Everyday Computing
External Hard disk drive connect to laptop

Data recovery from an external hard drive can be an almost trivial PC maintenance and repair task to complete. You simply use software to scan the disk for files and clone the found documents to a new location.

However, there can be some pitfalls that impact your success rate finding lost data. This article focuses on five tips for improving your chances of getting data back.

  1. Act Fast – Less lost files are found as time passes: Deleted or formatted data is not instantly wiped from the drive; they simply are omitted from directory views in Windows Explorer. The data clusters on disk are not wiped but they are labelled free to reuse when saving new files. The more the disk is used to save files, the greater the chance of data clusters being overwritten.
  2. Recovery software is useless if components are damaged –¬†Data recovery software needs to be able to read the disk in order to work. If your external hard drive has a fault (e.g. clicking/scratching noises) then the spindle/heads are seized up or damaged. Data recovery experts will be able to recover data by reading the disk sectors directly.
  3. Disk repair tools won’t help your data recovery efforts – Running disk repair utilities like ChkDsk or Scandisk can move your data around the disk and impact how data recovery software can scan for, and find files.
  4. Data recovery software should be matched to your file system format – Most drives run on the FAT-32 format, which is the most popular format used by recovery tools. If your drive is running something else then you’ll need the right tool for the file administration format.
  5. Recovery tools will vary in how many files they find – One trick to try is using the free scans from several data recovery software tools. You will notice each finds a varying number of files. Each uses different code logic to find files so some are better than others (especially when finding data on a formatted drive).

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