folder with crucial files for our operation. How do I recover these
By definition, the act of formatting a hard disk erases
everything on the disk, so the knee jerk reaction is of course to
However, sometimes you can get lucky. Stop using the drive
immediately, to increase your chances of luck.
But first we have to review the basics.
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You mentioned that you forgot to backup a crucial folder. The first
lesson you should walk away from the experience with is simple: backup. And
I don’t just mean because you were about to reformat; I mean regular,
Let’s face it: if your hard drive had died you also would have lost
those crucial folders.
Hard drives do die, and regular backups can save your assets.
save your assets.”
Second, in preparation for reformatting, you obviously did a backup
where you pick and choose what files to copy off. As you’ve discovered,
you can miss things. When performing a one-off backup for any reason, I
once again recommend using a backup or imaging program to backup
everything. Even if you never need 95% of it, that time when
you need something in the 5% will make this step well worth it.
Now, as I said, a reformat by definition erases your hard
disk. All of it, at once.
As it turns out, there are two common types of format: “normal” and
A “Quick” format simply erases the hard disk’s root directory,
twiddles a couple of other things, and you’re done. Note that it did
not actually go out and overwrite files.
A “normal” format actually goes out and overwrites all of the data
on the disk. You’ll know you’re performing a normal format as it takes
a long time.
If you’ve done a quick format, then there may be hope. You’ll need
to investigate “unformat” utilities or file recovery software. Normal
“undelete” utilities will probably not work, as they often assume that
you’ve simply deleted a file. Here you’ve deleted everything. A utility
like GetDataBack might be called for.
(There are others as well. This isn’t something I’ve done a lot of, so perhaps readers
will chime in with some utilities that have worked for them.) These utilities actually scan your entire
hard drive and try to piece back together that which was erased. If not
a lot has changed or otherwise been damaged, you can often get a lot of
your data back.
This is why I say “stop using the drive”. The more you use it, the more
the contents of the drive changes, and the less likely it will be that
your data can be recovered.
You’ll notice I’ve focussed on “Quick” Format, and that’s on
purpose. It happens to be what most people do, which is fortunate,
since data recovery from a complete format gets much trickier. In fact,
in order to recover data from a true, data-overwriting normal format,
you’re typically talking data recovery services and a lot of money.