folder or directory searches, then completing a hard drive crash data recovery might still be possible by using software.

Just as with deleted documents, it is possible that the data clusters are still present on the hard disk but the associated document is not indexed or allocated to your visible directory structure.

Most crash data recovery software can scan even faulty drives and identify lost documents for you. Commercial tools like Remo Undelete can provide a free scan so at the very least you can check your drives for documents and only need to buy a license if you find documents you want recovered. These tools will work for desktop, laptop or notebook data recovery.

If your documents are on external flash devices then the same approach and software can be used for compact flash data recovery as they also utilize the FAT32 file system.

See also: My articles on hard drive failure recovery and data recovery flash drives.

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