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Data Recovery Blog

Can a wiped Hard Drive Be Recovered?

Oct 2, 2020

Is it possible to recover files from a wiped hard drive? Have you accidentally deleted files without a backup?! If you’ve found yourself in a panic about your lost files and photos – this article will help you realise that all is not lost! There is a high chance that your files are still on the drive, they just need a bit of persuasion to be found again!

If you’ve had a “Oh No!” moment, the first thing to do is stop worrying. Take a deep breath and get yourself a strong coffee (or your drink of choice!) We’re all human and we all make mistakes, so if you’ve hit ‘delete’ on the wrong folder, you won’t be the first and you certainly won’t be the last.

In most cases, whether your hard drive has been physically damaged, become corrupted, or even if you’ve accidentally deleted important files, your data can often be recovered.

If a hard drive has been wiped – formatted of all data – there’s a strong chance that your data is recoverable. However, most home users will not have the equipment or tools to do so at home, so specialist data recovery services are invaluable if you’ve lost files.

In the case of individual files, folders or directories that you’ve deleted in error, these are also recoverable with the right tools.

As professional data recovery specialists, we’ve seen all manners of different data loss stories and business disasters; we’ve had the tears, the lost memories and the unintentional button clicks. In the majority of cases, all the panic and stress was unnecessary, because we are able to successfully recover data from almost any device, no matter how disastrous it may seem.

It’s time to find out how to recover those files before it’s too late!

How to restore accidentally deleted files from a hard drive

In the case of accidental file deletion on an otherwise perfectly functioning hard drive, the good news is that operating systems like Windows and Mac OS do not actually delete your files. Even if you’ve emptied the Recycle Bin or cleaned out the trash, modern operating systems are not designed to obliterate your data upon pressing delete. Instead, they make that area of the disk available again.

Think of it like a blank cassette tape, you can record over something, but you can’t delete what’s already there without physically damaging it. Hard drives are programmed to work in the same way – operating systems will overwrite data instead of deleting it.

Why? Because deleting data is actually resource-heavy and inefficient in most scenarios. It’s much more efficient for operating systems to make the space available instead of destroy data.

So, if you’ve just deleted something from the trash that you really didn’t mean to delete, there’s an extremely high chance your file is fully intact and waiting for be overwritten.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to access these files without specialist data recovery software which can be expensive for one-time use. Some anti-virus and computer maintenance software offer the ability to restore recently deleted files with ease, but the chances are you’ll need to speak to a data recovery professional for advice.

Restoring files from Windows

The process for recovering deleted files from a Windows PC is different depending on which version of Windows 10 you’re using. Windows generally marks the file as deleted, but keeps its location and the link to the file until the space is needed by something else. At that point, it overwrites it.

So, if you’ve very recently deleted something but haven’t saved anything new, there’s a high chance your file(s) can be recovered.

However, newer versions of Windows 10 have a feature called ‘trim’ that helps keep your drive healthy by cleaning up files to free up space.

If you’re worried about getting your files back but you’re not confident using data recovery software, call one of our UK-based expert technicians today.

Restoring files from a Mac

Macs treat deleted files in a different way. Unlike Windows, Mac OS will both delete and orphan the file. Windows continues to link to the file in its configuration, whereas Mac does not.

That means that specialist software is required, as there is no way for a home user to access the file without additional tools.

If you’re worried about accidentally deleted files from your Mac, give us a call today as we’re highly familiar with the data recovery process from Apple devices.

Restoring files from Mobile Phones, Cameras and other portable devices

This depends on whether your device is using internal storage or an SD Card, MMC card or other type of micro storage media. Either way, restoring data from phones and portable devices is possible, even if your device has it marked as “permanently deleted”

Restoring Encrypted Files

The process for recovering encrypted files is the same as any other data. However, you must know the passphrase or key to decrypt the data.

The data recovery process does not decrypt files, it can only restore them in the state they were originally in at the time the error occurred.

How to restore files from a wiped hard drive

Have you recently plugged in a hard drive only to find that it’s been unintentionally formatted or wiped?!

1. Check the drive First of all, make sure there’s no other issue with the drive and that it’s fully connected. If it’s an external drive, ensure that it has power. Often, external drives have a power switch on the back, or even on the adapter itself. You could also try a different USB port or cable just to be sure.

2. Check the software or Operating System. You should also check that it’s not a software issue. If possible, try to connect your drive to another computer to check if it’s recognised and the files are accessible.

3. Contact a data recovery specialist. Before you delve into attempting to recover files using online software, consider using a professional data recovery expert who can use advanced methods and tools with a higher chance of success.

If you’re worried about an internal drive, it’s still worth checking the power supply and cables before you declare it unreadable. If it’s an option, try it in another machine to rule out any issues with the first device.

A note about Commercial Data Recovery Software

Formatted or wiped hard drives require a different data recovery process. After a quick Google Search you will probably have discovered dozens of pieces of software that claim to “undelete” or “unformat” drives.

However, these commercially available applications have some limitations, namely:

  • They’re highly technical and not aimed at the average home-user
  • You need to carefully read the documentation to make sure you carry out the steps properly
  • There is no guarantee that the software will fully recover your files
  • If it doesn’t work, customer service is often patchy or non-existent
  • Many ‘free’ data recovery applications have a file size limit, or other limitations that mean you may not get all of your files back
  • Some of the ‘free’ software providers may install additional software, tracking, ads or potentially even Malware on your computer
  • In extreme cases, they may even cause physical damage to your hardware, void the warranty on your device or at worst, render your drive totally unusable

Read more: Is it safe to use Data Recovery Software?

We use Acelabs and MRT for both hardware and software, which are highly costly and specialist forensic data recovery tools. As we recover data all day every day, we highly recommend you get in touch before attempting a DIY-recovery solution at home, especially if the files in question mean a lot to you.

Need help with unintentional file deletion?

Contact us today for a no obligation discussion.

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Thank you so much Aaron, your service has been impeccable.

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