We Know: Data Recovery: What you can do if your hard disk fails

Backup Systems

In the best case scenario, you have a complete backup of your entire hard drive and all you need to do is swap out the dead hard drive for a new one, then reinstall the backup files.

Assuming the above is not possible because you don't have a complete backup, the following will give you options that may work to recover some or all of your data on the failed hard drive.

What causes a hard drive to fail?

There are many reasons, and each reason may have a different solution or fix. Sometimes, data on a hard drive is unrecoverable, or some of the files are corrupted, but often a partial or full recovery of the hard disk's data is possible.

Because it's often not possible to know the cause of the hard drive failure, different methods to recover the data are tried one by one.

Recovery Methods for a Failed Hard Drive

Assuming that the failed hard drive contains the computer's Operating System software, try the following one step at a time until you recover the data or conclude that the data is irretrievable:

  1. Emergency Boot Disk. Try booting up with an emergency boot disk floppy.
  2. Bypass the Operating System. If the failed hard drive is the drive that contains the Operating System, you should move it to another computer using the same Operating System and set the damaged drive as the slave drive. This alone may allow you to access the damaged drive and copy the files you want to the good drive.
  3. Try a file recovery utility. There are several on the market, including PC Inspector File Recovery, which is freeware and is highly rated. Install this or another utility on the working hard drive and follow the instructions as it attempts to recover data off your failed hard drive.
  4. Contact a professional data recovery specialist. These companies have sophisticated hardware and software to recover data from failed hard drives. They use commercially available equipment but in some cases they also use proprietary tools that aren't available to the general public. Data recovery specialists charge a lot of money for their services but usually don't guarantee success. Use them as a last resort for the most valuable of data that must be recovered if possible.

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