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Recover Lost Data and Deleted Partitions from NTFS Drives
Home Computers & Technology
By: James Clarke Email Article
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When you empty the Recycle Bin, Windows always gives you a warning stating that the files within will be gone for good if you go ahead. Similarly, if you format a drive or delete a hard drive partition, you will also receive a warning that any data stored on that drive or partition will also be permanently deleted. In other situations, people lose important files due to a hardware failure or an attack by malicious software. For example, solid-state drives have a limited number of read and write cycles, and while they are getting better all the time, they can still fail without any warning. Once again, you end up in a situation in which some or all of the original files stored on the device or software-defined partition are supposedly gone for good.

Introducing Data Recovery

When people think about data recovery, they normally think about restoring data from a backup, such as a secondary hard drive or online storage system. This is always preferable, and that's why every computer user should keep a copy of their important files on a separate storage device or, better yet, using a cloud-storage facility. However, what happens if you don't have an up-to-date backup of your files available? You might assume that they are gone for good. Fortunately, and despite the warnings, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, data is always recoverable provided that it hasn't been overwritten by another operation. Even then, a portion of the file will usually still be recoverable, which is undoubtedly better than nothing.

When you format a drive, delete a partition or empty the Recycle Bin, the only thing that changes is the master file table. In NTFS-formatted drives, this is a huge database that contains information about every directory and file on the partition or hard drive. When one file is deleted from the Recycle Bin, for example, its associated entry will be removed from that database. The space previously occupied by the file will then be marked as available to the operating system. Only once something else overwrites the original data completely will it be gone for good. Until that happens, however, there is a window of opportunity during which you should be able to recover the file intact. Sometimes, people have been able to recover data this way even months after deletion.

Due to the fact that any other operation can overwrite the original data at any time, it's important to attempt recovery as quickly as possible, without making any further modifications to the contents of the hard drive. NTFS Recovery Toolkit was designed to exploit this opportunity by scanning your drive for recoverable data. Using pre-defined file signatures, you can also search for files of specific types, which is useful given that the original filename and directory structure will no longer be there. The latest version adds even more file signatures to support formats like ONE, PUB, IBD, FRM, MYI, VDI and BCB. Its new Easy Recovery Mode also makes the process easier than ever before. The latest edition also sports updated versions of File Recovery and Partition Recovery.

James Clarke is a data-recovery specialist who routinely uses data-recovery software and partitioning programs to recover his clients' lost data.

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