What's New in Technology for April 2009

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Technology: Data Retrieval--Search and Recovery

Losing data doesn’t always spell disaster, but it can cause some big problems. If it hasn’t happened to you, odds are it will…sooner or later. We’ve probably all fallen prey to the disappearing file syndrome—when the file we know –without a doubt—that we saved seems to have disappeared into some PC-generated black hole. Other times, the hard drive seems to be the culprit.

There is good recovery software available to help find and restore lost files and data. But often, what you do first when the problem occurs determines the final outcome. You can significantly improve the odds of finding your data, if you follow the steps below. Bear in mind that the retrieved material may have been “mangled” a little –your formatting may have been jettisoned, or the top of your photos might be lopped off—but it will be a lot better than re-doing or inputting the material.

  1. Don’t make a bad problem worse. Don’t overwrite the lost files by downloading or installing anything to the same drive (probably your C: drive). If you do anything that overwrites your lost data, it is gone for ever, and no PC guru can help retrieve it.
  2. Take no chances. The hard drive may be in trouble and may have the potential to corrupt other files. A back-up inadvertently might carry the problem into new territory and damage more files. Turn off any automatic defrag programs and disk repair utilities. If you need to back up the data stored on the PC, send it to another media.
  3. Get a USB (16GB) flash drive or a second PC to run the recovery software—one which you can link via a USB flash drive to the problem PC. If these options are not practical, buy recovery software designed to be used from its installation CD. You’ll also use the second hard drive (USB flash drive or another PC) as a safe place to put recovered files. If the original hard drive is damaged or failing you don’t want to put the data back in jeopardy.

Now, you’re in good shape to run retrieval software. There are plenty of choices out there. Some are free, but these options can be less intuitive and less effective than some of the options that may be purchased. Free programs include:

The free programs are definitely worth checking out. Other software options will cost anywhere from around $30.00 to over $100.00. One of the costlier options, File Recovery for Windows from Seagate (, retails for $129.00. It is considered to be an effective solution that can be used on a range of operating systems, and it is capable of addressing data loss caused by common hard drive problems. You can try a simplified version of the product before you buy the real thing. A new product, File Recover 7 from PC Tools,, priced at a more modest $29.95 also gives you a trial version to try before you buy.

Perhaps the easier problems to solve are those involving formatting errors or mistakenly accessing the wrong partition or section of a drive. The trickiest are the result of hard drive problems. These can wipe out a lot of data quickly. An ounce of prevention still beats a pound of cure, and a daily backup routine can prevent the need for file retrieval efforts and major disruptions to productivity.


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