I’d like to say before you read this I’m not a data recovery expert.. I don’t work for data recovery service, I am an IT person.. I figured I’d leave some tips here on what you can do to pull your stuff of a hard drive that won’t boot, and I’m also going to duly chastise you for not backing up in the first place.
That being said.
There are many different levels of file recovery, they extend from the “Oops I didn’t mean to delete a file” to the “Um.. I turn on my PC and I see a black screen or it tells me I have no Hard Drive.”
If you managed to delete a file:
This is going to sound silly, but check the recycle bin, if it’s not there and you are using some versions Windows Vista or Windows 7, you can right click on the folder the file was in and go the Previous Versions tab, this is a snapshot backup, and it only goes back so far. If you are using Windows XP, you can try NTFS Undelete, it’s an open source program made to recover files from an NTFS partition.
If your hard drive is making weird noises or you see a message when you turn on your PC that said something about a SMART error:
If you can still get into your hard drive you should back up immediately. Usually a noisy drive (meaning one that makes a loud clicking noise) is a sign the drive is failing, there is hope but not much. Drives are cheap, recovering your data from them is not.
If you are having the above problem and windows WON’T Boot.. you still have some options:
#1 Boot to a windows cd and enter recovery mode, it may ask you your administrator user password. at the console type “chkdsk -r” this will test it and in some cases repair file damage.
#2 Boot to a Linux recovery CD (like or) and plug up some kind of USB storage and get your stuff off asap. Some of these also include drive recovery utilities. Alternatively you can slave the hard drive in a known good PC and boot to that PC’s operating system and see if you can recovery data.
#3 If you are STILL having issues pulling off data, if it comes off garbled and unreadable, before you give up hope, give SpinRite a try. I’ve been able to use Spinrite a few times. Let it work on automatic, then give #2 a try again.
#4 Nothing worked? or maybe the pc doesn’t recognize the drive as a drive. If you data is super important, you have to take the drive to a data recovery place.. they will rebuild the drive at great expense to yourself, and upfront they will guarantee nothing.
The Chastise part.
You need to backup. It’s not expensive. You can purchase for very little an external hard drive or even a second hard drive to do so, there are also paid online backup from places like carbonite.com and mozy.com
The drive snapshotting in Vista and above are only good for you messing up a file on the drive, not the drive itself messing up.