Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Fear The Data Reaper

Loosing important files due to a computer crash, a virus or some other unforeseen disaster can be scary. If your like most people your computer hosts everything from family pictures, videos, recipes, your budget, important business documents and more.

One day you come home from work and turn on your computer to be treated with the Blue Screen of Death or one of your kids has accidentally deleted one of your important folders (accidentally on purpose so he could install his new game that is). Maybe you kept your files on a thumb-drive or external hard drive and somehow you formatted it unintentionally. Perhaps some component on the computer just died of old age or overheating (caused by the nefarious Killer Dust Bunnies). You may have taken your system to a local computer shop. They may have recommended re-installing Windows. Not realizing the consequences of this, you agree and you get your computer back functional, and barren. 'Holy crap, where are my pictures of Johnny in his Halloween costume?'. Gone forever gone?

In all of these scenarios you have been victimized by the Data Reaper. You had it saved on the hard drive of your computer at one point and now its gone. You looked in the recycle bin, scoured the file tree, where told 'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.' by a computer tech you respect and are girding your loins with the sackcloth and ashes of repentance.

Let me tell you this, I have been there. I had a computer crash after my daughter suffered a brain aneurysm. This computer had several videos of her an I making up fake news casts, before this happened. After all the turmoil surrounding such an event I revisited that computer to find that the thing had died. My videos were gone. I would never be able to relive those normal moments again except in my mind. Had I known then what I know now I could still reminisce with the original videos. Instead I took it to a 'professional' who told me there was no hope.

Is there hope for your data? the answer is a big YES. As long as your hard-drive is still physically functional we can recover a majority of your data. Formatted, re-partitioned, deleted, emptied from the recycle bin, etc. It does not matter how your data was lost we can retrieve it. Don't listen to other professionals who give up when you say you upgraded to Win 7 and now all your files are gone. They are there, just hidden from your Operating System.. Everything you save on Your computer, stays on the HDD. Even in cases where the computer itself is completely destroyed (oops I dropped my laptop down the stairs!).

The way things work with computers is weird. You tell it to delete a file but it does not really delete it. The operating system simply hides the file from you and marks the space on the disk that the file occupied as writable. This is why we use Department of Defense standard data deletion here at the charity. Because with a little knowledge anyone can readily recover the files you delete. If your operating system is functional you can use a program like Recuva to restore the deleted file.

If your computer finally died entirely from neglect or abuse we can simply remove the HDD and place it in our data recovery system to retrieve your wayward data.

In the case of an accidental format or re-partitioning you may think your out of luck but not so. Though the methods are a bit more complicated, they are thorough. With specialized software we can recover files form a formatted drive. Even if the drive has had any entirely new OS installed on it our software pays no attention to the Operating system and simply pulls the 'raw data' off the drive. I wont provide a link to this one because its not for novices (even i struggled with the multitude of options and configurations on it).

We had a client bring a computer to the charity that had crashed and wanted a new OS installed on it. We did so and first saved the clients my documents folder. Then we proceeded to format the drive and installed Ubuntu 10.10 on the system. They client was delighted to have a functional computer again but shocked that an entire directory of pictures was missing from the documents folder. She admitted it was likely due to her kids messing around with the computer which had caused it to crash in the first place.

Well in this case you have not only deleted files, but a format and a different file system installed, as well as an entirely new operating system on top of that. How in the heck can we go back and restore the photos now? Truth is, its not easy and it is time consuming. After selecting the right options and file types in our software and letting the computer scan for three days we recovered over 2,000 image files. Now she didn't want or even know where all these images came from (they were remnants of all the users of the computer over all of its years in service). In cases like this it's up to the client to decide what to do with all the files. We are skilled techs but not psychic when it comes to what's important to you.

So files can be recovered regardless of how they were deleted. But we have learned that the process of data recovery is costly as well as time consuming. Some data recovery services will charge upwards of 500 to 1000 dollars to get your stuff back (We will ask you for a small suggested donation). My advice would be to avoid losing your stuff in the first place.

You can use a number of free file storage sites to do just that. Dropbox is great for your documents. There are a multitude of new sites available to upload and share your videos, pictures and music. Utilizing these services can save you tons of frustration down the road. I use Dropbox to store all of the charities files including business documents, pictures, videos, presentations and more. I also have a local backup of my family pictures on a local USB drive. I go through a multitude of computers and have not lost an important file for years.

So if you've lost your data don't despair just yet. If you bring us your computer we will evaluate it for free and tell you the options we have to restore the data. You don't need to fear the Data Reaper with an ace card like Computers for Charity in your pocket. In the meantime find a good place on the cloud to store your most important files!

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