External Hard Drive Data Recovery – Five Common Mistakes To Avoid

by Rod Dunne on August 16, 2010

in Articles, Data Recovery

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External hard drive data recovery is relatively simple to do – you recover hard drive data by installing some recovery software, scan the hard drive for files then copy them to a new location.

However, it is easy to make a mistake and hamper the chances of finding all your lost data. Here, we’ll take a look at 5 mistakes to avoid.

1 – Using the hard drive before attempting to recover lost data

When a file is deleted/formatted it is not cleared from the external hard drive straight away. The file’s index is removed from directory views and the data clusters representing the file (on the hard drive memory) are left intact, but crucially, these clusters are declared free to be used when saving any new files.

Delaying when you attempt to recover lost data means more files are saved to disk and more original files (data clusters) will be overwritten. See our article on post format data recovery for more information.

2 – Not paying attention to strange sounds from the drive.

A crashed hard drive data recovery may need expert assistance if there is a mechanical fault. If you hear a clicking sound then the heads or motor may have a fault. Likewise, a scratching noise can occur if the spindle/heads are starting to seize up. If this occurs, shut down the PC before any further damage is done

All data recovery software needs to be able to read the drive sectors in order to find anything. With mechanical faults, the recovery software won’t help and you’ll need a data recovery expert to repair the damage or directly read the drive sectors and restore lost data.

3 – Using the wrong recovery software

You must use the right external hard drive data recovery software for your specific file system. Most external hard disks run on the FAT-32 file system (same as Windows) and there are a lot of tools that support this format. If your hard drive is using a different file system then make sure to get the right application.

Recommended software:

  • Remo Undelete: FAT/NTFS support, Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Server 2003; Free trial scan.

4 – Using ChkDsk or Scandisk before your data recovery software

Disk repair tools like ChkDsk and Scandisk can repair disk sector faults. However, when it comes to crashed hard drive data recovery, these tools could potentially relocate data clusters on the disk, which interferes with how recovery software locates your lost documents. Only run these tools when you have all your drive data backed up.

5 – Thinking all tools recover lost data the same way

No two tools do external hard drive data recovery the same way. It is fair to say, in broad terms, that they recover lost data by reading the file allocation table (FAT) for its listing of document indexes and scanning the hard drive memory to locate data clusters. Any found files are listed back to you for cloning to some new directory.

However, if the FAT is empty (e.g. after formatting the drive) then recovery software must piece together files using the data clusters solely to recover formatted files. This is made more difficult as the clusters associated with one file can be dispersed all over the disk. Each tool uses different code to piece together clusters, so each will have varying degrees of success.

A smart workaround is to use the free trial scans from several tools before committing to purchasing a license and compare the list of found files. This way you guarantee the tool can find the exact files you are looking for.

Related Posts:
- How to do a bad sector repair.

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