Knowing the established data recovery best practices is an important skill any techie, and anyone with a computer for that matter, should learn.
In this digital age, data security is a constant concern. Hardware failure or malicious attacks can result in the apparent sudden loss of data. Read on to learn what experts do to recover lost files, whatever the cause.
Time is of the Essence
If a file seems lost and you want to recover it, time is not your friend. The longer a file is lost, the greater the chance it is permanently deleted or irreparably corrupted.
There are essentially three ways a file can disappear from a drive:
- The drive is breaking down or otherwise damaged
- The file has been deleted
- Malware has affected the file
All three of these scenarios tend to get worse over time. A drive that is deteriorating may eventually become unusable. A file that is deleted doesn’t actually get erased from a hard drive until that space on the drive is overwritten by a new file.
Notably, the most common way we store files, by using HDDs, is also one of the least reliable. HDDs only tend to last three to five years, and very few drives will last longer than eight. As they reach the end of their lifespan, issues will become more common and the risk of permanent failure will increase.
Malware is a bit harder to predict since there are so many different kinds. However, there are certain kinds of malware that will work in the background and do more damage as time passes.
Check for Software Solutions
The first thing any techie needs to know is that there is “lost” data and then lost data. Oftentimes, if a file is missing or was deleted, it is still stored in a drive. The problem is that your computer can’t “see” it.
There are several software solutions, like those at https://setapp.com/, designed to help search through drives for data that appears lost. The more mundane the cause of the loss (such as deleting a file from your recycle bin), the easier it tends to be to recover.
Data recovery experts use similar software to try to pull files from corrupted or otherwise damaged drives. However, that process is also more complicated.
Sometimes a file can be corrupt in such a way that it is still present on a drive, and should be usable, but small parts of it have changed so your computer can’t use it in its default state. There is software that can help with that, but the process is finicky enough that you may want an expert’s help.
If you think part of your problem is malware infecting your computer, software also is one of the primary ways to combat that attack.
Your Hardware May Need Fixing/Replacing
As we touched on, drives can start having issues with the files stored on them when they’re damaged. This damage doesn’t need to be severe, either; general wear and tear can cause file loss and corruption, too.
The good news is that not all types of damage result in an equal kind of loss. As we touched on in the section above, often files sit on damaged drives, undetectable to your computer, but more or less usable if recovered.
Sometimes the issue with a drive can be an incredibly minor problem in the circuitry. For example, flash drives can have issues with their soldering or USB connectors.
Unless you know what you’re doing, we recommend taking drives you think are damaged to an expert. There, they can look at the actual hardware and see if it is a minor issue causing your problems.
That said, more expansive issues can’t always be fixed. For example, HDDs are generally not repairable when damaged. Instead, the goal for those is to rip the needed files off them and then replace the drive.
Always Back Up Your Files
The rallying cry of just about every IT department and cybersecurity expert in the world is to back up your data. A file you have even one copy of on a different drive is far harder to lose than a file stored in one place.
The simple truth is that some files are really lost. If the wrong malware infects your computer or a drive dies, there is a good chance affected files are gone. There isn’t always a solution, even at high expense, to get them back.
The issue is that people outside the IT industry aren’t very good at backing up their files. Many people put it off and only think about doing it after disaster hits.
It can be a good idea to back up your files onto an external drive at least once a month, if not once a week. Moreover, you should back up any files you feel are critical whenever you update them, regardless of your usual backup schedule.
If you don’t want to do this, it’s possible to hire a managed IT company to do that hard work for you. This doesn’t tend to make sense for home use, but many offices go with this solution to save time and manpower while still keeping safe.
Use Data Recovery Best Practices to Stay Safe
Engaging in data recovery best practices helps ensure you never lose important files. A quick reaction to issues, combined with being sure to back up files regularly, helps ensure you at least shouldn’t lose more than a few days’ work even in the worst cases.
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