Here are some basic tips on how to recover your data when it goes missing – if you can’t recover using these tips, you may need more in-depth knowledge or even professional help to recover important data!
Recovering lost data from a broken drive or damaged backup tape is a painstaking process in many cases and best left to professional data recovery experts who have special equipment that can retrieve lost data. Any small loss of data can render a tape or drive unusable – including faults in the electronics of a device, the physical storage medium and the connections between everything. When data loss is only minor, they can however be tackled by less technical users.
Data loss can occur because of
Power outages – a sudden outage can ruin a disk write and corrupt data on the disk. Many programs backup the files they are about to store in a .bak file or similar. Search the program documentation for information on how your application handles backups. Some will show you a recent file when you restart and allow you to recover – MS-Word does this for example. Sometimes, MS-Word will not show you that file to restore. There may still be a backup however and the documentation will tell you the location of backup file(s). A search in Google will also reveal a lot about where a particular application stores backups or temporary files and how often they are written.
Corrupt backup restorations – if you restored a backup and it causes the machine to fail, for example where you installed new hardware in between the last backup and now, you can simply put in the install disk for your operating system, reboot from it and follow the recovery/rollback options available. You will be able to restore to the last working state. Holding down or pressing the F8 key while booting will also give you other restore options.
Data-damaging virus attacks are the worst thing that can happen to your data. Restoring using your available archives may be the only recourse. Be very careful as archives can contain viruses too.
User error – Accidental deletion. This is the most common of all data loss events that happens to the typical user. There are three types of deletion in windows, with two of them being commonly available to the user;
- [DELETE] Simply hitting the delete key when a file is highlighted moves the file (possibly only after a confirmation dialogue, depending on your settings) to the Recycle Bin. This is simply a folder dedicated to deleted files and folders. The files are not actually deleted in this process, they are simply stored in a repository and still using up disk space. To get one or more files back from the Recycle Bin, the user just has to open up File Explorer, locate the Recycle Bin, scroll to find and highlight the file(s) or folder(s) you need to recover, right-click and hit Restore.
- [SHIFT]+[DELETE] This is a more permanent type of delete and leaves nowhere for the user to access the file like the Recycle Bin. There is however one escape that users can use but only if the mistake is rapidly spotted and the explorer window still open. [CTRL]+Z (usually for “undo”) works in file explorer as a file-undelete when used immediately after the shift-delete action is applied. So you can get the file back straight away. Close Explorer though and it will be gone and require special software to undelete it.
Drive failure/archive failure – A hardware failure of a storage device will generally have to be handled by a service or data recovery specialist who will be able to gain access to the drive again using alternative means.
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