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What are the Best Tips for File Recovery?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 17, 2024
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If your computer crashes because of viruses or hard disk errors, or if you accidentally delete something, you may find yourself researching file recovery. The good news is that your files are still on your hard disk, USB flash drive, or whatever you used to store them. The bad news is that there are things you can do that can make your files more difficult to recover. In some cases you can render them unrecoverable. To help ensure your file recovery success it is wise to refrain from writing new data to the disk, to make a disk image and, in some cases, to consult a professional.

If you need to recover files on any storage device, do not write or save new data to that device. This includes installing new software. If you write new information to the drive or device, you may be writing over the desired data. The more you overwrite information, the less likely file recovery will work. Until you get your data off of the device use a different drive or storage option to store new information.

When trying file recovery, it is a good idea to create a raw disk image. Unlike its name implies a disk image is not a literal picture of the drive. Rather, it is a single file that contains a copy of all the information and data on the drive. Once you create an image, work to recover your data from that image. That way, if something happens and the image data is destroyed or corrupted, you can simply go back to the original drive, take another image, and attempt file recovery again.

The files you are able to recover need to be saved so you do not lose them. Do not save the recovered files on the same disk you are trying to recover. Saving data back to the drive can damage the very files you are trying to regain. It can also destroy the links for other files you may want to recover. It is best to use a separate disk or device until you have recovered everything you need to recover.

Those who are new to file recovery should contact a professional. While there is software on the market that can help you recover your lost data, you may wind up accidentally harming your drive or recovering unwanted files. A professional can be especially helpful if your computer crashed because of viruses. Just like your files, viruses in a crashed hard drive are still stored on your system. If you do not know what you are doing, you may just recover the viruses that caused your problem in the first place.

The most important tip for file recovery is not to lose your data in the first place. Be sure to run frequent anti-virus and anti-malware scans to ensure no computer crashing viruses or Trojans have made their way onto your system. It also helps to backup all your data at least once a week—more if your data changes often. That way if your computer crashes or if you accidentally delete something, you won’t have to run around buying software and paying big bucks to professionals in an effort to regain lost data. Backing up your data will also make it easier to restore your computer once it is fixed.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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