How To Recover Corrupted Files

by Rod Dunne on January 4, 2011

in Articles, Data Recovery

How to recover corrupted files | 6 different ways of using software utilities to repair or recover a corrupt document.
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By using a variety of PC repair programs, it is often possible to recover corrupted files. Documents and data can easily become corrupted as a result of shutting down the PC incorrectly, virus damage to the PC or damage to software applications (to name just a few possible causes). In this article, we’ll take a look at six different options open to you when trying to fix corrupted files.

1)    Recover corrupted files by fixing bad sectors

One of the major concerns when you experience a corrupt file is the possibility of there being a bad sector on the disk that has led to the problem. This will generally affect several files rather than one individual document, so look out for this tell-tale sign.

Try to repair the fault by running the ScanDisk application (from Windows) or using a more professional disk repair utility (e.g. HDD Regenerator).

2)    Use special purpose applications to fix corrupted files

If the fault lies with a single document then there are a vast number of applications designed to recover corrupted file contents for specific application types.

As an example, Doc Regenerator and XLS Regenerator are able to recover corrupt Word file documents and Excel documents respectively. You will need to search online for other tools depending on the corrupt files type. You will find that popular file extensions/applications such as Outlook, MP3 files, image types, etc will have a larger array of utilities available, including some freeware options.

3)    Fixing corrupt file which belongs to the OS

If you are attempting to recover corrupted files that belong to the operating system (e.g. the Windows registry file or some system DLL files) then your best option is to resort to using the System Restore application (located under accessories > system tools).

This program can rollback changes to the files due to the fact that it stores duplicates of critical system programs to disk every time Windows update is run. You can select previous snapshots based on whatever available dates has stored on the disk. Do a full reboot for the changes to take effect.

If this fails to resolve the issue then try using an online PC repair service like XP Repair Pro to scan the operating system programs, DLLs and registry file for signs of damage.

4)    Using data recovery software to recover corrupted file contents

Data recovery applications are more normally used to retrieve lost, deleted or formatted data. These products (e.g. Remo Undelete) are also capable of detecting any temporary versions of your documents that are saved to disk.

Using these applications may not find the latest version (it may never have been saved to disk anyhow) but it should be able to detect earlier saved versions of the document which are no longer visible in Windows Explorer. Install the programs and let it scan your hard drive to detect what lost data it can identify.

5)    Use a backup or temporary/work in progress version of the file

Instead of trying to fix corrupted files, you could also consider looking for any temporary versions of the document, created while the application was running. These are usually located in the same folder where the document was saved and will use a different file extension.

As an example, instead of trying to recover corrupt Word file contents, you could resort to using a work in progress version of the file (saved as <filename>.WBK) by renaming it with the more traditional .DOC file extension and then opening this in Word.

This might be the only option open to you if you have a file corrupted due to a bad sector on the disk which cannot be repaired.

6)    Get the experts to recover corrupted files for you

Finally, you could resort to contacting a data recovery service/expert to try and recover corrupted files on your behalf. These IT specialists will have a larger range of forensic software utilities capable of analyzing the cause of corrupt file issues and specialist data recovery software that can even identify data fragments that has been overwritten on the disk. The one downside of this approach is that their services can often prove to be more costly than using the PC repair programs to attempt the repairs for yourself.

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