In computing, data recovery is a process of salvaging inaccessible data from corrupted or damaged secondary storage, removable media or files, when the data they store cannot be accessed in a normal way. The data is most often salvaged from storage media such as internal or external hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), USB flash drives, magnetic tapes, CDs, DVDs, RAID subsystems, and other electronic devices. Recovery may be required due to physical damage to the storage device or logical damage to the file system that prevents it from being mounted by the host operating system (OS). Read about data recovery
The most common data recovery scenario involves an operating system failure, malfunction of a storage device, accidental damage or deletion, etc. (typically, on a single-drive, single-partition, single-OS system), in which case the goal is simply to copy all wanted files to another drive and to then subsequently repair the operating system to bring all of the applications and settings to their state prior to the failure. This can be easily accomplished using a Live CD, many of which provide a means to mount the system drive and backup drives or removable media, and to move the files from the system drive to the backup media with a file manager or optical disc authoring software. Such cases can often be mitigated by disk partitioning and consistently storing valuable data files (or copies of them) on a different partition from the replaceable OS system files. Read about Windows System Restore
Another scenario involves a drive-level failure, such as a compromised file system or drive partition, or a hard disk drive failure. In any of these cases, the data cannot be easily read. Depending on the situation, solutions involve repairing the file system, partition table or master boot record, or drive recovery techniques ranging from software-based recovery of corrupted data, hardware- and software-based recovery of damaged service areas (also known as the hard disk drive "firmware"), to hardware replacement on a physically damaged drive. If a drive recovery is necessary, the drive itself has typically failed permanently, and the focus is rather on a one-time recovery, salvaging whatever data can be read. Read about forensic data recovery
In a third scenario, files have been "deleted" from a storage medium. Typically, the contents of deleted files are not removed immediately from the drive; instead, references to them in the directory structure are removed, and the space they occupy is made available for later overwriting. For the end users, deleted files are not discoverable through a standard file manager, but that data still technically exists on the drive. In the meantime, the original file contents remain, often in a number of disconnected fragments, and may be recoverable. The term "data recovery" is also used in the context of forensic applications or espionage, where data which have been encrypted or hidden, rather than damaged, are recovered. Read about file recovery
A wide variety of failures can cause physical damage to storage media, which may result from human errors and natural disasters. CD-ROMs can have their metallic substrate or dye layer scratched off; hard disks can suffer any of several mechanical failures, such as head crashes and failed motors; tapes can simply break. Physical damage always causes at least some data loss, and in many cases the logical structures of the file system are damaged as well. Any logical damage must be dealt with before files can be salvaged from the failed media. Most physical damage cannot be repaired by end users. For example, opening a hard disk drive in a normal environment can allow airborne dust to settle on the platter and become caught between the platter and the read/write head, causing new head crashes that further damage the platter and thus compromise the recovery process. Read about sircles on-line backups
Recovering data from physically damaged hardware can involve multiple techniques. Some damage can be repaired by replacing parts in the hard disk. This alone may make the disk usable, but there may still be logical damage. A specialized disk-imaging procedure is used to recover every readable bit from the surface. Once this image is acquired and saved on a reliable medium, the image can be safely analyzed for logical damage and will possibly allow much of the original file system to be reconstructed. The easiest recoveries are with backups so please read about backups here.
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