Rescue the data - or destroy the chances

It´s a cold shower when the computer freezes and you discover that you suddenly don´t have access to the data anymore. Naturally you try to restart the computer, but you get nowwhere, nothing can be reached on the hard drive. You may also hear an unknown, mechanical noise from inside the computer. God damn it!

Boot fail

It´s easy to panic in a situation like that and in desperation do things that are not very wise. If you do the wrong things with the crashed hard drive there is a clear chance that the data will be permanently and irreversably destroyed. We have seen many cases where the customer, some friend with "good knowledge of computers" or a regular computer technician have worsened or completely destroyed the chance of a succesful data recovery by manipulating with the crashed hard drive. To maximize the chances of a succesful data recovery you should always leave the hard disk to us as untouched as possible after the crash. Here are a few things you should - and a few things you shouldn´t do after the hard disk crash has occured.

First step: Look in bios if the hard drive comes up there.

This is the first thing you should check after the crasch if the computer cannot be started properly. If the hard drive still comes up in bios, correctly identified, and doesn´t sound bad, it´s a good sign. You should however leave the hard drive as it is and leave it to us before any more measures are taken. The more untouched you leave the hard drive to us after the crash, the bigger the chance is that we can perform a successful data recovery for you. If the hard drive is handled in the wrong way it can worsen the condition of it and make the whole operation more expensive and less successful in the end.

Alternative: Connect the hard drive as a slave on another computer or via USB interface.

To just check if the hard drive "comes up" is normally not dangerous. If the computer finds the hard drive, wheather it comes up with a drive letter or not, it´s a good sign. After that you should turn the power off and send it to us just as it is. Don´t experiment with it since the risk is very high that it will worsen the problem and that less data can be recovered in the end.

Warning! Do not run scandisk or checkdisk.

If you have a hard drive that you suddenly cannot access anything from you should avoid running checkdisk, scandisk or similar. It´s NOT a data recovery tool. These programs move data blocks on the hard drive which is the last thing you want if a data recovery is to be performed. The risk is very high that the data, instead of being restored, gets permanently destroyed and unrecoverable. Especially if the disk has physical problems it can be very fatal to use checkdisk or scandisk.

We have seen several depressing examples where usage of checkdisk after a hard drive crash have led to devastating results. One example was a professional documentary producer who got "help" by a computer technician after his hard disk crash. A check disk session was run on the whole hard drive in an attempt to rescue the data. The result was that the data was overwritten by worthless file fragments instead. In the end the producer lost the whole "final cut" of his film. If we had got access to the hard drive before checkdisk was run we could have recovered everything completely intact.

Do not run Disk Warrior on a mac disk.

To run Disk Warrior for data recovery purpose on a mac disk is the same thing as trying to recover data via checkdisk on a PC. The chance is bigger that you will permanently overwrite the data you want to recover rather than actually saving it. Never run Disk Warrior after a data loss on a mac disk.

Do not try to force data out of an "unwilling" hard drive.

In some cases you can still see folders and files after the hard drive has crashed, but they can´t be opened. Another scenario is that some folders and files can be openened while others cannot be accessed at all. The problem is very likely due to minor physical problems inside of the hard drive - bad sectors on the storage media. The bad sectors can be due to minor defects on one or more of the reading heads inside of the hard drive. They may have touched the magnetic surface of the data storage platters.

Just a few damaged key sectors can make the whole hard drive inaccessible. Don´t try to force anything out of it that it doesn´t want to release. Instead: turn it off and leave it to us as untouched as possible. The chance is very good that we can solve the problem for you and that you will get working folders and files back. If you are stubborn with the hard drive the damage will spread and that can destroy the chances of recovering important data instead of saving it.

Don´t experiment with do-it-yourself data recovery software.

If the hard drive is still running, but has a physical problem, scanning with data recovery software can worsen the problem dramatically. The number of bad sectors will multiply, which makes less folders and files recoverable in the end. You may be able to rescue some data, but lots of it may be destroyed permanently instead of being saved.

We have done experiments with the most popular do-it-yourself data recovery software that you can buy and download via Internet. The software has been used on moderately damaged hard drives with a limited number of bad sectors - hard drives from which we could have saved over 99,9 percent of the data from with our own professional methods. We did three scanning sessions on each disk and thereafter saved what the software managed to put together from the corrupted/damaged data partitions on the hard drives.


The typical result is that a little over 50 percent of the data can be recovered in working condition after the first scanning session on the hard drive. On the second scanning a little over 20 percent can be recovered and on the third run only about 10 percent. This is due to the increased number of damaged sectors that occurs during scanning. Each sector contains a block of data and if blocks are missing you simply can´t put files together in working condition anymore - no matter how good software you have. The total amount of scanning time with this method is usually about 5-10 hours on the first run and then longer and longer for each additional scan.