Oh my gosh, my files are gone… have you ever had that sinking feeling? Are you having it right now? Stop, turn off your computer, wait, not until you read this… but then you can turn off your computer.

The secret: when you delete a file or a lot of files on your hard disk you are not actually deleting them, what? You only delete the index entry to that file. Think about it this way, you have a large group of post-office boxes each one storing a letter in each one. So the word apple, would have one letter in each box. There is a directory on the disk which points to which boxes hold the word apple. Now, being efficient (lazy) computer people, when we delete the word apple all your computer does is delete the directory entry. If we go look in the boxes we can still see a p p l e. So all this is to say is that when you delete data it really is not deleted. But the boxes they were stored in are marked available. So here is the rub, if you delete something and then save something new, there is a high chance that you might overwrite that old data with the new data. Now your data is gone! So turn off your computer, really.

If you know what you are doing you can buy any number of software packages that will help recover the data. The problem is that if you install it after you have deleted the files you run the risk of clobbering your old data. What I do, and can do for you, is remove the drive from the computer and make a full image of the drive, that is a bit by bit copy of both the used and unused areas of the drive for safety. I then run some of the best (and expensive) recovery software available to search your hard disk for deleted data, once I find it I recover it to a different disk. Walla. Your data is back. Whew.

Each data recovery job is unique and I will look at the situation as quickly as possible and get you an estimate, I only charge $25 for the estimate. Typical recovery ends up costing about $100 to $200. I also offer rush service.

A little more detail, hard disks store data as magnetic charges, positive and negative charges on a spinning disk, sort of like an old fashioned record album. This disk spins very fast, typically 7,200 rpm. So if you think about bumping an old record player would scratch your album and put a skip in it forever. The same can happen with hard disks but instead of a skip your data is destroyed. Now this presents a problem. You data, or part of your data is damaged. But most times we can recover the rest of the file. So for example, we may not be able to get your whole dissertation back but we can get the most of it back. Also, from time to time, drives actually stop working, either they stop spinning or they start clicking, this is, honestly, bad. There are a few tricks I can try to get the drive to work just long enough to try to get the data back. When all this fails, I work with special labs which can actually take the disk apart and install the platters (the album) in a new chassis. This can end up being very expensive. So in the case of physical recovery, we offer a service which will give you a list of what we can get back, before you commit to paying for it.

Back ups – the solution to losing your data…

I have a good friend who is a professional photographer and he attended a lecture I gave at a local camera club about data backup and safety. You can get the notes for that here:. For starters remember that every hard disk will fail, it is just a matter of time. One of the things I mentioned is that you should consider having an external hard disk as a backup. So he heard that and eventually went out and bought an external drive, good. Once he got it home, he let it sit around for a couple weeks and then finally decided to connect it. Woohoo. So after he connected it he decided he would put all of his photographs on the new disk so he could have them all in one place. Maybe you can guess what he did wrong? He moved his files, notice I said moved, to the new disk, they were no longer on his computers hard disk. Now what did I say? I said use it as a backup or COPY. I can’t tell you the number of people who make this mistake. You need to have, at least, two copies of your files. So when one gets deleted or its drive dies you still have the other copy! So what happened to my friend, well his brand new drive, only a couple of months old, stopped working, hmm, he brought it over and it was bad, really bad, it was not spinning, nothing at all. We had to send it to a lab that, after a lot of work, was able to get the data back. Well almost, the lab sent us a list of the files it could recover, a huge text file listing all of them and their sizes. He was so relieved; he reviewed the list and gave the go ahead for the recovery. Oh, no, we get the data back and he opens it up and there are only 6,000 files, wait a minute, what’s going on? He opened the list they had sent earlier and realizes that they got back everything they said they could. In his exuberance he did not look at the list enough to realize that there was not the 50,000 files he expected. He was sick, we talked to the lab and they said that truly that was all hat was recoverable. He ended up sad that he lost 44,000 files but grateful that he got 6,000 of them back, and all for only $2,000. So the moral of the story here is just do backup right from the beginning and you will sleep better.

Also published on Medium.