I like to think I am fairly decent at data recovery, or I used to be, though I have not really had a need in more recent times, and being “fairly decent” is mostly, “Knowing where to find what tools to use.” It’s not like I am out here replacing drive power boards or, I don’t know, manually laser imaging disc platters or something. I used to use a piece of software called R-Studio. I am not sure it even really exists anymore. Whatever the case, the key I have for that is from a version from the mid-2000s.
It’s… Like 20 years old…
Fuck I am old.
Anyway, my experience with R-Studio was pretty great, I mostly used it in my old office IT job. We bought a copy when one night the automation system we used to run the TV station had a drive failure. Reprogramming it would have been a bitch (but doable). I pulled the PC out, we thought about our options and went with this data recovery route. The drive was able to be reimaged onto a good drive and the system was up and running again.
Over the years I used it pretty regularly to recover crashed laptops from coworkers. Generally just the Documents and PST files in those cases though. It was also useful for my own drives and drives of people I knew.
The years, however, made me a bit jaded about being IT Support for everyone I had ever met. There are quite a few jokes about this around online, and it’s true. These days, I basically will just “play dumb” because if you fix one problem for one neighbor, now you will be fixing everyone’s PC issues.
And let me tell you, that is often self-inflicted on what those issues are, which is worse than dealing with real technical problems. Sorry I can’t recover your Pentium, no I can’t make it run Facebook Faster, it’s just too old.
Anyway, at one point I lost some family photos when an external drive crashed on me. This caused two things to happen. One, I will never ever buy a USB drive again, or at least not trust them with important data. I am talking about things like those Seagate drives that have a TB or more that plug into the wall and your PC. It doesn’t help that they also are designed in a way that the plastic housing can’t be removed easily and often requires DESTROYING the housing to recover them. Two, it caused me to get serious about backup, and the cloud. I have used a few different services over the years, but for a long time, I have been at the point where my entire house could burn to the ground and my data would be safe and recoverable.
I have a cloud-synced backup with some versioning and the whole “recycle bin” option in One Drive and I keep an incremental backup on a hard drive in a static bag in a fire safe in the house. Plus all the data is in a RAID on my NAS.
But I don’t back up EVERYTHING. That would be too much data because I am a bit of a data hoarder. And a lot of the non-essential stuff gets stored on an assortment of “dodgy drives” that I have collected over the years from a variety of places. For example, I am currently using my previous “Degraded per Synology” NAS drive as a base to build a PLEX server. I mean, it didn’t technically fail, Synology just didn’t like it, and so I replaced it in the NAS, and now it’s a 4TB drive that, is probably mostly still sort of good.
Anyway, I had one of those USB drives that I mentioned above as having sworn off that was previously working for this task. My wife goes to a LOT of estate sales as part of her business and I often tag along. At one I found this drive stuck buried on a bookshelf, so I bought it for like $5. I figured it was probably good, and it worked, for a bit. But as they usually seem to do, this sucker decided to die on me.
I tried to see if I could get it to read with some Linux tools, but I had little luck. I went online looking for data recovery tools and remembered using straight search is a bad idea for this because it’s going to be 99% “articles” from companies recommending their own software. So I went to Reddit, and had GetDataBack suggested.
I downloaded it and it managed to detect the drive and files. I decided to bite the bullet and paid for the full version, which is not cheap at $80, but I have some other drives I could run through this and it’s a “lifetime license” so I will eventually feel like I am getting my money’s worth.
And it’s working just great. The only real problem I am having is that it won’t recover to a network drive and my PC’s internal drive does not have 2TB of space on it, so I have to recover things in chunks, then copy it over to its final storage place. Well, that and the normal issues that come with a failed/failing drive where sometimes things get hung up and just don’t recover. The interface is straightforward and nice as well, though not super pretty.
Like I said, I am sure I will get my money’s worth. I have a drive that was my brother’s somewhere that I can try to recover. I also have some NVME drives that I will need to get a USB hook up for, but I wouldn’t mind trying to get data back off of those.