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Principles of Data Recovery Software

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Data Recovery Software

Data Recovery Software and services are available in many forms and prices. What can you expect from these programs and on which principles do they depend.

Mechanical Disk Failures

First of all heavy mechanical failures need professional assistance, data recovery products can help when the problem is not due to a serious mechanical problem.

Prevention of Data Loss

Prevention is always your best option. Backup all the data you can’t afford to lose. Even Raid systems can fail. And recovery of raid arrays is more complicated then single, simple disks.

Two Types of Data Recovery Problems

Human Error

We differentiate usually between two types of data loss. The first one is human error. You accidently delete a file and empty the trashcan. Other sources of problems are the disk partitions. For example you make one partition for the windows or other operating system and one or more others for your data. After a while you think it’s time for a fresh install of your operating system and you format the wrong partition.

Don’t think that this only happens to idiots, I’ve talked to savvy system administrators that made this mistake. Under this category we include strange occurrences on disks mostly due to the interaction between today’s complicated operating systems, application and hardware.

The Mechanics of Data Recovery

Thanks to the File Allocation Table (FAT) erasing a file doesn’t mean it is gone from the drive. You can compare the FAT to an index of files on the drive. Deleting a file usually only means changing some entries in this index. For this example there is no fundamental difference between file systems like NTFS, FAT32 and FAT. Permanent damage can only occur the moment you start writing data to the disk again.

File Allocation Table

Data recovery programs compare the FAT to the actual data on the disk, and if possible they reverse the accidental changes in the FAT and you have your file back. This doesn’t mean that data recovery software is solely relying on FAT information. The FAT can be damaged or contain information that is not usable.

In that case some software products examine the disk on cluster level and a new or alternative table is made.
When you need these programs check what file system you are using and if the software is capable of handling it.

Serious Mechanical Dysfunction

The second possibility of data loss is a mechanical failure. This can range from bad sectors to damage to the disks read/write heads. Data Recovery software can’t solve this problem.

If you still have some access it is usually best to make a backup immediately and if we are talking about really valuable data contact a special recovery company.
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