Data Recovery Primer…

by admin on Apr 12th in Hardware Issues, Software Issues, Software Recommendations, Troubleshooting

I am often asked about recovering data…whether from a formatted hard drive, a corrupt memory card, or a USB drive gone awry.  Due to that, I have tried nearly every option out there.  Hopefully you can learn from my pain and expenditures rather than suffering on your own…

First you need to determine if it is a hardware problem.  If the hard drive isn’t recognized by the BIOS, I have yet to find any software that can recover data from a hard drive that the computer doesn’t even know exists (if you  know of one, let me know!).  If this is the case, you need to use a clean room service.  This is usually a real eye-opener for most users, since the cost of recovering their data runs from $800 to $3,500!  Suddenly the cute pictures of their dog with the sweater on don’t mean quite as much.  But if you are looking for a clean room service, the one I highly recommend is Gillware.  They are the least expensive and yet offer the best service I have found.  They even let you see online the directory structure of the files they were able to recover.  They are located at  A word to the wise…the initial fee of $390 covers data recovery that DOES NOT require clean room service.  The clean room flat rate is $700.  This is still a great price compared to other clean room services.  If you do decide to use this company, please use my affiliate number to get me a referral spiff–and you get a free diagnostics, up to 5 free recovery DVDs, and free return shipping.  My number is 11131.

If the problem isn’t hardware based, there are several software packages that do a good job of recovering data.  However, DO NOT use the drive you are trying to recover from!!  While the data is still there, if you start using the drive, data might be written OVER the stuff you want to recover!  Remove the drive and set it up as an external drive on another machine…

Recuva– this software by Piriform is wonderful for recovering files from USB drives, memory cards, etc.  It is free and effective!  I usually have to use the ‘deep scan’ to actually get anything to recover, but it has brought back many a picture from formatted memory cards!  Check it out at

iRecover– this is the most powerful recovery software I have found.  I had a client (a lawyer) ask me to put a new version of windows on his college-aged daughter’s notebook–just be sure to save her documents and music!  I copied her ‘My Documents’ folder off to an external drive.  I then fdisked, formatted, and install a new version of windows.  After copying back the data (which went TOO fast), I checked and all I had was the directory structure!  NO FILES!  After recovering from the small heart attack, I knew I had to find a way to recover these files (remember, this was a lawyer’s daughter!).  I bought and tried numerous programs with very spotty results.  I then came across  They had a package called iRecover.  I downloaded it, ran it, and RECOVERED EVERY FILE!  While I will never get back those weeks of my life that I lost due to the fear and trembling of losing the data, I was able to return the notebook with all files in place!  This is not freeware or open source!  It costs from $40 to $200 depending on the level you want.  Unless you have a raid system, you can get away with the $40 version.  Since I am a technician and use it on multiple computers, I purchased the business license version ($200).

Some general guidelines for data recovery:

  • Have a backup so data recovery is un-necessary!
  • Install Recuva on your computer BEFORE you need it!
  • If you do lose files, QUIT using that drive!

Good Luck!

One Comment

  1. lost data

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