Steve Flannery

Steve Flannery

What To Do When You Lose Important Files?

Hard drive data recovery is something most don’t bother with until the need for it hits really hard. It is not uncommon for users to come across a situation in which their computer is not booting up, and they have an urgent need to access important documents, like for school or work.

Or perhaps they have spilled water on their laptops, rendering them unusable along with their only copies of their vacation pictures.

In both of these situations and many others, you might begin to despair and think your data is gone forever. Worry not because here at Steve’s Computer Repair, we offer Data Recovery Services.

Scenarios That Require Hard Drive Data Recovery

Data loss will generally occur in different three situations:

  • The hard drive will have an operating system (OS) failure.
  • The actual hardware that makes up a hard drive has failed.
  • The user has accidentally deleted files.

The difficulty, and therefore the price and success rate of the data recovery process, vary significantly depending on the situation.

Hard Drive Suffering From an OS Failure

The first scenario involves a hard drive that has suffered from an Operating System failure. In other words, the files that dictate how the operating system boots or functions have become corrupted or unreadable.

In cases like this, the computer will often attempt to self diagnose and repair the problem on its own. If successful, the computer will boot up your OS as usual, but frequently it will stay in what is called a Self Repair Loop.

Unable to find or fix the boot files, the computer will never repair itself.

Reinstalling the Operating System is the simplest solution, but the hard drive would need to be re-formatted, causing all former files to be lost. Generally, most of us would not like this to happen.

Again fear not because, thankfully, hard drive data recovery in this scenario has excellent success rates that are accompanied by decent turnaround times.

Since the problem lies in the OS boot files, what we can do is bypass the OS altogether and use a live environment to read the hard drive, much the same way that a computer would read a USB stick.

In this scenario, it is only your Operating System that has become damaged. Therefore files such as pictures, documents, and videos are easily recoverable for the most part. It should be noted, however, that installed software, such as games or applications, cannot be recovered in this manner.

Hard Drive Failure Leading To Data Loss

Moving on to the second type of data loss, an actual hardware failure of the hard drive. Hard drives themselves come in different types, and the kind that most people are familiar with (and the type most commonly found inside Desktops and Laptops) is the Hard Disk Drive (HDD).

Close-up of a few open HDDs on white background without covers.

HDD – Hard Disk Drive

This type of hard drive is much like a record player: the record disc or storage medium is a metal plate in the HDD. Magnetic heads replace the needle that reads the grooves on the “record” in HDDs and alters the magnetic fields in the plate.

In addition, the amplifier inside the record player is replaced by an HDD controller that translates the slider’s data into something the computer can understand. Naturally, if any of these basic components of the hard drive fails, there will be a problem.

Let’s talk about speed and heat. Just like a record player spins a record to play music, the hard disk also spins the metal plate to read the 0’s and 1’s written in it; except, instead of turning a record at 33 rpm or maybe 45 rpm, the hard drive is spinning its metal plate at 5400 or 7200 rpm.

Spinning at such speeds causes wear and tear to the hard drive components, as well as generating heat due to friction. You might recognize hardware failure in a hard drive in the form of clicking noise coming from inside your laptop.

Or perhaps you have encountered the dreaded “NO BOOT DEVICE FOUND” message that pops up almost as soon as you turn on your computer. 

Whom Do You Turn To?

In either case, the technicians at Steve’s Computer Repair have encountered these problems before and can provide data recovery services for them. Due to the nature of the problem, however, the process of recovering data is much more involved.

Therefore the prices are higher, and the success rates are lower than in the first scenario of OS failure. The processes that we employ to recover data in cases such as these are far more complicated and time-consuming.

HDD Problems You Might Encounter

If your hard drive is not turning on whatsoever, you could be dealing with a dead hard drive controller. Or if there is a clicking noise coming from inside the hard drive, you can expect that the arms that hold the head sliders have gone out of alignment and are hitting the edges of the case.

In either case, replacing the whole enclosure or replacing the hard drive software could solve the issue. These methods for data recovery essentially boil down to fixing the hardware.

Replacing the PCB board can temporarily make the hard drive work. Also, hard drive data recovery methods usually involve copying the data onto a new drive or external storage device.

The aim is not necessarily to have the hard drive working again, but rather to get the hard drive to spin just enough to get the data off.

