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What Is File Recovery?The data on your hard drive or other media format is oftentimes recoverable even after the data has been removed from the storage device through deletion, corruption, or even formatting. While many computer users believe that once a file is gone, it's gone - this isn't always the case.
Two types of data recovery are possible: physical data recovery and logical data recovery. In the case of physically damaged storage devices such as hard drives that have been in a flood or hard drives that have failed due to a failed motor or some other mechanical problem, professional data recovery services are usually required.
Logical damage to a file system can occur for many reasons such as power outages and surges, unexpected shutdowns, computer crashes, and failing hardware. When logical damage occurs, the storage device's file system becomes inconsistent. For example, during an unexpected shutdown, information about a particular file that would normally get updated to the master file allocation table does not get written. Therefore, when you try to find the file, it no longer appears. It looks as if the file has disappeared.
Among the most common file systems are various versions of FAT and NTFS. While each has its particulars, file systems make data recovery possible. File systems create a master catalog or index of all of the files and folders on your computer which is accessed by the operating system and various programs to quickly and efficiently retrieve files. This index points to the location of the file on the hard drive so that the program or operating system knows exactly where to look to pull up the file. Without such a system, your computer would take forever to pull up files.
When the file system's master index or allocation table no longer contains information about a file's whereabouts, you can no longer see the file through traditional means. For example, if you were to look for a file in Windows Explorer, the file would be gone. If you were to follow an existing shortcut to the file, the shortcut wouldn't work. This doesn't mean that the file is no longer on your hard drive or storage device though. In fact, the file could very well be exactly where it was, completely intact. The only problem is that for some reason, it has disappeared from the file system's master index.
Most computer users are familiar with the Recycle Bin. When you delete a file, it is removed from the file system's index and placed in the Recycle Bin where it can be restored later. If you have emptied the Recycle Bin, the file is no longer present for restoration using this option. All references to the file have been removed from the file system's index. However, the file remains on your storage device and can be recovered using data recovery software.
Windows will treat the file as permanently deleted and will use the disk space the file is taking up when needed. For example, if you are installing a new program to your hard drive, the new program will be installed on the disk's "free space" which could very well be where your deleted file resides. Because of this, data recovery is best performed immediately. The longer you wait your chances for a successful recovery go down.
Data recovery is also possible for disks that have been reformatted because reformatting doesn't actually wipe the disk clean rather they replace the file system's master index with a blank one - the data remains yet is marked as "free space." This means that using the right tools, a user can retrieve data from a formatted disk.
In addition to data recovery for deleted files, damaged files, and formatted disks, data recovery is possible when a disk contains bad sectors. A hard disk is made up of numerous sectors and clusters. During a disk's lifespan, it's not unusual for a few sectors to go bad. When this happens, data may be lost though it may still be recoverable with data recovery software.
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