Data Recovery

Revision as of 15:13, 7 June 2011 by Nathan Burt (talk | contribs)

General Data Recovery

  • Any file stored on our DFS servers is backed up every 6 hours and you can revert to older versions at any time. See below.
  • Outlook attachments are stored in a temp folder that is cleared out frequently. So if you open a Word document from an email attachment and make changes, you MUST choose "Save As" to save the document elsewhere. Documents saved in the Outlook temp folder are very likely unrecoverable.
  • Recuva - basic Windows file recovery. Can restore pictures deleted from a camera and so forth.
  • See this Lifehacker article for suggestions and instructions on other useful software.
  • For recovering data from a damaged hard disk, see below.
  • Professional help is available for severely damaged disks if other options do not work.

Recovering Files From DFS Servers (formerly Novell Servers)

  • (Windows only): Right-click on the folder that contains the missing file (in the case of a missing folder, right click the parent folder of a missing folder) and select Properties from the pop-up menu.  Then click on "Previous Versions" tab.

Recovering Deleted E-mail Messages

Outlook configured to use Exchange (Windows only):
  • Open the "Deleted Items" folder and see if the messages are there.
  • If they are not in "Deleted Items" folder, open the folder where they were deleted from and go to the Tools menu => "Recover Deleted Items"
  • If that option is not there, open middfiles (the N: drive) => Software => Software-Windows => Quick-Fixes => outlook-dumpster-on.reg.  Run that process and it should add the "Recover Deleted Items" option to the Tools menu for all folders in Outllook
  • In the "Recover Deleted Items" dialog box, select the messages to be recovered and click the icon that is an envelope with an arrow pointing out of it to recover them to the original folder.

Recovering Word Documents

Word or computer crashed before saving

There are multiple approaches here, and some scenarios where the document is probably unrecoverable.

  • Working on a public machine, the computer crashes or shuts off; the document was not saved or was saved on the hard drive: Probably can't be recovered. DeepFreeze erases all changes made to a computer every time it is restarted.
  • The document had been saved on file server space previously, but Word crashed before changes could be saved: A recovery file containing the changes made may be saved in the same folder as the document. Look in the folder for hidden files with a similar name.
  • When Word crashed, it may have saved a log of changes on the computer. Open a new blank document in Word and then look in C:/ for a plain text file called 'Recovered.txt' or something similar.
  • Word may detect that it crashed and that work was unsaved. On re-opening it will display a dialog asking if you want to try to recover the lost files.

Corrupt Word Documents

You can often recover the text from a document even when the document format is corrupt.

  1. Word => File => Open => Open and Repair
  2. Word => File => Open => Recover text from any file

Getting the Music from your iPod

It's possible to copy music from an iPod to the a computer: see this article

Damaged Disks

1st Considerations

Before proceeding with any data recovery, consider the following factors:

  • Importance of data (is it unique, difficult to reproduce, important to end user)
  • Expense of recovery methods
  1. Time - some recovery methods may take hours or days
  2. Money - professional data recovery can run thousands of dollars in extreme cases
  3. Risk of loss - though already difficult to get to, data can be further compromised by further attempts

If you hear "odd" noises from the hard drive when turning on the computer, take time evaluating the above, get additional opinions, and consider options below carefully.


  • Is the disk clicking? This is the most likely indicator of physical disk damage. Regular, punctuated clicks are the most dire signals.
  • If there is absolutely no noise from the disk and no recognition of it, the disk might have an electrical failure. In this case there's little chance we can recover anything...
  • OS won't start, or Windows system file missing or corrupt = possibly local disk damage. Other files may not be damaged; boot with a live CD and try to retrieve files.


  • NOTE: mounting a hard drive on a computer will give it exercise - limit this if the drive is damaged.  Common culprits are AntiVirus on Mac (cancel the scan), Google Desktop, Spotlight on a Mac (System Preferences - Spotlight - Privacy - add the drive to the list).  Do this BEFORE continuing with further seeking of data and copying!!!
  • For Macs, try accessing the disk using Target Disk Mode.
  • For Windows or Mac, start up an Ubuntu live CD or a BART CD and try accessing the disk.
  • Use DITTO, a command-line tool on Macs, to copy data over directly from one location to another. See below.
  • With really serious cases, try dd, ddrescue, or dd_rhelp in Linux. dd is included by default on the Ubuntu live CD. These are command-line tools but very powerful; they copy any data they can read byte-for-byte. ddrescue also saves a logfile of errors so you can run it a second time on the same CD, hard drive, or floppy disk and it will bypass the areas which have already been successfully recovered.

CDs / DVDs only

  • For damaged CDs / DVDs, use the disk repair unit that LIS has. Helpdesk can make a ticket for media services, who has access to the repair unit.
  • DVD repair tool

Using DITTO to recover files

Macs come with a built-in command line program that can be used for data recovery. Macs tend to be better than Windows at reading dead PC hard disks.

  • Start up a healthy Mac.
  • Connect the dead hard disk to this Mac.
  • Open Applications => Utilities => Terminal
  • Enter this in the Terminal window:
  • Where [SOURCE] should be replaced with the folder that you'd like to recovery/copy, and [DESTINATION] is a healthy hard disk where you'd like the recovered files to go. Note that you can type in:
ditto -V 
  • then drag the source folder to the Terminal window, and it will fill out the path to it correctly. You can repeat the same for the destination folder.

Professional Data Recovery Services

There are many such services - these are but two options.  These both offer 'clean room' services, which provide more sophisticated options for data recovery from hard drives with physical and/or electrical damage.  Kroll Ontrack provides services that will not void warranty on many systems (including Apple and Dell models).

Powered by MediaWiki