An article from the Sydney Morning Herald, http://smh.com.au/articles/2005/02/16/1108500138423.html?oneclick=true
By Simon Tsang
February 19, 2005
It's gone. It's all gone. But how? All those documents ... and the photos! Those irreplaceable photos! Years of data - pfffffft. Disappeared! Backups? The last time I made a backup, ripping was something you did to your jeans, so don't talk to me about backups.
You've heard the horror stories about people losing all their valuable information in an instant and read all the warnings about backing up your data, yet somehow you don't think it's going to happen to you.
Well, it did finally happen to me in a big way. Everything was gone. The computer stalled for a while then, after a quick reset, all the data inexplicably disappeared.
I don't usually have any problems like this because I regularly go through a complete reinstall of Windows about every six months to clean out the system. It comes with the territory of testing and installing new software all the time.
This time, however, I didn't get around to it. I left it a bit long and the PC just wasn't the same after the latest attempt at updating to Windows XP Service Pack 2. It completely botched the system. Still, I didn't have a weekend to devote to Bill's finest, so I kept using it, errors and all - and paid the price.
After a lengthy session of ranting and pacing around the house, I calmed down enough to remember some basic rules of disaster recovery.
First and foremost is to just shut down the machine and walk away. It's the best thing you can do for yourself, your data and your PC. Go and do something else. Play tennis, go shopping, plant a tree, build a sandcastle. Anything. Just don't go near your PC. You will end up either doing more damage or bashing up your machine which, although satisfying, isn't going to help you get your files and folders back.
The next most important thing to remember is that your data is probably still all there, even if you can't see it. Data is never completely deleted from a drive unless it has been overwritten by something else.
Even if you've dragged something to the environmentally friendly recycle bin and then emptied it, it's not irretrievable. This is why it's important to shut down your machine immediately.
Other than preserving your sanity, your urge to tinker will probably get the better of you and once you start messing around you could be overwriting data that was previously recoverable.
Even the innocuous act of browsing the web could do serious damage.
Now, it's time to plan your method of recovery. You will need access to another PC, either a friend's machine or, even better, a second computer in the house. This is to ensure you don't write anything onto the disk you're recovering from. In my case, I chose to go out and buy another hard disk since I was going to upgrade to a larger capacity at some point anyway. However, you don't need to go that far and it's easier if your starting point is with a working PC.
The idea is that you install the hard disk you want to recover data from as a secondary - or slave Â- drive in the working PC. That way, any data recovery software you install to get your information back won't write over what you are trying to retrieve.
Before you baulk at the prospect of opening your PC's case to pull out the hard disk and install it in another box, it's not as difficult as it sounds. For a preview of what you're in for, visit Seagate's site for walkthroughs and tutorials on how to install a hard disk drive. The hard disk manufacturer has also posted some downloadable videos to show you how it's done. Again, view this on another machine. Like most PC parts, the hard disk is designed as a modular component, so removing and installing it is reasonably easy. Only two cables connect to it - one for power and the other for data (which is usually keyed so you can't plug it in the wrong way). The rest is simply bolting it to the chassis via four screws. To set up your hard disk as a slave drive, you need to change a jumper position at the back of the housing where the connectors are. There is usually a diagram of the correct configuration on the label attached to the top of the drive. Providing the PC is reasonably modern, it should be able to automatically detect the added hard drive when you boot the machine; Windows will then assign a drive letter to it. At this point, you're ready to install data recovery software. There are plenty to choose from and they vary greatly between features and price. Commercial releases tend to offer "free" trial demo versions you can download. These let you search your hard disk for recently deleted files and previews what it reckons can be restored. You pay once you decide to recover the files. I managed to find a basic recovery software called Restoration that's completely free to use. For my purposes at least, it did the trick. Restoration allowed me to browse individual files and folders that needed to be recovered. The first step is to make sure you've selected the drive you've just installed, then search for a file name. If you want it to find everything that's been deleted, just leave the search field blank and hit the button. It's tedious if you have lots to restore, as I did, but it's a starting point. If you want something that's easier to use and don't mind paying for it, check Recover My Files, which is comparatively cheap (data recovery software can be expensive) at $US67 ($A85). It speeds up things by letting you select multiple items to restore. Whatever data you are recovering needs to be copied onto a separate drive, so check that the PC has enough room for it. Finally, with the data safely stored on the other system, get your hard disk back into your own PC (remember to set the jumper back to master). You will need some way of transferring your files back to your own computer (portable USB hard drive, recordable CD or DVD, for example). If you reckon this is all pretty complicated stuff, try backing up next time.
Use it, don't lose it
Now that you've been on the verge of losing all your data, backing up is not such a boring subject after all, is it? A few years ago, the idea of setting up a file server at home seemed a bit naff. Today, it still seems pretty naff and unless you have ready access to cheap IT support, you probably don't need to go down that route. There are plenty of solutions that you can buy or set up yourself to keep a copy of your most important data safe. Everything from copying a few vital folders to making a complete image of your hard disk drive is readily available to the home user.
An external hard drive is a popular choice because it is easy to set up. You don't have to open your PC to install it and it often ships with software to help you manage the backup process. Connect through either FireWire or USB 2.0 (USB 1.1 is too slow for any decent-sized hard disk so don't even bother). Some models, like the Uniden Buffalo LinkStation (pictured right), even have built-in Ethernet networking so you can share the storage with multiple computers. Remember, though, that unless you have Gigabit networking, the data transfer speeds will be slower than either of the serial technologies. Maxtor made the one-button backup external hard drive solution its own with the excellent OneTouch series. It's still regarded as one of the best backup products on the market. However, Seagate has recently upped the ante with a new 400GB external hard drive that also has a one-button backup system compatible with both PCs and Macs. Inhouse rules If you have a second hard drive, you can always set it up as your backup device. Install it as a secondary drive (refer to previous instructions on how to do this) and you instantly have added storage space that you can drag and drop files to. If your main hard disk becomes corrupted or crashes, your data will be safely stored on the second drive. For a complete copy of everything including your Windows installation, applications, settings and files, you can use disk imaging software such as Drive Image (now acquired by Symantec). This creates a complete image of your system, so if anything ever happens all you need to do is boot from the rescue disk. You'll need to ensure that the backup drive has enough space to fit everything that's on your main drive and room to move as your data continues to grow. You can divide a single hard disk into multiple drives for this purpose using tools like Norton PartitionMagic. However, if your drive fails in a physical way, there's less chance of recovering your data, so it's always a good idea to keep your backups on a physically separate storage device.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, http://smh.com.au/articles/2005/02/16/1108500138423.html?oneclick=true