Damaged Hard Drive Data Recovery

by John Hewitt

Recovering data from damaged hard drives is not nearly as difficult as many believe. Corrupted files can be recovered and read with proper procedures. Mechanically damaged hard drives can have their data read by specialized machines owned by data recovery companies. Even hard drives badly damaged in fires or other accidents can have their data recovered with surprising accuracy. Often, software-based data recovery is possible.


Most data loss crises are caused by inadvertent user error. Before springing for expensive data recovery service, it's a good idea to make sure that the missing data is not simply misplaced, renamed or conventionally deleted. Run a thorough system search for the files in question by looking for the file name, file type or text likely included in the file itself. Use a utility like Undelete from Diskeeper to make sure that the files in question were not deleted ordinarily.


The next step is to determine whether or not your hard drive has incurred physical damage. If you hear strange noises coming from your hard drive, that's generally a sign of significant damage, and you should quickly back up the rest of your data. Most of the time, however, hard drive damage is not so easy to spot. Use a disk-scanning utility like the one that comes with your operating system to find damaged sectors. If more than 3 to 5% of your disk is made up of bad sectors, it's likely that it's failing, and that the damage to the drive is related to a hardware problem.


The other common cause of data loss is a virus. Before you attempt data recovery, conduct a thorough virus scan. In most cases, a data recovery software package like the one linked in the references will be sufficient to recovering lost or corrupted files that have been caused by a virus. Removing spyware and other malware can also help to prevent data loss and corruption.


Severe physical hard drive damage requires professional recovery service in order to get the data back. Determine how much you are willing to spend to get your files back, depending on the extent of the damage, the cost may be quite expensive. However, the art and science of data recovery has advanced to the point that it is quite possible to accomplish full recovery of almost all data regardless of how severe the damage is. Most manufacturers have special deals for data recovery if your computer is still covered by the warranty. Contact your manufacturer for more information about their data recovery program.


Unfortunately, data recovery in situations that involve significant physical drive damage require specialized equipment, a sterile laboratory environment and significant engineering expertise. You may be able to find deals on data recovery by contacting forensic data recovery specialists-people who perform most of their work for small clients involved in court cases. These technicians generally operate at a smaller scale that is more amenable to consumer data recovery needs.

About the Author

John Hewitt began freelancing in 2008, writing about subjects ranging from music to stock trading, the energy industry and business. His ghostwritten work has appeared all over the Web. He attended New York University, pursuing a bachelor's degree in history.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera memespring, Flickr