How to Recover Formatted Files

by Rod Dunne on December 29, 2010

in Data Recovery

Recover formatted files | Software tips and free trial scans
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Using data retrieval applications to recover formatted files is one of the simpler computer maintenance and repair activities which everybody can attempt. The problem with using these tools is that you cannot always guarantee that it will successfully find the documents you are looking for. In this article, we’ll show how to use software to recover files from formatted hard drive partitions along with the factors affecting successful data retrieval.

Recommended software to recover formatted files

It is worth having a file recovery application installed on your PC at all times, just in case it needs to be used. One product that comes highly recommended is Remo Undelete which is able to recover deleted files and formatted data from FAT/NTFS hard drives as well as Flash based memory devices (e.g. USB memory sticks).

The product works on all versions of Windows and currently comes with a free trial scan.

Remo Undelete | PC Maintenance Software | Click Here For A Free Scan

How to recover formatted data

No matter which tool you pick to recover formatted files, the process of data retrieval is usually quite standard, as follows:

  1. Download and install the application on a separate partition from the formatted disk. Do not install it on the formatted partition as this could overwrite your lost data.
  2. Start up the program and customize the type of scan you want to do. You can filter the results based on the size of data you want to look for or file types, amongst other things. This helps speed up the scanning process especially on larger hard drives.
  3. When the application completes the scan of the hard drive, review the list of found documents and pick the document(s) you wish to clone onto an external disk/CD. Once again, do not copy them straight back onto the formatted disk as this could overwrite the data in the middle of doing a copy/paste.

Factors affecting your ability to recover formatted hard drive data

As mentioned, no tool will succeed in finding your documents 100% of the time due to a number of factors. Here are some of the key things to watch out for:

Time/usage - If the formatted disk has been used to install an operating system or store more documents since it was formatted then this will naturally have overwritten a large amount of your original disk contents. Likewise, over time the disk will be used for running applications, storing temp data or even allocating virtual memory space, all of which will result in your original data being overwritten. The best chances of being able to recover formatted data in its entirety is straight after the disk was formatted.

Choice of formatting tool РIf the formatting software you use can also do a data cleaning wipe of the drive (to remove personal data) then this will have had a major effect on your ability to recover formatted hard drive data. Data cleaning sweeps will repeatedly overwrite data clusters on the drive’s memory with random/blank data so that other users cannot read or steal your personal information.

Disk repair tools – If you use a disk defragmenter or bad sector repair tool then these products will move file fragments around the disk and reuse any data clusters that are available, including those belonging to your lost/formatted data. In many cases, this makes it near impossible to recover files from formatted hard drive sectors.

Choice of file recovery application – Even the choice of data recovery tool you use has a bearing on how many documents are recovered. Each program is developed independently of the next so will use its own logic to piece together the file fragments when returning back a found file list. For this reason, it is often worth trying out the free trial scans of a couple of products (e.g. Remo Undelete ) to see which products work the best.

The last resort: Data retrieval/recovery experts

Your last resort option, if the data is particularly critical, is to contact a recovery expert/service to get help trying to recover formatted files. These experts will have access to a variety of forensic software applications that can identify data shadows or fragments of your lost data and manage to retrieve even partial results. The major downside however is that their services can often be more costly than purchasing the software applications for yourself.

Remo Undelete: FAT/NTFS support, All Windows OS; Free trial scan now available.

Remo Undelete | PC Maintenance Software | Click Here For A Free Scan

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