Raw Data Recovery Software Tips

by Rod Dunne on December 10, 2010

in Data Recovery, Hardware

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It may be necessary to use raw data recovery software in the event of your FAT/NTFS file system formats becoming corrupted. Thankfully this is a PC maintenance and repair task which doesn’t happen all too often. In this article, we’ll show why hard drive partitions can become corrupted and revert back to the raw format, and how to remedy the issue using hard drive data recovery tools.

Why is the file system returned to the raw format?

The raw file system format is traditionally only seen on a hard drive when it is first created in the factory. As soon as an operating system is installed (e.g. Windows), then the file system will be initialized as FAT or NTFS.

The file system initialization means that there are several system files (file allocation table, boot record, etc) which are used to define the directory structure on your hard drive, along with associating the documents you see in Windows Explorer with data clusters on the hard drive memory.

If any of these files are damaged then Windows will automatically revert back to using the raw file system format. This inevitably means that Windows will not be able to start up as the hard drive contents will not be recognized, and you will have to resort to raw recovery of data.

Corruption to the file allocation table and boot records can occur due to a virus been present on your computer, a power surge or simply due to shutting down the PC incorrectly (i.e. by unplugging the computer) while operations are still being processed. Most data file recovery software needs to use the system files in order to identify your documents so you will need specialist raw data recovery tools to recover your files.

Using raw data recovery software

Thankfully, there are specialist raw data recovery software applications capable of reading the data clusters on the disk without needing any sort of boot files or other operating system specific documents to identify and recover lost data.

Some of the key manufacturers in this area are DiskGetor, BrotherSoft and Easeus who have a number of different hard drive data recovery tools you could consider.

It is worth noting that these raw data recovery products will scan your hard drive looking for the data clusters and try to reconstitute them back into complete documents. While some effort will be made to retain directory structures/file names, these attributes of documents are technically specified within the file allocation table.

So, if the file allocation table has been corrupted or damaged then the applications will probably recover corrupted files in a flat directory structure using system file names which you may not recognize. You can however clone all your data to an external hard drive and then search the contents for specific documents or file types you are looking for.

An alternative approach to data file recovery software

A completely separate data file recovery approach you could possibly consider is to try booting the computer from a LINUX live CD and then copying the disk contents onto an external hard drive. This does not affect the Windows operating system and you are not actually installing LINUX.

The process is done as follows:

  1. Use a second PC to download a LINUX live CD (e.g. Puppy LINUX) and burn it to a CD.
  2. Place the CD in the faulty computer CD drive.
  3. Start up the computer and enter the BIOS mode. Alter the boot settings to prioritize booting from the CD drive as first priority.
  4. Restart the computer. The PC will now launch the LINUX operating system from the CD and you will be able to browse the file system on the corrupted hard drive.
  5. Connect an external hard drive to the PC and copy the contents of the internal hard drive.

Related posts:
- System Security virus removal approaches.
- Cheap hard drive recovery software utilities | For repairs and recovery.

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