How can one recover data from a desktop or laptop PC?

Dependence on computers is clearly part and parcel of being a modern man. Yet, tending to place too much reliance on these devices, sooner or later we come up against the loss of critical files. Hardware malfunctions, software crashes, malware infections and casual human errors can make the crucial information stored in the internal memory of a PC or laptop inaccessible, corrupted or deleted from the drive. But, fortunately, in most situations, there are still ways to cope with the consequences of such a data disaster or at least minimize them.

In the main, the possibility of data recovery from the computer's internal storage is influenced by a number of factors:

The amount of time passed after the files went missing

The more actively this storage device has been used thereafter, the higher likelihood is that they were replaced by some other data and thus got permanently destroyed. In view of this, it is strongly recommended to terminate any activities with the storage except the ones targeted directly at data recovery.

The type of the affected storage

Files deleted from SSDs usually cannot be restored because of the TRIM command. It is activated by default in most modern drives and wipes their content for the purpose of improved performance and longevity of the device. Hard disk drives, on the other hand, are rather fragile and have a propensity to fail during the recovery procedure, especially when being mishandled. For this reason, special attention must be paid to their protection from hits and proper cooling.

The actual cause of data loss

File shredding or erasing utilities as well as low-level formatting carry out overwriting operations. By writing zeros or certain data patterns over the previously stored files, they generally leave no chances for the retrieval thereof. In other cases, the information usually remains on the drive until overwritten by the system, users or applications.

The presence of encryption

Encryption enabled on the drive normally doesn't prevent data recovery. However, at least one of the decryption options must be still available (encryption key, password, key file, etc.) and the area on the disk with critical decryption metadata must not be severely damaged. In the opposite case, the data remains encrypted and it is virtually impossible to retrieve any intact files.

The physical state of the drive

If the storage medium has any signs of physical failure, do-it-yourself data recovery usually makes no sense and may even lead to more serious damage to the data contained within the defective drive. These symptoms may include:

  • absence of recognition in BIOS;

  • extraordinary noises from an HDD;

  • Detection of the device in the OS with an incorrect size or name different from the one specified in the passport and many others.

Under such circumstances, it is advised to have the device handled by specialists in a professional data recovery center. However, if the drive has been affected by a logical failure, there are fair chances to restore the files using data recovery software, while the actual quality of the result will depend on the type of file system which manages the storage.

The type of logical volume the lost files were located in

Normally, the primary storage of a PC or laptop is divided into several partitions. They are intended to isolate the operating system and program files from user data. In some instances though, the OS, applications and user files get packed into a single partition without being separated. As a rule, a partition which serves the needs of the OS is subjected to constant writing even when the computer seems to stand idle, which carries a high risk of permanent destruction of the lost data. Considering this:

  • to recover files from the system partition, one should remove the drive from the tower and attach it to another computer as a secondary storage device, or run this PC from a bootable (live) USB drive, as described in the instruction accessed via the given link;

  • to recover data from a non-system partition, the same computer can be used for the procedure, provided that nothing will be saved/installed to the problem drive.

Recover data from a non-system partition using the same computer

SysDev Laboratories offers UFS Explorer and Recovery Explorer as reliable software solutions that have proved their efficiency in numerous instances of data loss, including ones related to non-system logical volumes controlled by Windows, macOS, Linux or UNIX/BSD. Different editions of the software are available to handle various particular storage technologies that may be applied on certain partitions. The programs perform in-depth analysis of the storage in a safe read-only mode, retrieve the missing data and enable its copying to a secure local or network location.

Hint: For detailed information about the supported file systems and additional storage technologies please refer to the product specifications and the storage technologies page.

In order to get the lost files back with the help of UFS Explorer Standard Recovery, take the following steps:

  1. Download and install UFS Explorer Standard Recovery to a partition that doesn’t contain the items you want to restore. Ensure that the version of the program corresponds to the operating system platform on which it will be employed.

    Hint: If you have any difficulties with the installation of the utility, please refer to the installation manual for UFS Explorer Standard Recovery.

  2. Prepare a storage to which you can copy the recovered data. This may be another partition of the internal drive, any portable device connected to the PC or a network location.

  3. Run the application and, if needed, adjust its settings in the respective pane.

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  4. Select the affected partition in the list that will appear in the left pane of the main screen. You may rely on the size, file system and other properties to choose the correct storage.

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  5. Launch the scanning procedure using the “Scan” button or the corresponding option in the storage context menu. The program automatically decides on the optimal parameters for a scan, yet, you may modify them in accordance with your needs.

    Hint: More information about configuring the scan can be found in the instruction on scanning a drive with UFS Explorer.

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  6. Press the “Start scan” button and wait for the software to finish off the procedure.

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  7. Explore the found files and folders. You may sort them by name, date, type, use the quick and advanced search options as well as preview them in the internal viewer. Select the items you want to copy.

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  8. Save the chosen data to another partition, external storage or a network folder. Please watch out that you don’t set the scanned partition as a target location.

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Hint: If you are going to save the recovered data to a network storage, please check the provided guide.

Last update: May 19, 2021

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