How to Recover Data From an Overwritten Hard Drive

By Jerry Garner

When information is erased from a computer hard drive, it is not actually erased. Whether you are deleting a file from the recycle bin or formatting the drive, all of the information is still stored on the computer hard drive. Instead of being removed, what happens is that the information is no longer listed in the computer’s File Allocation Tables (FAT). This tells the computer that the space is available to be used for something else. When something new gets placed in that sector of the hard drive, it is referred to as being overwritten. Speaking from a technical perspective, it is not possible to recover data that has been overwritten, but you can restore information prior to that point. If you have lost files or information on your hard drive, read these simple steps to learn how to recover your data.

Evaluate different data recovery software packages. There are a large number of options in terms of hard disk recovery software. They have various prices, ranging from free to expensive, and some focus on a specific type of recovery, while others are more generalized. You can do an Internet search for “data recovery software” to find a good base of options to compare. Some of the more popular free data recovery products are “PC Inspector File Recovery” and “VirtualLab Data Recovery Software”.

Download and Install the data recovery software. After evaluating different options in Step 1, you will need to select one software option to pursue. Download the software package and run the installation file. Simply follow the instructions on your screen to install the software onto your computer. If this software provides an option to install the software onto a CD, and if you have a CD burner available, opt for this method to prevent inadvertently overwriting your data.

Use the data recovery software to restore the information on your hard drive. After the software has been installed, simply open the program and follow the directions on the screen to allow the software to restore your files and information. If the files have not been overwritten, they should be relisted in your computer’s File Allocation Tables. It will be as though they were never erased.

Make a backup copy of the recovered files in case they are ever deleted again. In fact, make complete system backups on a regular basis so that any information can be easily recovered or transferred to another computer in the event of an emergency.