From heavy business users, to home users who simply use their PC for storing family photos, losing important files can be upsetting. Accidentally deleting a movie of a child’s first steps, or deleting painstakingly-produced quarterly reports can send one’s stress levels soaring. Computers have now been used on a widespread scale for several years, and the importance of backing up files is fairly well know. However, even the most conscientious of people can occasionally forget to back up their files.
In these circumstances, all is not lost. There are a number of free hard drive recovery solutions that may still be able to recover the lost data. To understand how these systems work, it helps to understand how data is actually stored on the disc. The data is written to the drive “platters” in very small sections, called sectors. By cutting the files into small sectors, the data can be spread across the drive wherever there is space available. At the beginning of the disc is an area that is used to store an index, which tells the computer exactly where the various parts of the file are physically located.
When a file is deleted, the actual data is not removed; all that occurs is the deletion of the part of the index that points to the file. This means that the computer no longer sees the data that constructs the file and it will simply consider it as free space to write new data when necessary. This means that the longer the computer is turned on after the files are deleted, the greater the chance is of the physical space that holds the file’s data being overwritten by new files. The safest thing to do when a computer-user realizes that they have accidentally deleted a file is to shut down the computer safely.
Using another computer, locate some free recovery software. There are various options available, but one of the most successful free hard drive recovery solutions that works with most standard PCs is “SystemRescueCd”. This is a suite of applications that are available on a bootable Live CD.
This means that the software can be copied onto a disc and inserted into the target computer’s CD drive. When the computer is turned on, instead of booting into Windows, the data recovery software will load directly from the disc; because the system is booted from a CD, rather than from the computer’s hard disc, the chance of the computer overwriting the physical location of the deleted files is removed.
The system is relatively simple to use. Rather than using the hard disc’s index, it scans the disc’s sectors for data that can be reconstructed into useable files. These recovered files are copied back to the hard disc. If the files in question are recoverable, the user will be able to load them in exactly the same manner as they would if the files had never been deleted.
SystemRescueCd is not the only piece of free recovery software available, and different pieces of software offer different features and different levels of complexity. However, if you are able to find a piece of software that recovers your files, it is advisable to take the opportunity to immediately back up the files in question and ensure that you are protected from similar situations in the future.