Hard Disk DIY – How to Recover Your Hard Disk Data!


About 6 months back, I accidentally deleted all my files off one of my web servers.  What happened was that I tried to mount an old hard disk to my new web server but accidentally used the linux format command while following some instructions online.

Of course, it happened way too quickly and there was no way to recover my data easily because the old hard disk was also on the brink of failing, which was the reason why there was a new web server in the first place.

I am no novice to these happenings though, when I got my first 386-DX 25Mhz computer back in 1989, I promptly deleted the entire hard disk while playing with MS-DOS on the first day I got the computer.  (Btw, that’s how I got started with computers with the command “format”.  I’ve probably did more wrong things with a computer than most people, hence learned a lot.)

Nevermind my bad experiences with hard disks but let me show you some ways you can recover your lost data.

What actually happens when you delete data from your hard disk

When you actually delete files from your hard disk on your computer (regardless of operating system used), you are not actually “deleting” the data, the hard disk still contains data, just filenames pointing to the data are deleted.  In essence, a good hard disk hacker can easily retrieve your old data even if you delete them.  One way to permanently delete your files is to overwrite them with new data or use open-source software like DBAN to completely wipe out everything on your hard disk, including filesystem information.  DBAN also works great on Windows Vista/7 systems that have trouble with Windows XP installations.

FREE Open Source Hard Disk Recovery Solution

TestDisk is an open-source, free program you can use to recover your lost data, those specifically lost because you accidentally deleted them or formatted your hard drive.  TestDisk isn’t exactly easy to use and it’s highly recommended that you have some good computer skills before taking on the task yourself.  But TestDisk can be used under most operating systems including Windows, linux, and MacOS so it could be your life saver.  In my experience, TestDisk failed to recover my data plus it’s really slow.  If time isn’t your concern, it might work.

Recommended Hard Disk Recovery Solution for Windows users

If you are so computer-savvy and you want to recover data on Windows-based systems, you might want to give Restore Deleted Files program a chance before you take that classified hard disk to your local GeekSquad (who suck anyways).  The software costs $29.95 but you don’t have to pay for the software until you “find” your lost data. I think this might be a great solution for those of you who need to recover the data like today and don’t want to mess with the complexity of open-source.

Seriously though, open source hard disk recovery solutions are great but if you need that data like yesterday, Restore Deleted Files program might be the way to go.  If that doesn’t work, there’s also REMO Shredder, more expensive but might work better.

For Macs, try Data Rescue 3.

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