I have built the company
up through hard work, long hours and the highest possible success rates
in Raid , Hard drives and Solid State data recovery including flash memory
The training of now
20 staff in an operation which serves many of the data recovery operations
in the UK and now more worldwide and has seen us grow into the largest
independent data recovery lab in the UK.
I am also a consultant to
the largest data recovery company in Japan
I plan to expand the operation
still further in 2009 and have taken on additional offices and a newly
commissioned faraday caged room to expand our forensics operations
now that the lab has established itself as one of the best.
The new site will be www.silent-witness.co.uk
and is geared to provide forensic investigators with the best data recovery
operations available at an affordable price.
I have recruited the best
staff from some of the well known operations listed on your site and am
gradually developing the online marketing hence my enquiry.
You've accidentally deleted or lost a file. Here's how you can recover
This can be the most annoying kind of data loss, simply because the
file has usually been deleted because of user error. The important thing
here, as with any kind of data recovery, is to keep calm, and think
about what you're doing. Act rashly and you make it harder to recover
The first place you should look after deleting a file is the Recycle
Bin. It may seem a little obvious, but this back-up facility can be
overlooked. If your file is in there, right-click it and select Restore
from the menu. Of course, the Recycle Bin doesn't catch every file deletion,
with files that have been deleted in DOS being a particular oversight.
There are utilities that will cover this inadequacy, but if you're in
DOS, then merely knowing that a deletion could be permanent should have
you in the right frame of mind.
An option you have at your disposal is to use an Undelete utility. To
understand how these work, it helps if you have a little background
knowledge of what happens when you delete a file. Windows stores file
data in clusters, with the size of those clusters being determined by
the type of file allocation table (FAT) you've set up to use. The FAT
stores the links between clusters, which when connected together, make
up each file. Some of the most basic file errors occur when this file
becomes corrupt, and simple utilities such as ScanDisk can usually piece
together the file.
When it comes to file deletion, the important thing to realise is that
the file isn't actually removed from your hard drive. All that happens
is that the files directory location is changed so that it points at
the Recycle Bin instead. The data clusters for the file aren't changed
at all. You may think that this information is deleted when you empty
the Recycle Bin, or when you bypass the Recycle Bin. But again, the
actual data in the clusters is left intact, only this time the entry
for the file in the FAT is updated so that those clusters are now free
to be used and the first character of the file name is changed to reflect
A Quick Recovery
Programs that can recover these files do so by searching through the
FAT for entries that have been flagged, and also by scanning the hard
drive for clusters that look like they may be files. The most basic
of these programs used to be part of the Microsoft OS, namely the Undelete.exe,
but since the introduction of the Recycle Bin, Microsoft has stopped
supplying the program. There are loads of utilities out there that will
perform a similar function under more recent versions of Windows.
Data recovery is the process of salvaging data from damaged, failed,
corrupted or inaccessible primary storage media when it cannot be accessed
normally. Often the data are being salvaged from storage media formats
such as hard disk drive, storage tapes, CDs, DVDs, RAID, and other electronics.
This can be due to physical damage to the storage device or logical
damage to the file system that prevents it from being mounted by the
host operating system. Although there is some confusion as to the term,
data recovery can also be the process of retrieving and securing deleted
information from a storage media for forensic purposes or spying.
A wide variety of failures can cause physical damage to storage media.
CD-ROMs can have their metallic substrate or dye layer scratched off;
hard disks can suffer any of several mechanical failures, such as head
crashes and failed motors; tapes can simply break. Physical damage always
causes at least some data loss, and in many cases the logical structures
of the file system are damaged as well. This causes logical damage that
must be dealt with before any files can be salvaged from the failed
Most physical damage cannot be repaired by end users. For example,
opening a hard disk in a normal environment can allow dust to settle
on the surface, causing further damage to the platters and complicating
the recovery process. Furthermore, end users generally do not have the
hardware or technical expertise required to make these repairs; therefore,
costly data recovery companies are consulted to salvage the data. These
firms often use Class 100 cleanroom facilities to protect the media
while repairs are being made.
