Performing data or file recovery from a hard drive on a PC requires a basic understanding of how disks are configured. If you understand where data has been lost from, the following will help increase the chances of successful data and file recovery.
Most often, a standard PC (or laptop) will have a single hard disk installed. This is often divided into partitions, typically a system drive partition and possibly one or more data partitions.
Data and File Recovery on System Drives and Data Partitions
Sometimes, there may be only one partition. This will be a system drive partition (often referred to as the boot drive). The user’s files and data will be stored in folders such as ‘My Documents’, ‘Desktop’, other user created folders, etc, on this drive partition.
Where the drive has been divided into more than one partition, the user’s files and data will typically be stored in user created folders on one of the data partitions. This keeps the user’s files separate from the system partition. However, it is still possible for user to store their files in ‘My Documents’ and ‘Desktop’ or any other user created folder on the system drive partition as well if that is where they, or an application, decided to save them.
On most home PCs and laptops the system drive partition is denoted as the C: drive. If present, data partitions are normally allocated different drive letters.
In order to maximise the chances of successful data and file recovery from a hard drive, it is crucial to verify if the drive on which you want to recover data or files is a system drive partition or a data partition.
A system drive typically contains the operating system such as Windows. It will also contain folders used by Windows such as Desktop and My Documents. A drive is also a system drive if it contains a page file. A system drive is also likely to contain major program and application files such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office (if installed), Outlook and Media Center etc. Because of this, what you do (or don’t do) next can be crucial to successful data and file recovery from such a drive.
Any disk activity on the drive partition from which data has been lost reduces the chances of successful data or file recovery.
Data and File Recovery on a System Drive
When looking to recover data or files on a hard drive system partition, you must take extra precautions to maintain the chances of successful data and file recovery. Not only must you not write any new files to the disk, but you must also ensure that neither does the operating system or any application such as Internet Explorer, email etc.
In the case of a system partition, you should now not open applications or programs as this also often causes lots of disk activity making it more difficult to recover data & files. You should also not close any applications or programs as this may cause files to be updated and saved to the disk. Any application that is still writing data to disk should be halted if possible, preferably still without actually closing it.
Do not shut down, close or reboot your PC. This may cause applications or Windows itself to save data by creating new files. This will potentially overwrite your deleted files and reduce your ability to recover the data or files. However, you do need to ensure that Windows or any other software (e.g. an antivirus program) is not set to automatically update, because this will cause files to be written to the disk.
If you need to recover data and files from a system partition on the same computer on which you are reading this page, do nothing further on this computer. Do not close this internet browser window.
Use another computer and visit www.GetDeletedFilesBack.com from there instead.
Using the other computer (i.e. not the one on which you want to recover data or files), download a hard disk recovery software program (see our advice on data and file recovery software and save it to a memory stick or CD/DVD. Insert the memory stick or CD/DVD into the original computer with the missing data and run the hard disk recovery software from there.
Only if you have absolutely no choice (i.e. no other computer is available), should you consider downloading and running hard disk recovery software onto the same computer from which you wish to recover data and files. If, in such a case, you need to perform data & file recovery on the system drive, it is better to download to, and run the hard disk recovery software from, a data partition if possible.
If you have no other computer available and it only has a single system drive, then your ‘easy’ options are limited. You will have to consider downloading to, and running hard disk recovery software on, the same drive from which you wish to recover data and files. For obvious reasons this is not advisable. However, unless you are prepared to remove your disk, buy and install a new system disk (i.e. buy a new disk and install Windows on it) and configure your old disk as a secondary ‘data’ disk, this may be your only option.
Data and File Recovery on a Data Partition
Alternatively, you may need to recover data and files from a data partition. This is a drive partition that only contains data and/or possibly program files.
In this case, to maintain the chances of successful data and file recovery from the hard drive, you only need to ensure that no applications will write any new files to the data partition concerned.
Therefore, do not open or close applications or programs that access, or make use of, data stored on the data partition. This may otherwise cause files to be updated and saved to the drive partition from which you wish to recover deleted data. Any application that is still writing data to the disk involved should be halted or paused if possible, preferably still without actually closing it.
Do not shut down, close or reboot your PC if this will cause any applications to save data to the data partition that you are hoping to recover data & files from.
You can now download a hard disk recovery software program (see our recommendeddata and file recovery software) and save it to the system drive, memory stick or CD/DVD or any data partition other than the one on which you want to recover the data and files.