So let’s say that last week when the storms rolled through, your computer was plugged in and your hard drive was damaged. Or maybe your very old system finally died, taking those beloved family pictures with it. Perhaps a friend offered to remove a virus on your PC but reformatted the drive without backing up your information first. You never made a backup, or perhaps you have one but its several months old. Now you're very disappointed with yourself that you didn't do a recent, complete backup of all those important files. Do you have any recovery options?
Yes, in most cases there are options. They will be determined by how badly your hard drive or files are damaged and how much you are willing to pay. Before we examine how to retrieve your data, it would be helpful to first explain how the hard drive stores and erases data.
The hard drive is a small metal case with magnetic discs inside where your data is stored in sectors and tracks. When you delete a file on your computer, the file itself isn't destroyed. Instead, the markers telling the computer where that file is are changed from showing that space as “filled” to showing it “empty.” The computer then allows new information to be written there. The more times a file is written and erased in that space, the harder it becomes to recover the original file.
Remember how your friend reformatted your hard drive and didn't do that backup? Reformatting a hard drive marks the entire drive as “empty” but the information is usually still there. With the proper tools, it is often possible to retrieve the data despite the reformat.
In the case of a “zapped” or failing hard drive, if there's any "life" left to the drive, we may be able to extract some or all of your data. If our efforts are successful, your data can be back in your hands in no time. If we’re unsuccessful, you still have options.
We have partnered with Gillware Data Recovery to perform advanced data recovery. Located in Madison, WI, Gillware specializes in recovering data from even the most troubled hard drives. Gillware will perform an assessment of your drive and send you a list of the recovered files and the cost of recovery. Once you approve, they will perform the recovery and you get your files back. Pricing is dependent on the condition of the drive but there are no fees until you decide how to proceed.
So now that we've examined how to recover your data, let’s discuss proper disposal.
The average home user could drill a few holes in their hard drive and chuck it in the trash. Unless the drive contains work-related files or sensitive personal information, additional special steps to render it inaccessible aren't usually needed.
However, if you are a business or work with highly-confidential data, you will want to take extra precautions. First, what you don’t want to do is throw your computer or hard drive in the trash. Even a failing or newly reformatted hard drive can have data retrieved if it’s found by someone highly motivated to do so. Again, a simple reformat doesn't actually destroy the original data, it will just overwrite it.
There are several ways you can more permanently delete these files without physically destroying the hard drive; they usually involve several “formatting” passes be made and may include random data being written and erased. Yellowstone Computing uses DOD (Department of Defense) recommended procedures to erase hard drives as the first step in disposal. This will render the recovery of the data all but impossible without forensic recovery equipment, and even then, it is highly unlikely that anything useful can be saved. Once this process is complete the drive is taken to a local recycling facility where they are physically shredded.
Please note: This isn't meant to be an exhaustive description of all data recovery options or ways to dispose of a hard drive. This is simply an overview. If you are already the unfortunate owner of a failed hard drive and you want your data back, or if you wish for us to help you properly dispose of your data contact us, we're happy to help you!