SSDs – Solid State Drives

Some of our readers might be thinking, but what about Solid-State hard Drives? Can these suffer from hardware failure as well, and can data recovery still be possible?

The short answer is yes. They can have hardware failures, and yes, data can still be recovered, but the same stipulations apply: difficult to fix and lower successful data recovery rates.

If you’re curious about SSDs, check out our blog article, Solid State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives: 10 Important Reasons To Upgrade. You will find information on their quality, storage, performance, durability, advantages, and many other factors.

Accidentally Deleting Your Own Files

This brings us to our last scenario and probably the one that each of us swears would never happen to us, and yet, it is one that we see time and time again at Steve’s Computer Repair – accidental deletion of data. 

Emptying Your Recycle Bin

Typically when you delete a document or picture, it goes into your computer’s Recycle Bin. If you later find out that you do need that document again, you can open up the recycling bin and restore that file, and no harm is done.

However, you may periodically clean out, or delete files from your Recycling Bin to make space on your hard drive. Or sometimes to avoid the Recycle bin, you might use the Shift+Del shortcut to delete files.

If you ever perform either of these actions, the files are gone forever. Well, not precisely, data recovery can still be achieved, but it might be a little confusing as to why. In order to make a bit more sense, I need to explain how computers write, read, and “delete” data.

How Hard Drives Store Information

You can think of a hard drive as an incredibly huge excel document, and each cell of the excel document can hold a data file, like a document file.

When you ask your computer to save a data file, a picture from the internet, or a music file, each is stored in its respective cell.

In addition, when your computer saves a file on the hard drive, it also saves the location where it was saved inside a file allocation table, pretty much like a street address and number.

When you request the computer to open a document or picture, the machine will look in the allocation table to get the corresponding address, then directs the hard drive to read whatever is stored at that address.

The Mechanics Of Deleting Files

It’s important to understand that the qualification that “delete” might mean not completely deleted or gone. That is because when you request your computer to delete a file permanently, or when you empty your recycle bin, the machine is not deleting the data itself. Instead, it is removing the file’s address in the allocation table.

What this means is that the file itself is still present, but now the computer does not know where it is anymore. In other words, the computer now thinks that the address is free to place information into.

A Couple Facts About Formatting

Whenever we think of formatting, we think about wiping a hard drive completely clean. But instead, what is happening is that the computer is deleting that hard drive’s file allocation completely.

For the computer, all of the addresses are available to be filled with new information, but in reality, the computer is merely writing over new data.

Of course, there is such a thing as a true format, in which case the computer will write all 0’s or all 1’s on the hard drive, truly deleting all data on it.

Back to Hard Drive Data Recovery

So now that we know that a computer is not deleting data, but rather deleting the knowledge of where the files are located, in theory, we could still access and pull that data. But if the computer does not know where it is, what chance do we have of knowing where to look?

Well, this is what makes this type of data recovery difficult. Mainly, we use highly specialized software and many hours of time to try and find any scrap data that resembles a complete file. You can imagine how difficult this is.

We might think, “Hmm, these three cells resemble an avi video format, or perhaps these seven cells look like a powerpoint presentation?”

For this type of data, recovery time is of the essence. Remember how a computer writes files to a single cell? A computer will only write a file on empty cells.

When you permanently delete a file, the computer removes the address of where the file was, which means that it now thinks that the cell is empty.

As far as the computer knows, the cell is empty, but that does not mean that it will use that cell for the next file that it is asked to save or create. When you create or save more files, it will overwrite the cell that previously held the data we are trying to recover.

Stop Using Your Computer

What all of this boils down to is that if you accidentally permanently delete a huge folder filled with hundreds of wedding photos, the best course of action is to stop using the computer. The more you use it, the more likely it is that the computer will eventually fill those slots, and now truly making the photos irrecoverable forever.

Also remember to stop using your computer if your hard drive is making strange noises, having trouble booting now and then, or perhaps having files disappearing slowly.

Conclusion

If you ever come across situations like these, then we highly advise that you back up any data that you can’t afford to lose since it could mean your hard drive is about to give out. Bring your device to our shop the minute you experience any of the scenarios mentioned above. We will execute the process of hard drive data recovery for you.

Hopefully, you have gained a little knowledge of the different types of data loss, and the different types of Data Recovery that we can perform here at Steve’s Computer Repair Shop.

The answer to all your Data Recovery concerns is one man. Check him out now!

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Until next time, have a good day!

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