How to rescue your files when you can't even get into Windows.
You may find that you turn on your machine and it crashes - it just
won't go into Windows. If you're lucky you'll be able to pop into Safe
mode and back up your files from there, but occasionally you won't even
be able to do that.
There's no denying that your options for moving files around are a lot
more limited in DOS. It's very rare for external drives to come with
DOS drivers, and it's even rarer for you to have those drivers to hand
- and you can't go on the Internet to download those drivers once your
machine refuses to boot. If you do have an external drive, it's worth
checking now to see if there are any DOS drivers for the device on the
developer's Web site. Iomega, for instance, has a large selection of
drivers for its drives; if you have an Iomega device, then backing up
should be pretty painless in DOS.
If you only have a CD-RW drive, then the chances of being able to use
it in DOS crises are pretty thin - even if you find drivers, there's
not much software out there to make use of it. Most heavy duty back-up
devices come with their own DOS drivers, so you should be safe there
- as long as you know where the drivers are.
If you've partitioned your drive, or if you have more than one hard
drive in your machine, then the easiest way out of this situation is
to use DOS Navigator to copy files from one logical drive to another.
As long as you don't have a physical problem with your hard drive, the
move will be safe from any formatting you need to do on your main drive.
The one device that everyone should have access to for backing up data
is the humble floppy drive. It may not be impressive on the capacity
front these days, but it's universally supported in every operating
system, including DOS.
File corruption and data loss often occur when it's least expected
-- as a result of a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster. Yet
even if business plans, financial spreadsheets or important emails are
"lost" or appear to be "gone," they are most likely
recoverable if the appropriate steps are taken from the outset. Ontrack
Data Recovery™ operates data recovery labs equipped with cleanrooms
to recapture data that has been corrupted or seemingly destroyed due
to natural disasters like hurricanes.
Rain and seawater harm the data stored on hard disk drives, tapes and
other storage devices in two primary ways. First, they cause electrical
damage, which makes data inaccessible to the user. Secondly, when computer
media is submerged in water, water may leak through the protective seal
of the hard drive, spreading dirt and other contaminants onto the storage
When users find their computers submerged in water or buried under
rubble, their first course of action should be to contact Ontrack Data
Recovery (1-800-872-2599). The following tips provide the best chance
for successful recoveries:
Never assume that data is unrecoverable, no matter what it has been
Do not attempt to power up visibly damaged devices
Do not shake or disassemble any hard drive or server that has been
damaged - improper handling can make recovery operations more difficult
which can lead to valuable information being permanently lost
Do not attempt to clean or dry water-logged drive or other media
Before storing or shipping wet media, it should be placed in a container
that will keep it damp and protect shipping material from getting
wet. Wet boxes can break apart during transit causing further damage
to the drive
Do not use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged
For mission critical situations, contact Ontrack before any attempts
are made to reconfigure, reinstall or reformat
When shipping your hard drives, tapes or other removable media to
Ontrack, package them in a box (we suggest a box twice the size of
your media) that has enough room for both the media and some type
of packing material that allows for NO movement. If the media can
slide around at all, it is not ready to ship. The box should also
have sufficient barrier room around the inside edges to absorb any
impacts the box will take
If you have multiple drives, tapes or other removable media that
need recovery, ship them in separate boxes or make sure they are separated
enough with packing material so there will be no contact.
You may be a little anxious as you turn your machine back on - it crashed,
forcing you to perform a cold reboot. Maybe the power went down, maybe
you kicked the power cable; whatever the reason, you could now be facing
one of the most heart-stopping experiences your computer can offer:
it doesn't recognise the hard drive. One you've checked that the hard
drives are automatically detected in the BIOS, you're faced with the
thorny problem of getting all of your data off the drive before having
to re-partition it and re-install Windows.
Things may look pretty bleak, but you actually have a number of options.
Your first is to use the Emergency Boot Disk. Slide this into your floppy
drive and reboot; if you're lucky you should be able to change directory
to your hard drive. If you can see it this way, then it appears that
your main drive's Master Boot Record has been damaged - something that
can be rectified by typing fdisk /mbr. Your data is safe as it is, although
it's a good idea to back up your data once you reload Windows.
There are a few reasons that you may have lost your MBR, and if your
system didn't crash, then there's a chance that a virus has infected
your machine. Use the boot disk that comes with your virus protection
program to give your system a clean bill of health before continuing.
If you have a virus, it's worth bearing in mind that all removable media
that has come into contact with your machine has probably been infected,
and this includes any backups you may have made. It's a good idea to
perform several scans of your system after you've discovered a virus
to make sure that you don't get infected again.
If you've been sensible enough to save your data files on to a separate
partition, then don't forget that you can access that data even if you
can't see the main drive. When you boot from the Startup disk, just
check that the data partition is visible; unless you're using some form
of proprietary drive format or compression system, you don't need to
boot from your main hard drive first. It's a good idea to make a backup
of your most important data, using floppies if necessary, while you
investigate the cause of the partition failure. It could be a problem
that spreads later, so exercise caution.
Solving your problem is a little more complicated if you can't see any
of your partitions, although all is not lost just yet. There are tools
that can be used to recover data that has become inaccessible due to
a hard-drive failure. For these tools to be useful, your drive needs
to be mechanically operational, so the first thing to check is that
your hard drive is rotating and that the problem is down to a power-supply
problem (try the drive in another machine to make sure). You can tell
whether a drive is spinning up properly by carefully holding the non-electronic
side of the case as the drive boots up. You should be able to pick up
the subtle vibrations as the platter spins.
If you don't think the drive is spinning up properly, or it's significantly
louder than normal, then the drive heads may have impacted with the
platters. Further use could cause more damage, especially if the platter
has been broken or warped. You'll need to use a data-recovery specialist,
such as Ontrack, to recover the data. This is a costly way of recovering
data, and is only financially viable if the missing data would take
weeks - if not months - to recreate.
Tools of the Trade
Once you're sure the drive isn't mechanically damaged, or the prohibitive
cost of professional recovery leaves you with nothing to lose, you can
start looking at low-level utilities. These tools read the hard-drive's
contents beneath the normal file-system level, thus they don't need
a working MBR or FAT for you to be able to examine the hard drive. There
are a multitude of tools out there that enable you to look at your hard
drive in this way, with Norton Utilities probably being the best known,
and Ontrack's EasyRecovery being one of the most professional.
Ant infestations, oil saturation, and failed parachute jumps
are some of the unusual fates that have befallen innocent data-storage
devices recently, according to data-recovery company Kroll Ontrack's
list of the most unusual recovery jobs it has faced in the last year.
This year the company has seen more damaged portable devices than
ever before. Strange ways of damaging
hardware in the company's top 10 countdown this year include:
* A customer who told engineers she had "washed away all
her data" after putting a USB stick through a cycle in her washing
* A father who, while feeding his baby daughter, forgot about
the USB stick in his top pocket. As he leaned over her high chair, the
device fell into a dish of apple puree.
* A fisherman took his laptop in his rowboat. Both he and the
laptop went overboard, taking all his data to the bottom of a lake.
* One wedding photographer overwrote the photos of one wedding
with those of another event, and needed to escape the wrath of the newlyweds.
* During an experiment, a scientist spilled acid on an external
hard drive, burning away his important data.
* In the middle of an argument, a businessman threw a USB stick
at his partner, with the device ending up in several pieces on the floor.
Unfortunately it contained valuable company plans.
* A fire destroyed an office, sparing only a few CDs which had
melted to the inside of their cases.
* A scientist was fed up with his hard drive squeaking, so he
drilled a hole through the casing and poured in oil, stopping both the
squeaking and the hard drive.
* To test the functionality of a parachute, a camera was dropped
from a plane. The parachute failed and the camera shattered into several
pieces, but the device's memory stick was reassembled and the footage
* After discovering ants had taken up residence in his external
hard drive, a photographer took the cover off and sprayed the interior
with insect repellent. The ants were killed off and the data was eventually
All the data on the compromised hardware was recovered, the company
MILWAUKEE — As flood waters filled their basement, Larry and Nancy
MacLennan hastily moved their computer to the first floor before evacuating.
But the water continued to rise, eventually filling most of the two-story
house and submerging the computer for hours.
For the next several days the family worried about the damage to their
Minnesota City, Minn., house. When they remembered that the computer
held thousands of photos, including some about 70 years old, the MacLennans
feared those precious files were lost forever. But their daughter, 35-year-old
Jenna MacLennan, had heard that data-recovery firms now sometimes find
data on extremely damaged hard drives. Within days, engineers had recovered
all the MacLennans' files.
"We were extremely happy about that," said Jenna MacLennan, an account
manager for an electronic-equipment manufacturer. "With the water, the
mud, everything, we just didn't know what kind of corrosion or damage
might have occurred."
Hard drives typically fail when mechanical parts wear out, but the
drives tend to be remarkably resilient to external elements such as
flood water, said Richard M. Smith, an Internet security and privacy
consultant at Boston Software Forensics. "If you look at a hard drive,
it's hermetically sealed," Smith said. "In most cases water wouldn't
get into the drive itself."
Though flash memory is hardier and stores data longer than conventional
magnetic platters, it is possible that you could be one of the unfortunately
few with a corrupted thumbdrive.
Windows operating system do not come with data recovery software. The
best it can do is to try to fix the flash drive but, in the process,
could result in data loss in corrupted areas. You can try freeware data
recovery software like FreeUndelete
which will read your data bit by bit and try to retrieve the lost information.
In data recovery discussions with senior IT executives, an oft-repeated
refrain is about the difficulty in obtaining an accurate picture of
their organizations' ability to recover key applications and transact
business in the event of a significant outage. They want to have confidence
that critical data is recoverable, and they are looking for metrics
that demonstrate that recoverability.
The reality is that IT infrastructures have become sufficiently complex
that it's a challenge to peel through the layers of abstraction and
aggregate the various components that in combination determine the recoverability
of an application. Instead we tend to attempt to ascertain the health
of each individual component under the hope that the overall recoverability
is equal to the sum of the parts.
This isn't necessarily the case. First, there can be lots of moving
parts that enter into recoverability for a complex application, and
accounting for them all is difficult. More importantly, the synchronization
among these elements presents a significant roadblock to successful
This consistency issue is usually well understood at a system level,
but it's often overlooked when dealing with cross-platform business
functions consisting of multiple application components. The fact that
underlying databases are copied or backed up at different times can
add hours and days to recovery as discrepancies among them are reconciled.
Compounding the problem is that in some situations, interdependent
systems may be prioritized differently in terms of criticality, leading
to entirely different protection profiles being applied.
Eight years ago, most IT organizations’ ideas of affordable remote
disaster recovery (DR) would have consisted of tape backups stored off-site
and the potential use of a third-party col- location facility in the
event remote system recovery from tape was needed. While still one of
the most affordable options today, this method for remote DR comes with
trade-offs: primarily, a gap of several hours to several days in both
time to recover and the amount of data lost since the last backup to
tape. Back in the “old days,” only the upper echelon of enterprises-
such as many companies in the financial and insurance sectors-could
justify their investments in expensive frame-to-frame remote replication
technologies from vendors such as EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, and IBM
that could satisfy their very short recovery time objective (RTO) and
recovery point objective (RPO) requirements.
Today, a different story has emerged. Although it is still a significant
investment for any company, remote replication to an off-site disaster-recovery
facility has become more of a de facto practice among a growing number
of enterprises and midrange companies, due in large part to a mix of
technologies that are driving down the cost required to replicate and
restore data off-site. From data de-duplication and wide area data services
(WDS) to server and storage virtualization, remote DR has begun to come
into its own.
My keyboard is pretty nasty. It just accumulates dirt. About a year
ago, I made a new rule for myself: No eating at my desk. That helped
a little, but my keyboard still looks like a fraternity house
after homecoming weekend. So I was excited to see this news on the Internet:
Most keyboards are dishwasher safe.
Scott Moschella describes
how he ran his keyboard through the dishwasher. He was advised not to
use the heated drying cycle, but got the advice too late. After running
the keyboard through the dishwasher, he says, it looked like it would
work fine. And people commenting on the post say they do it all the
time, and it works great.
Scott says he popped the keys off the keyboard after washing, to facilitate
drying. He took a picture of the keyboard beforehand so he'd know where
the keys go. Other keyboard-washers say they don't bother, they just
leave the keys on.
Boing Boing picked
up the post, and their readers added their own comments, including
a story about an electronics factory that routinely runs parts through
Boing Boing reader Erik V. Olson recommends turning off the heated
drying to avoid warping the plastic, and taking the keys off beforehand.
Put the keys in the silverware basket, Olsen says. Give the keyboard
a good shake to remove standing water right after you take it out of
In doing some research recently on the problems associated with recovering
data from old tapes, I found out that a similar set of problems exist
when trying to recover data stored on old disks. This problem becomes
especially pronounced if a company unplugs an old disk drive and puts
it on the shelf or keeps it in production too long. The problem that
companies are more likely to encounter when storing a disk drive on
the shelf is not necessarily data degradation on the disk drive platter
but mechanical failures of the parts within the disk drive itself. Greg
Schulz, the lead analyst with Minneapolis-based StorageIO, finds that
the lubricants of the mechanical parts within the disk drive can settle.
This can cause the disk drive to malfunction when the company attempts
power it up again for the first time in a long time. Jim Reinert, VP
of disaster recovery for Kroll Ontrack, a worldwide provider of data
recovery services, says that the largest problem Kroll encounters with
trying to recover data from old disk drives is repairing and replacing
defective mechanical parts inside the disk drive. Motors failing and
electronic circuit boards going bad are just some of the components
Kroll has had to repair before it can recover the data from the drive.
This situation requires Kroll to find an exact match for the defective
part, usually on the used market. Of course, mechanical problems can
also occur while the computer system is still in use. Reinert finds
that some of the toughest data to recover is found on older, proprietary
computer systems that are in use but break. Typically found in manufacturing
and production environments, these are older computer systems that control
a piece of equipment that everyone uses but no one manages. As a result,
the data is not backed up nor does anyone know who created the application
or how it runs.
It's amazing how fast a single keystroke or mouse click can change
your life. One false move, and bang! An hour's, day's, or even lifetime's
work can slip away into digital oblivion. But not everything that disappears
is lost forever. These tips will help you retrieve the seemingly irretrievable:
from files long ago removed from the Recycle Bin, to hard drives you
pronounced dead in years past, to text messages zapped from your cell
phone's SIM card. Get it back, Loretta!
Recover a missing or deleted file: The
file was there just a second ago--you'd swear to it! Before you panic
and start shopping for a file-recovery program, make sure that you don't
make things worse. If you're certain that you deleted the file, refrain
from running any software designed to save files to the hard drive,
a USB flash drive, or a memory card that the files was stored on; doing
so may overwrite recoverable data.
Begin by checking the obvious. If the file isn't in XP's Recycle Bin,
click Start, Search and use Windows' 'When was it modified?'
option (if you don't see this option, click View, Explorer Bar, Search
and in the left pane select All files and folders). In Vista,
choose Start, Search, click the down arrow to the right of Advanced
Search, and select Date modified in the Date dropdown menu on
the left. Look for any recently created, altered, or renamed files.
If you find the one you're looking for, save it onto at least two different
But what if you've accidentally reformatted a drive, for example? For
situations where you need extra data recovery horsepower, QueTek's $49
File Scavenger offers many
of the recovery capabilities of far more expensive programs. Meanwhile,
Kroll Ontrack's $500 Easy Recovery
Professional is the Cadillac of data recovery programs; it comes
with Ontrack's high-powered data recovery tools and a suite of file
repair utilities. Though it's too expensive for most individuals, it's
not a bad investment for a small business or for a midsize company's
IT department. Beware the fine print for Ontrack's stripped-down, $89
Easy Recovery Lite version, however; it allows you to recover only 25
files at a time--a major inconvenience if you have lots of data to recover.
Recover files from a dead or dying hard drive:
Strange noises or an outburst of corrupted-file messages could very
well portend the imminent failure of your hard drive. Copy important
files to another drive or to a removable medium immediately. If you
can't access some files that you simply must have, you may have to turn
to an expensive data-recovery service such as DriveSavers.
If you'd like to take a crack at restoring the files yourself (a much
iffier proposition), watch our video, "How
to Resurrect a Crashed Hard Drive".
If you haven’t experienced the heartache that is losing thousands of
photos, hundreds of Outlook contacts, or a database full of sales figures,
you probably know someone who has. An unfortunate reality of living
in a digitally driven world is that eventually a mechanical malfunction,
human error, or unforeseeable disaster will cause you to lose some or
all the data in your notebook’s hard drive or the memory in your smartphone,
PDA, MP3 player, or USB flash drive.
Still, with each form of disaster comes a period of recovery. Where
digital data is concerned, the recovery process offers more hope than
you may believe, especially if you exercise some common-sense measures
immediately upon encountering a data-loss situation. Even if your attempts
to retrieve lost files by reviving a dead hard drive or mobile device
prove fruitless, there’s a fair chance that a professional data-recovery
service can pull the data back from the dead.
The following offers some guidance for recovering data.
What Could Go Wrong? A lot, actually. In addition to a mechanical error
zapping data from a notebook’s hard drive or mobile device’s memory,
corrupt software; viruses; and water, fire, electrostatic discharges,
drops, and other physical damage can wreak havoc on data. Further, your
reaction to such situations potentially plays a huge role in the possibility
of recovering that data. Jeff Peterson, manager of data recovery at
Ontrack Data Recovery, a company specializing in data retrieval, says
about 75% of its customers perceive that a hardware- or system-related
problem caused their data loss. “What we actually find . . . is that
number is much lower...
ABC 24/7 Data Recovery
- Live Support - Offers free evaluation and nationwide affordable
data recovery services for business and personal desktops, laptops,
hard drives, CDs and diskettes.
ACS Data Recovery - Provides
hard drive data recovery services to clients worldwide. Specializing
in complex RAID arrays. No evaluation fees.
Adaptive Research and
Design - Data recovery from crashes, viruses, electrical surges,
and sabotage, on hard and floppy drives under any operating system.
ADR Data Recovery
- Services include recovery of deleted data files, hard drive repair
and recovery, tape conversion and electronic evidence discovery for
business, government and law firms.
Adroit Data Recovery Centre - Recovers
data from failed RAID server and hard disk drives with data recovery
centre in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. Also services customers from
Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Hong Kong.
Capital Data Recovery
Inc. - Certified and fully equipped data recovery Lab providing
computer data recovery, data destruction services. Headquarters is in
Ottawa with labs in different parts of Canada.
Data Recovery Clinic
- Extensive experience in emergency data recovery including mechanical
failure, natural disaster, viral infection, file corruption, human error,
and sabotage from all operating environments. Special forensic, SQL,
and RAID units.
Data Recovery Console
- Offer logical data recovery service in UK for all hard disks drives
(IDE and SATA), diskettes, memory sticks and flash cards on a no-fix
LWG Data Recovery -
Offers data recovery services for businesses and professional Firms.
Mark's Data Recovery
- No charge if data is not recovered. Services hard drive, flash media,
CD/DVD, floppy and zip disk.
MDS Disk Service - Data
recovery for crashed hard disk drives and other magnetic media.
Micro Com LLC - Delivers
emergency data recovery service from inaccessible computer storage device.
Also provides forensic data recovery investigations and expert witness
Micro-Surgeon - Data recovery
service and forensic discovery services. Located in Northern New Jersey.
Midwest Data Recovery
- Provides services for RAID systems and servers, desktops, laptops,
tape cartridges, flash cards, and removable media devices. Contains
a listing of services, shipping instructions, and policies. Located
in Niles, Illinois, United States.
MjM Data Recovery Ltd
- Offer recovery from hard drives, tapes and other media. Various operating
systems covered. Based in Hertfordshire, UK.