Hard Drive Crash Recovery

by Rod Dunne on July 7, 2010

in Articles, Data Recovery

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There are three common scenarios for making a successful hard drive crash recovery. Here, we’ll look at these scenarios and what workarounds and PC repairs can be attempted to make a full data recovery.

Windows Reboots Correctly

If you are fortunate, then the hard drive crash may only be a minor fault and your computer reboots properly. You should still make back-up copies of your data and run a full anti-virus scan of internal and external drives. Computer backup options include using online services (e.g. iDrive) or tools like Final Sync for syncing up data between hard drives.

The crash may result in files going missing/lost, especially files you were working on at the time of the crash. Try searching the file system and recycle bin for draft copies. See also our post on compact flash data recovery for retrieving data that may be lost on external memory.

For severe data loss, scan the hard drive using data recovery software (Remo Undelete is a popular & effective tool) to check for data clusters and other remnants of your documents on the computer. These tools will work for desktop, laptop or notebook data recovery as well as retrieving files on FAT32/flash storage devices.

Windows Won’t Reboot

If Windows cannot boot correctly after the hard drive crash then you will need to attempt one of the following ways of getting the system started:

  • Try starting the computer in safe mode (hit the F8 key as the system starts to bring up these options). Safe mode runs Windows with a reduced subset of services. This only bypasses whatever errant service is causing the crash.
  • Try starting the computer in the last known good configuration. This is one of the boot up options displayed as Windows starts, and by default is not used. Our article on reboot computer tips & tricks goes into more detail about system restore snapshots.
  • Try booting the computer using the Windows Emergency Boot Disk.

Completing the hard drive crash data recovery after the system boots up is the same as stated in the previous section (a) back up your data and (b) use data recovery software if necessary to recover lost data.

An effort should also be made to run a full virus scan then troubleshooting the root cause of the crash so that you don’t need to do another hard drive recovery. Registry cleaners and PC maintenance software can help automate this process or you can research online for advice if a computer error or message was shown. If the error relates to NTFS/fat 32 not being recognized then these type of file system issues can only be rectified using raw recovery software.

Computers in a workplace may well be protected using a SAN backup system, in which case contact your system administrator to find out what directories, if any, are backed up.

Our post on how to recover data from crashed hard drive partitions has 5 approaches for recovering lost files after a crash.

Windows Won’t Reboot – Under Any Circumstances

If all your attempts at rebooting the computer have failed then it may well be that your computer has a physically damaged component or a high severity software/OS fault. Either way, a hard drive crash recovery should be possible by the experts:

  • Computer Doctor: A computer repair specialist/shop should be able to repair broken components and get your computer running again. One service that many repair shops do offer is data recovery though this many only involve software based data recovery (i.e. not mechanical recovery of physically damaged hard drives).
  • Data Recovery Experts: A data recovery expert can recover all manner of data from damaged software and hardware using specialist applications and disk-reading devices.

See also:
Our article on hard drive failure recovery.
Options for flash data recovery and data recovery flash drives.
How to clean hard drive contents.
Common mistakes to avoid when doing external hard drive data recovery.
Top seven issues that crash PC computers.

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