First of all, don’t panic. It’s easy to lose your nerve when you are looking at hard drive data recovery. There are a host of options out there for you if you are wanting to get your important data off. Let’s stop and take a look around at exactly what your options are. First, we need to assess whether you truly need to start down the data recovery road. Believe it or not, sometimes people rush to judgments about it. Secondly, it’s important to know that there are free utilities out there to help you in your hard drive data recovery efforts. You may not choose to go that route, but they are there. Third, you can pay for software or companies to help you out.
Let’s look at if you really need to do hard drive data recovery. What kind of error or message makes you think that you need data recovery? Is it a message about a non-system disk? The first thing to check when you see this kind of message (it will be a DOS screen that is black with white lettering) is if you have a floppy disk in the floppy slot. I have had numerous conversations with people who thought their drive was history, only to find that this was the real issue. Now, if that’s not the case, you may still have options. This is especially true with systems equipped with a journaling file system. All this means is that you can go back in the journal to a previous time. Windows XP is one such OS that sports this feature. If you can get into Safe Mode, you can restore back to a previous point. You will be prompted when you enter Safe Mode whether or not you want to use the system restore feature. Chances are, if you can get to that point, you will be able to get your system back up and running.
Okay, you know you have to do some hard drive data recovery and you want to do it for free. Well, if you can role up your sleeves and learn a little, you may just get what you want. Here are a few Windows based free tools:
ADRC Data Recovery Software Tools v1.0 – This tool can undelete files, copy files, do raw copies of drives (similar to ghost), do image backups and restorations, and import or export the boot sectors of drives.
PC Inspector – This tool supports FAT 12/16/32 and NTFS file systems. It finds partitions automatically for you and allows you to save files to network drives. This is a very helpful program.
And here are a few linux alternatives:
R-Linux – This is a cool Linux tool that has a standard “Windows Explorer” interface. That kind of made me laugh. Most linux users will hate that. Anyway, it supports the Ext2FS file system. It can create image files for the disk and recover files, even if the partition has been formatted with a different file system.
TestDisk – This is a great multi file system utility. It supports BeOS, BSD, CramFS, FAT 12/16/32, HFS, JFS, Ext2, Ext3, Linux RAID 1/4/5/6, Linux Swap, LVM, LVM2, Mac partition map, Novell NSS, NTFS, ReiserFS 3.5/3.6/4, Sun Solaris i386, Unix UFS UFS2, XFS. Whew, catch your breath. The website has good instruction on using the program.
Alright, so you don’t want to try any of that. Maybe you have a complex RAID setup or infrastructure. Or maybe you don’t have the time or expertise. Whatever the reason, you may want to pay for a program. There are numerous programs out there, but here are a few: