Let's face it, technology, wonderful and amazing and magical as it is, doesn't always work. Even with high-end, top-of-the-line software and gadgets that are available to us today, chances are, we are still bound to encounter glitches and 'technical difficulties'.
One such problematic area of computer technology is the hard drive, that component of our systems that store our digitally encoded data. At one point or another, in the beginning, middle or end of its natural life, a hard drive may be susceptible to errors or damage in several forms that may result in the loss of the data stored in these drives.
Some of these errors include:
1. User errors - these errors occur when files are accidentally deleted or overwritten
2. Software errors - this happens when the software writes files to the wrong parts of the disk
3. Electronic failures - this is a physical failure of the hard drive, and usually happens when the hard drive encounters a power surge or a burst of static electricity.
4. Arm and platter failures - some of the most serious damage to a hard disk can occur when the hard drive arm fails, eventually scratching your data right off the platter. These sorts of errors are the most difficult to resolve and often involve the help of a technical specialist.
User errors are usually the easiest errors to recover from. This is because files are not usually erased when they are deleted from the system. 'Delete' in this sense really means that the file has only been removed from the directory listing in your computer or its table of contents, but the actual file is still present in the hard drive.
The only problem here is that accessing or locating that 'deleted' or missing file is not easy anymore because of the fact that it has been removed from the directory, which helps the system find the correct file quickly and easily. In order to find the missing files, data recovery has to be undertaken.
Data recovery functions by reorganizing the computer operating system's file system so your files can be accessed again. The file system (usually called FAT or file allocation table) is your system's way of indexing and keeping tabs on where all the files are located. Missing data, therefore, is located for recovery, however, most find that locating files is not an easy task.
This is the work of data recovery software. Most off-the-shelf pro-consumer data recovery software will do the trick, that is, if you are recovering files after a user error has occurred. However, more complicated maneuvers are necessary for errors that occur due to software failure or physical hard drive failures.
The good news is that these sorts of errors do not happen often. Usually, the case of missing or deleted files that are in need of recovery are due to user errors, and as such, your average data recovery software should do the job. It must be noted though, that while some data recovery software is easy to use and friendly to the non-technical majority of the population, there are others that are on the professional end of the scale and will need a lot more technical know-how than the consumer-friendly options.
Your Best Solutions
An ounce of prevention is still better than a pound of cure, so to make sure that you don't encounter problems with recovering your data from a failed hard drive, the best measure is to ensure that it doesn't happen. Solution: back up your hard drive. This is a proven preventive maintenance task, and it will make sure that if your hard drive crashes, you have a surefire way to recover your data without having to go through the hardships (and believe us, it is a difficult process) of manually recovering your data.
If you haven't backed up your data, on the other hand, go with purchasing data recovery software, especially if you are recovering data from user errors and not from serious software issues or hard drive failures. If the latter is your case, then you might need to consult a professional.