Recover Data from a Crashed Hard Drive

You backed up your data to your external hard drive, but the hard drive crashed, and now you’re out of luck? Don’t panic! You can use these tips to recover data from your crashed hard drive and get back all of your valuable information.

Don’t rush into things

When you suffer data loss, it’s natural to become upset and want your lost data back ASAP. However, rushing into things is rarely good for a successful recovery. If your computer crashed in November and you haven’t backed up your data since July, recovering those files will be difficult (to say nothing of irrelevant).

The more recent your last backup was, the higher chance that some or all of your lost data can be recovered. To recover hard drive data effectively, avoid getting ahead of yourself and let things play out as they may. Take time to relax and properly assess how much work it will take to recover any given file so that you don’t waste unnecessary time on efforts that won’t pay off in the end.

Instead, focus your energy on developing a game plan for recovery that has realistic goals attached.

Know what you need before you start recovering

Recovering data can be difficult and time-consuming, so make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for before you start digging through your hard drive. That way, you’ll avoid hunting around aimlessly, thinking you may have missed something. In addition to checking that all your work is backed up (and if it isn’t, do that now), make sure you know where important files are located and how they got there.

If it isn’t saved somewhere else on another disk or service like Dropbox or Google Drive, it won’t be as easy to recover if you lose your main hard drive. Knowing where your data is located will also help you more quickly recover things like passwords, since you won’t waste time combing through unrelated files.

For example, keep passwords stored in an encrypted spreadsheet instead of tacked onto one of your documents; also consider storing them in password management software. By keeping organized with these steps prior to losing a hard drive, you should speed up recovery and not miss anything important.

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Assess your situation

The first thing you should do is assess your situation and figure out if you have any options for recovering hard drive data. If your hard drive has been infected with viruses or spyware, you will probably not be able to recover it using software. The same goes for certain types of corrupted files—if some of your files have been modified in an incompatible way (for example, Windows programs modifying Apple-based Mac system files), then chances are that data recovery software won’t help much either. Basically, when something as basic as the filesystem doesn’t work anymore happens, it might mean that your computer may be beyond repair.

You can still try a data recovery service in that case; however, those services aren’t cheap. There are ways to recover hard drive data without paying for professional assistance. Let’s take a look at them below:

Prepare hard drive for data recovery

Recovering data from a crashed hard drive is something most people will never have to do. But it’s always good to be prepared. The worst thing you can do is try to copy your files onto another computer and delete them off of your crashed hard drive without first preparing it for data recovery.

Although there are many ways to do so, here’s how you would prepare an external hard drive with Mac OS X before copying over any files: Step 1: Boot into Recovery Mode. To do so, hold Command + R while restarting your system (in other words, hold down Command + R until you see text on screen).

At that point, select Disk Utility from the OS X Utilities menu and then click Continue. When prompted with Your startup disk appears to be damaged or missing, click on Repair Disk.

Recover files with free software

There are many services that will help you get your files back, but they’re not free. One of them is CrashPlan , which costs $60 per year for unlimited storage. If you’re going to be storing a lot of data on a hard drive or server, it might be worth your while to pay for these kinds of services so that you don’t lose everything in case something goes wrong.

You can also recover data yourself using tools such as Recuva . But do-it-yourself solutions generally aren’t as reliable as paid services, and again, even if you’re using paid tools and services, there’s always a chance some of your files won’t make it back.

Your best bet? Back up all your files regularly—ideally with more than one cloud service—and keep multiple copies in different places. This way, you’ll have better chances of recovering data when disasters strike. Photo by Sean MacEntee .

Recover files with paid services

Your best bet if you want to recover your files is to use one of several recovery services, each of which will do different things. The best option for file types that can’t be recovered by other methods is paid data-recovery services like RecoverMe and Kroll Ontrack. The latter even offers a money-back guarantee if it can’t get your files back for you. Both services are available online, but depending on where you are, it may make more sense to find local companies that offer these services as well.

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