Lost Data? Recovery: How To

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Dec 17, 2012
This thread is in place to help those who have lost files and or data due to an accidental deletion or format. Bear in mind that this guide is applicable to all storage mediums, be it a hard drive, a thumb drive, or anything in between.

This guide does not cover how to retrieve files from a physically damaged medium. If the drive or device in question has been damaged you will need to seek professional service.


I like to think of storage devices as being similar to carbon paper. Essentially, there are two layers. The top layer is what is visible to you and stores the information. As information is written to the top layer, an impression is made on the bottom layer. If you were to erase the top layer, you may think the information is gone for good. In reality, it’s still there on the bottom layer.

However, it must be recovered before writing over the top layer again or else it will be lost. By writing over the top layer a second time, you are creating an imprint of the new information over the previous imprint on the bottom layer, and it will no longer be recoverable.

Keeping this in mind, you must remember to attempt recovering the files, before writing anything new to the device.


On to the recovery process!

First of all, the recommended software tool for file recovery is Recuva by Piriform (the company behind CCleaner). Download it from here: http://www.piriform.com/recuva

Next, open Recuva and a wizard will appear. Click next, then select “other” from the list.

In the following window, click the most appropriate option. These range from full system searches to specific locations such as the "My Documents" folder.

Following that, check off “enable deep scan” and hit the start button.

Let it do its thing, it may appear to be doing nothing but it’s working. It may take over an hour for larger storage devices.

Roughly an hour later, VOILA! You should now be able to select the files you want to recover from a list.


If for some reason, Recuva doesn't work for you, or if you don't feel like using it here are a couple alternatives. They work in almost the exact same way, and are fairly straightforward.

Glary Undelete: http://www.glarysoft.com/glary-undelete/
Pandora Recovery: http://www.pandorarecovery.com/download/

Both programs are intended for Windows XP/Vista but work perfectly well in Windows 7/8.


Good luck!
Reactions: Dmontilla
I would like to make a recommendation for users suffering from "corrupt partition tables" on a usb flash drive.

a corrupt partition table is what results when you are writing data to the flash drive and it gets pulled out before it is finished writing. the next time you go to use the drive, windows often displays a "format drive" window and the device is not useable. basically this table is what tells windows where the data is on the drive, what the file is named, what type of file it is as well as some other data. if you get corruption of this table the drive will not be useable.

to avoid this type of issue it is best to always click on the safely remove hardware icon in the notification area on the taskbar and eject usb drives before you pull them out of the usb slot. normally windows makes the drive safe to remove at any time however not when data is being written to the device.

recently i had the misfortune of being in a rush and had my main backup thumbdrive corrupted in this manner and i tried many freeware and trial versions of retail programs to try and recover this data. the trouble is that some couldnt read the data (corrupted partition table), some could recover the data but did not keep file names and did not keep the folder structures intact and that some of them were so buggy or hard to understand that they did not work correctly.

After weeks of searching and trying many programs and not finding one which worked in an easy to use manner which displayed the folder structure on the drive i came across the suggestion to use this program here on toms hardware and thought i would share this suggestion with all of you on toms given that trying to find a solution on the net turned up no reliable results for me.


The following program which i will recommend is not freeware. The program allows you to recover up to 1 gigabyte of data absolutely free however if you need to recover more data than this you will require the paid version of the program. again, this program gives you a free demo of 1GB of data recovery however if you need more than this you would need the paid program.

the tool in question is called MiniTool Power Data Recovery and can be found here http://www.powerdatarecovery.com/ or downloaded from cnet here http://download.cnet.com/MiniTool-Power-Data-Recovery-Free-Edition/3000-2094_4-10561431.html?part=dl-&subj=dl&tag=button

the nice thing about this tool is that it scans and deep scans your drive and then will show you the folder system on your drive. some folders and some files may have odd names (this is the corrupted data) however it shows you all the data on the drive in an easy to read manner.

as for taking data off the corrupted drive, the program allows you to check and uncheck boxes next to each item or folder and shows how much data in GB/MB that you have selected as well as how much data you have left on the free version. this allows you to pick and choose what data you want to pull off which is truly important in case you do not want the paid version of the progam.

again, this is a paid program (not free) however it does allow you to recover up to 1 gigabyte of data absolutely free
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