Formatted Data Recovery Techniques

This article shows some standard formatted data recovery techniques to optimize your chances of retrieving lost files. This applies whether you’re using free or commercial tools.

Disk drives are normally formatted only as a last resort when you want to reinstall a faulty operating system or make the OS startup faster. Chances are there will be specific files you have forgotten to make duplicates of. Data recovery applications can often retrieve these files, but there is no guarantee of 100% success.

Here is the standard retrieval process:

  1. Download a suitable data recovery application (e.g. free tools like Undelete Plus or commercial products like Remo Undelete). Commercial tools generally have a better success rate in formatted data recovery due to the additional development work put into identifying lost clusters.
  2. Install your new software application onto a separate partition from the formatted disk. The reason for doing this is to make sure you do not overwrite your original lost data. It is worth therefore having a data recovery tool installed at all times in preparation for file retrieval when it is needed.
  3. Start the program. Many applications allow you to customize the type of search you do based on file age/extension/size/etc. This can be recommended on large capacity hard drives to accelerate the scan. Begin the scan.
  4. The scan report will detail what files it was able to find which you can review and then clone the appropriate documents onto a secondary disk/partition.

Files will be listed with system filenames rather than the original names you would’ve seen/set in Windows Explorer. This problem arises because the formatting process clears out the file allocation table which contains your original filenames.

Formatted data recovery no longer has the FAT available so simply uses the system filenames associated with the original clusters on hard drive memory. This should not be seen as a major setback as you can copy the files and then search through them for specific documents.

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