It’s crazy to think that the first hard disk drive could store less than 5MB of data—barely enough for one MP3 song. IBM’s RAMAC 350 was revolutionary for its time, but we’ve come a long way from the days of meager storage. Today’s desktop drives can store over 5TB of data, allowing users to crank out as many files as they need without breaking a sweat.
Of course, all of the space in the world won’t help if you find that you’ve accidentally deleted a file—or worse, if your hard drive fails. In those cases, knowing how to recover data from a hard drive can make a world of difference. If you’re struggling with this issue, here are the steps to keep in mind.
Stop Using Your Hard Drive
If your hard drive is still operable, you’ll want to stop using it right away.
With most computers, when you delete data off of your hard drive, it won’t disappear all at once. Instead, your computer will erase the labeling information that “points to” the data. In other words, the data will continue to exist, but your computer will be unable to direct you to it.
However, in erasing this labeling information, your computer will also stop protecting the file from getting written over. The more you use your computer, the higher the chances that you’ll do something that writes over the file. Even if you only write over a portion of the file, it may make you unable to recover the data at all.
Try to Reverse the Deletion
Unless you’re dealing with a broken hard drive, your first step should be trying to reverse the deletion.
Sometimes, recovering data can be as easy as hitting Ctrl + Z or Command + Z to undo the deletion. In other cases, you might be able to use search tools like File Explorer or Finder to see if you’ve misplaced the file instead of deleting it. Don’t forget to double-check the Trash or Recycle bin, and check to see if an autosave function in the program you’re using has saved a copy of the file on your behalf.
For Windows users who have set up File History on their device, you can take a moment to restore your files to their former versions.
As a last resort, you can try using a free or paid data recovery program. However, keep in mind that saving these programs to your hard drive may overwrite the files you want to find—so be sure it’s worth the risk!
Work Around Your Computer Problems
If you’re dealing with desktop or laptop issues that keep your hard drive from functioning at its best, getting your hands on old files can be tougher.
If you’re having technical issues, like a hard drive that won’t turn on at all, or an OS that doesn’t recognize the drive, you may need to reach out to a pro. Expert data recovery services will often perform a quick assessment to see whether or not they can help and to estimate a cost. They can also ensure that you aren’t overwriting the data in an attempt to get it back!
Know How to Recover Data From a Hard Drive
It’s sad but true: most of us will have to deal with accidental data deletion at some point in our lives. That’s why it’s a good idea to know how to recover data from a hard drive before you’re scrambling to protect your files down the road.
If the worst should happen, keep a cool head and follow the steps above for best results. In the meantime, taking some time to backup your data isn’t a bad idea either!
Want more of the essential tech tips you should know? To stay on top of your digital needs, be sure to check out our other helpful guides.