More than a dozen recovery software applications are currently marketed with the promise of salvaging data files from compromised hard disk drives. With utilities that serve a particular purpose for reconstructing lost information, almost every software issue related to corrupted data is addressed. Each of these commercial applications is basically effective in retrieving lost information but all these come at a cost. GNU-licensed open source applications, such as TestDisk, offer the same level of functionality but come at absolutely no cost. Although learning how to use this type of software may require some amount of reading, free hard drive recovery is still made possible.
One particular advantage of open source free recovery software is comprehensive support in terms of the systems where the application can be implemented. A selfless group of developers devotes much time and effort towards adding functionality to the program. Transporting the same code to another system would require some certain amount of reprogramming which would otherwise be impossible without the efforts of these developers.
TestDisk, for instance, can run in Microsoft Windows beginning with Windows NT4 and 2000. Of course, Windows XP, Vista and 7 are all supported in both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. Another commercial operating system it supports is Mac OS X. Popular Unix-like operating systems as well are supported along with FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and Linux.
Mechanisms of retrieving data from lost partitions
Retrieval of data from the hard drive begins by querying the BIOS in order to search for the hard disks and the corresponding characteristics. Once the installed hard drives are found, the recovery process will then perform a quick check of the disk structure. The information collected regarding the structure of the disk is then compared with the corresponding partition table for possible entry errors. Partition tables with errors are automatically repaired by the free recovery software. In other cases where partitions are missing or the partition table is entirely empty, the program can create a fresh table.
Open source software made easier
Backed by a large support from the developer community, most free applications nowadays are ported with a friendlier user interface. Novice users take advantage of advanced features through a point-and-click interface. Advanced users, on the other hand, may use the more efficient command line interface.
Since it is available as open source, users may download the source file for manual installation or they can opt to download the executable version of the file. For Linux users, detailed installation instructions follow the typical make, make check, and make install commands. Lastly, the make clean command removes all the configuration commands previously implemented.
Aside from recovering lost partitions, the undelete function easily recovers previously deleted files. This function can be found in the Advanced Filesystem Utils menu and supports various file systems as listed under the dropdown list. FAT, NTFS, and FAT32 are all supported. For Linux platforms, ext2 and ext3 are also covered.
Other menu items include Analyze, which initiates the recovery process. For advanced users, it is also possible to change disk geometry so as to match logical block addressing and improve compatibility.
Free hard drive recovery offers similar capabilities as the ones which are commercially available. With advanced support from enthusiast developers, more useful functions are integrated into this free program.