RAW Recovery – Data Recovery When The FAT/NTFS Is Corrupted

by Rod Dunne on September 30, 2010

in Articles, Data Recovery

  • Share
  • Share

Raw recovery of data on a hard drive that has lost its file system formatting is thankfully something which most users will not have to do too often. This article provides computer repair help for those instances when the NTFS/fat 32 file system has been corrupted and you need to recover your documents from the raw partitions using Windows data recovery software or other means.

What is raw recovery?

The term raw recovery actually relates to the file system format. When a drive is first manufactured it is given a raw file system format. It is only when an operating system is installed does it then take on the Windows fat 32 (file allocation table) or NTFS (new technology file system) formats. These standards are there to manage how documents and directories are administered on the hard drive.

Unfortunately, the file system formats can become corrupted on some occasions and your computer will revert back to the raw format, meaning you are unable to view documents on the partition and, in some cases, cannot start Windows. Corruption can occur due to damage caused by a virus, problems when formatting the hard drive, not shutting down the computer correctly (e.g. simply unplugging it from the wall socket) or a power surge/outage. When this happens, only raw data recovery software will be capable of analysing the data clusters (without having to read operating system specific boots files).

First step: Repairing the issues

Most computer repair help would suggest that you attempt to repair the faults with the file system to begin with. You could try using a scan/repair tool such as XP Repair Pro to analyze the operating system files for faults it can remedy.

Using hard drive data recovery software

If you have been unsuccessfully able to repair the faults then your next option is to use hard drive data recovery software to try and retrieve your lost documents. The key here is to make sure you use an application capable of scanning a raw partition.

Most tools need to understand what the file system format is in order to analyze the data clusters on the hard drive memory. When selecting a Windows data recovery tool (there are many to choose from), make sure you go for one which explicitly says it can scan raw partitions.

One of the major problems with raw recovery software is the fact that it cannot identify the user-friendly filenames for your documents. The applications will scan the hard drive for lost data clusters and compile a flat structure of found documents using system code filenames.

The one indication you have that can help you find your files is the file type (e.g. JPEG, MP3 file, etc). Your best option is often to copy of the files to a new location and then simply search the documents/contents for the information or specific documents you need.

Have you considered doing Windows data recovery by booting up in LINUX?

This may come a little out of left-field, but, one option for hard drive data recovery worth considering is to try booting up your PC using the Linux operating system. You don’t even need to install the operating system to do this; you could boot Linux from a CD.

The process would be to download and burn a copy of the Linux Live CD, change your BIOS settings so that the boot priority uses the CD drive first (instead of the hard drive operating system) and then reboot your computer.

The computer will boot up the Linux operating system from the CD, without affecting Windows, and you can then simply browse the hard drive for the files you want and copy them to CD/external HDD.

At the very least, this may save you the cost of purchasing a raw recovery program!

Related posts:
How to reboot your computer

Previous post:

Next post: