Is it safe to use data recovery software if you suspect your device is failing? As data recovery specialists, we’re asked this question a lot.
The answer, however, requires a little bit more explanation as there’s not a straight forward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to this. Also, the answer to “can I use data recovery software” will likely include a few more questions to better understand the situation!
Have you ever wondered whether there is a risk in using data recovery software? You’re not alone. The Internet is awash with recommendations and advice on whether it’s safe to use software to recover deleted files from a failing drive – but rarely does anyone give a definitive answer.
This article will explore whether if it is safe to use data recovery software, as well as how computer technicians work with data recovery experts in the field.
What is Data Recovery Software used for?
Data recovery software is used to recover files from devices such as:
- Hard disk drives (HDDs)
- Solid State Drives (SSDs)
- SD Cards
- Phones, tablets, iPads
- USB sticks
- Laptops, PCs or Games consoles
If you’ve accidentally deleted files or have a failed or failing device, and you don’t have a backup of your files, then data recovery software may help you get these files back.
Also, sometimes hard drives can fail for various reasons.
Losing data is an extremely stressful experience. To a computer, data is just zeros and ones, but to you, it’s your work, your business, your studies and the things you care about. Data can be irreplaceable, it means photographs of your loved ones, videos of moments you couldn’t possibly recreate and other memories you just don’t want to lose.
If you have a damaged, failed or failing device that stores your precious data and you don’t have a backup, you may be able to use data recovery software to recover some or all of these files.
It’s not always safe to use data recovery software at home without experience, in some cases it can even damage your equipment even further.
When is it safe to use data recovery software?
If you’re considering attempting your own data recovery, there are a few conditions you should meet before getting started:
- You have another spare drive or device ready to recover the data to (you cannot recover data from a failed/failing device onto the same device)
- The drive you want to recover data from should be in relatively good physical condition before using data recovery software at home, it shouldn’t have any physical damage or making unusual noises
- You have a general understanding of how computers store and access data
Ideally, you should take a copy or clone of the damaged drive even if the data is unreadable.
If you have a failing hard drive, it’s important to realise that no software is going to fix that. Software cannot repair your device. It’s also important to remember that if your data is corrupted, recovering the data will retain that corruption.
Data recovery takes an exact copy of the data in its current state, it can’t repair errors with the integrity of the files. The same goes for ransomware and malware – recovering data that’s been encrypted or damaged will be just as encrypted or damaged after it’s been recovered.
The most important thing you can do to protect your files is take regular backups to more than one backup location.
When is it not safe to use data recovery software?
There are a few occasions where it is not safe to attempt a DIY data recovery at home – doing so will result in further destruction of the data and potentially leave it totally irrecoverable.
A hard drive with a failing or dirty read/write head should not be used with data recovery software at home and requires a data recovery technician’s specialist tools. It’s not always obvious when a drive’s read/write heads are failing, if you’ve noticed any unusual clicking sounds coming from your drive then this may be a sign.
All data recovery software would destroy the data on a drive with a failing read/write head. At Recover My Data, we take a clone of the drive and recover the data from a non-failing device. Home-based users, however, will not be able to make a clone of a drive with bad sectors or failing components. This is due to technology in the drive itself that must be disabled and there’s no software available to you as consumers that can do this safely.
If you suspect that your drive is physically damaged and therefore not safe for you to attempt a recovery yourself, call one of our experienced data recovery technicians as soon as possible. There’s a much higher success rate if you act sooner rather than later!
Important notes about data recovery software
There are a few other important things to know about data recovery software before you even attempt anything yourself:
- All data recovery programmes work slightly differently, have different featured and interfaces and also use different processes for recovering files.
- Your directory and exact folder structure may not always be fully preserved post-recovery
- Long directory and filenames may be truncated or not recovered at all
- Some data recovery software only recovers files and doesn’t retain the directory or folder structure at all
- You must have another device ready to receive the recovered data – you cannot recover data from one drive to the same drive!
- Using any data recovery software could potentially void the manufacturer’s warranty on your device.
- Data recovery software is used at your own risk – even the developers of popular data recovery software and applications state that there are risks of permanent data loss
- Data recovery professionals have equipment and tools that just aren’t available commercially to home-based users. Remember that data recovery is a specialist skill, it’s not really a popular hobby as tinkers prefer something a bit more exciting!
- There’s a chance you could do further damage to an already damaged drive, if you’re in doubt, give us a call in the first instance.
So is Data Recovery Software safe?
The short answer is yes, if you’re an advanced user, you have a spare drive and you’re certain that there are no physical issues with the drive.
The long answer is no, it may not be safe if you suspect that the drive itself is damaged. If you hear a clicking noise coming from your hard drive, there’s a chance that the read/write head is damaged, and an attempted recovery could result in permanent data loss. There are other factors to consider and the truth is that you may not know if your drive is physically damaged until it’s too late.
Using any data recovery software at home is a risk.
The best way to keep your data safe is to keep multiple regular backups.
At Recover My Data, we don’t recommend any data recovery software because there are so many variables involved and inexperienced use of software designed for advanced users can often do a lot more harm than good. Also, the various free and commercial applications for data recovery vary so much in functionality that it’s impossible to make a specific recommendation to suit everyone’s needs.
Always speak to a professional first if you’re unsure about what to do – we’re here to help!