recover from crash

Hard DriveIt must be October – at least that is my wife’s theory.  You see, it seems every year one of the computers in the house experiences some challenges during the fall time frame.  This year – it was my computer’s turn.  And of all the folks you may read about, I had best be the one taking my medicine about backing up data.

I thought I would recount this to you – not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but rather it is a story of how this can be done.  There are certainly other ways, some a bit more laborious, others a bit easier.  And the steps you may take could be based on the problem or issue you are experiencing.

In my case, all was well.  Purchased this laptop in November of 2011.  I keep it updated and tuned so I can get things done (my wife say too many things, working the machine to death).  Worked on my computer Monday until around 8pm with various items that needed attention (10/8/12).  Woke up Tuesday to start my day and was greeted with interesting messages on the screen.  My attempts to recover were not successful by the time I had to leave for work.  When I returned they were still not headed in a positive direction.

My suspicion was software corruption – at first.  Windows would not start but could get to the rescue screen.  However, not much from the rescue screen was being helpful, and I could hear a high pitched whine from the laptop.  Soon as I heard that I then suspected an eminent hardware failure.  I have been to this rodeo before with a machine or two.

After I had done my due diligence, I called the laptop vendor (I’m now using an HP laptop, this is my first HP after using many Dell’s – and I was not unhappy with Dell, just purchased this on based on price point for comparable computers this time).  While I knew the hard drive had failed, I went through the necessary tests the the agent on the phone, and they were shipping me a new hard drive.

Now I had some time to get fines off, if possible.  Not much was possible, but I was able to retrieve a few files off before the drive completely failed.  I knew any access could be the last time I accessed the files, so I got the most recent copies I could – why?  Because I actually DO back up my files regularly.  The last back up I had was from 10/1, so I had not ‘lost’ much of the work I had done or the files I needed.  I restored from back up with no issues at all – for the files I had backed up.

The new hard drive and restore disks were at my house when I got home from work Thursday (10/11) and before I went to bed the laptop was up and working, just needed to restore all my back up files.  And this went smooth, mostly!

The only areas I had not backed up – or did not back up as frequently as I should have – were my pictures (but all of them that I had not backed up were on the camera SD card, so no issues there) and my music.  When I put the music folder over, I only had about 8,500 songs in iTunes.  That was low by 2,000+ songs.  Now what should I do (other than learn the lesson to back this up a bit more often)?

Here is where a shout out to Music Rescue (from KennettNet) comes in.  I started to look for a solution to get this music off the proprietary iPod so the play lists, track names and all the meta data was in tact.  I know there are ways to hack through this, but none are super clean, and I had put many hours into the 2,000+ tracks that I had not backed up (ripping the CD’s, ensuring information was correct, adding artwork, etc.).  So the question to me was – how much time is this worth for me?

I found the answer – I’d pay the fine folks from Chicksands, Bedfordshire (in the UK) for their work to make my life easier.  For less than the price of 2 CD’s, I’d gain back hours of time doing a bit of rework.  And that was the most difficult part of the restore!

So, this was a success story.  Lost no access, could get to my email via the web, and am back up and running within a day (fully functional and all files needed).  The moral of the story?  It is worth the time and effort to back up your data.  You never can tell when hardware will fail!


Well, it’s happened.  I’m not sure what happened, but I do know right now I can’t get into my computer.  No, I can’t even get it to boot!  Is there anyway to get up to where I can get some files off?

That’s a hard conversation to be listening to when someone calls me for advise or assistance.  Where do we go from here and what can we do?  First of all, if your machine is not responding, I’m going to assume we have a software issue and not a hardware issue (hard drive gone bad or some other component that results in the computer malfunction).  Hey, we’ve got to draw the line somewhere so we can try to get you information on getting the data back!  If it is a hardware issue (hard drive failure), and you must have the data – it may be that you will need to send it off to a specialty company to retrieve your files (like OnTrack Data Recovery or DriveSavers Data Recovery).  But be forewarned – this option is not inexpensive!

Mobile Shout Out? (Call a Friend…)

Perhaps you have someone that is revered as a computer person.  It’s possible you could call them for assistance.  And let me tell you, they will try their best to get your data back and your computer functioning again – but don’t expect miracles.  Often times, it is the computer person who has the correct set of knowledge and tools in their arsenal that get the job done for you.  That may not be your friend, or your kids, or your kids friends.  Don’t get me wrong, in this day and age, everyone has a need to cut back and trim where they can – but when you do this with your data, I would meditate on this – ‘Plan for the worst, hope for the best.’

There are times where getting your data back is a tricky business.  Because something is wrong, the risk factor for reversing the stuff that is incorrect has risen and now tilts over to more potential for data recovery not happening.  It’s like performing surgery (in a manner of speaking) while being blindfolded and having your ears plugged – the patient is out cold, and doing things to get it to respond could cause unintended damage!

I’ll Try It Myself! (I’ve got nothing to lose…)

I thought this may be where you really wanted to go.  There are lots of tools out there on the market to get at data on drives.  Some cost money (and those are usually the ones I would use since I have purchased copies of many different programs just for this purpose).  But for those reading this post, you may be more interested in the free (or close to free) selection.

Again, let me reiterate – if you are having problems and are looking to fix them using any of the tools listed here, I am not responsible for your actions (you are!).  Using tools or tricks of the trade without a good working knowledge is a bad idea!  The wrong tool used can do more damage than leaving things as they were and consulting a professional!

Sabrent USB-DSC5 Serial ATA or IDE 2.5-/3.5-Inch to USB 2.0 Cable Converter Adapter with Power Supply is a must have if you want to do any of this work. Why? It allows you to remove the hard drive and slave it into your machine via a USB port.

EaseUs offers some cost-effective solutions for data recovery.  While this is not free, it is robust and may be a good solution for some of the more typical hard drive and data recovery scenarios faced by the majority of computer users.

Recuva (by Priform) is a freeware Windows utility to restore files that have been accidentally deleted from your computer.

Forensics Software may be something you are interested in or need.  Be careful here, this link goes to a page that breaks this down by OS and what the tool does.  You may need to make sure some of this software does what you need since it is time consuming recovery (and can be costly as well for the software).  One of the leaders in this area is Digital Intelligence – but you can certainly search Google and find many more in this industry.

There are so many items to choose from (and so many I didn’t list!).  Look around to find a tool that meets your needs, or better yet consult a professional – or for the best solution BACK UP YOUR IMPORTANT FILES so this is not a huge issue!  I hope this helped, thanks for reading.


One of the most challenging things I hear from folks that bring me their machines to look at (help with) is making sure they still have their _______ (you fill in the blank, pictures, files, documents, presentations, music, bank or business data).  It always makes me wince a bit, since I can’t guarantee that they will have those items!  The standard response I have is this – you do have a copy of your _______ on some backup medium, right?

Too often we chose not to backup our important files.  I can’t quite figure out why we make that choice!  So let’s redefine this in a more understandable way.  If the data was important enough for you to create in the first place, and is important enough for you to continue to need as time moves on, then you will take the time to recreate that data once it is lost (and you don’t have a backup). Now, I realize that is a general rule (how can you go back in time to take the exact same pictures of the same people / place / event), but you may find that it is true for most cases.  So a better rule of thumb is to back up your data so you can recover quickly and not have to recreate everything from scratch.

Give Me A Strategy

You may need to employ a strategy that works for you!  First, perhaps some reminder using a calendar feature to let you know every couple of weeks or month to backup.  For me, I backup on the 15th of the month to my local hard drive and on the first of the month to my external hard drive.  That is what works for me!

Then, you need to figure out what to backup.  Again, find something that works for you.  I put all of my important documents in one folder (of course, there are multiple folders within that single folder, but all of the stuff I can’t do without starts in that single folder).  That makes it easy for me to backup everything in one area!  I don’t need to fret about what folder in what area I need to make sure I get backed up.

Then, use the backup software of your choice.  Windows comes with a built in backup utility that you may want to use.  Mac users have a built in backup utility as well.  Or you could look to other utilities, I favor a free one from called Replicator, but there are many others that are no cost or minimal cost (and for the curious, I do support KarenWare and have paid for her free disk of utilities – she does a great job!).

Lastly, secure your backup – somewhere!  If your strategy is to keep it on the same hard drive the files are currently on, and that hard drive fails, then what do you have?  Not much!  Write that backup to CD, DVD, or an external hard drive for safe keeping.

But I’m Having Issues Now!

Yeah, that might be why you are reading this!  So look for a post in the very near future that gives a bit more detail on options you have in your attempts to recover data.  If you don’t back up, please start!  And if you do back up, is it time to back up again?  Take care!