Recover from data loss
Accidentally deleted a file? Partition gone missing? Discover how to bring them back with some free tools and tips
Often it’s all too easy to delete the wrong file by mistake. Thankfully, the way data is stored on storage devices – including hard drives, flash drives and camera memory cards – means it’s often possible to bring it back again, as long as you’re quick. That’s because to speed up the process, Windows doesn’t physically overwrite the data, merely makes its space available to other files. Armed with the right tools – including a separate drive to write the recovered data to – you might be able to restore it again.
Simple data recovery
As soon as you realise you have lost data, stop reading or writing to the drive immediately. Step one is to download a file recovery tool. This needs to be a portable tool – in other words, you can download it to a separate drive from the one containing your data and run it directly from there. One of the simplest tools of the trade is Recuva. Get the portable version from www.piriform. com/recuva/builds – download the zip file directly to your non-afflicted drive, unzip its contents to the same drive and then double-click recuva.exe (32-bit) or recuva64.exe (64-bit) depending on your Windows system type.
It’s straightforward to use – start with the wizard, which enables you to narrow your search according to file type. If you know where the file was, you can select its exact location, or widen your search to a specific drive or your entire PC. If the file has only just been deleted, leave Enable Deep Scan unticked and click Start to begin your search.
Once complete, a list of recovered files will be shown, along with their ‘state’. Hopefully you’ll spot your file marked as Excellent – select it and click Recover, making sure to save it to a different drive. Choose ‘Switch to advanced mode’ to preview certain files or tweak scan settings. Even if documents are in a bad state, it may be possible to extract some of their original text from here.
Advanced data recovery
Recuva works brilliantly with deleted files, but if your data is in a worse state – for example, if you’ve lost access to an entire partition or drive – then you may need a more powerful, if less userfriendly tool. The program in question is DMDE (or DM Disk Editor and Data Recovery Software). It can detect lost and deleted partitions – including partitions not normally visible to Windows, such as a recovered, but working, hard disk from a broken external drive that’s been formatted in a proprietary way. The step-by-step guide on the facing page shows you how to get started using it.
If your problems extend to being unable to boot into Windows itself, then turn to page 18 and look at Lazesoft Recovery Suite Home Edition, which has a built-in data recovery tool that you can access from its emergency boot disk.
Before using DMDE to hunt down data from a missing partition, see if you can bring it back intact first. Often this can be traced to an accidentally deleted partition or one where the partition header has corrupted – if the issue is this simple, getting a non-Windows partition back can be done quickly and easily from within Windows using AOMEI Partition Assistant.
Download and install the free Standard edition from www.aomeitech. com/aomei-partition-assistant.html – on launching the tool, choose Wizard > Partition Recovery Wizard.
First, select the physical drive where your missing partition should reside – as you click on a drive, you will see a visualisation of its contents appear, helping you to identify it (look specifically for unallocated space where the partition should be). Click ‘Next’, then try the recommended Fast Search option, which should in most cases find the missing partition; if that fails, then try Full Search instead.
You’ll be able to explore any partition’s contents, enabling you to verify that it’s the correct one before recovering it and bringing your data back to life. If the partition isn’t recoverable, use DMDE to try and recover data from it instead.
“Even if documents are in a bad state, it may be possible to extract some of their original text from here”
Recuva should be your first port of call for lost or deleted data.
AOMEI Partition Assistant can restore lost or accidentally deleted drive partitions.