Data Recovery from “Empty” or Physically Dead Drives

DISCLAIMER

If the data you’re trying to recovery is important, please send the drive to a Data Recovery Professional. By continuing, you are acknowledging that attempting data recovery with very little or no expertise can lead to loss of data. We are not liable for any unrecoverable or damaged data.

Prologue

Oh no! You’ve encountered an issue where a drive has failed, accidentally deleted data or some other catastrophic failure. So what do you do next? Depending on how important the data is to you, you may want to send that HDD/SSD/flash drive to a data recovery professional. But, what if they’re not that important and you want to see if you can get them back?

  1. Follow the first half this flow chart:
  2. If the drive is deemed recoverable and you have read the disclaimer at the top of our page, head down to the tools section.
  3. Remember to backup your data if you were successful in recovering your data. We have a section in our knowledgebase here.

 

Guides

  1. Recovery Force’s hard drive triage guide
  2. Cloning a failing drive with bad sectors using ddrescue

 

Tools

This section contains useful tools and tips on those tools to help your data recovery process.

  1. Recuva by Piriform
    Recuva is a small freeware program you can use to recover pictures, music, documents, videos, or any other types of files on your hard drive, memory cards, floppy disks, iPod or MP3 player, or USB sticks.
    Revuca can:Revuca can't:
    Scan through your hard drives, memory cards, and USB sticks to find files and folders you’ve deleted.Recover all files. Yes, as great as Recuva is it won’t work all the time. Sometimes Windows has overwritten the area where the file used to be, or sometimes the file is too corrupted to recover.
    Tell you in advance how likely it is that your file(s) can be recovered.Recover files you’ve deleted securely.
    Recover files that Windows can’t. (see this)Securely delete certain very small files that are held in the Master File Table (MFT) and files of zero-byte length.
    Securely delete a file you may have previously deleted.Recuva is capable of recovering from NAS devices, however the drive needs to be connected directly to the machine via USB/IDE/SATA. Recuva is not capable of recovering data over a network.
    Recover emails you deleted ‘permanently’ from Microsoft Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Windows Live Mail.
    Recover files from your iPod, iPod Nano, or iPod Shuffle (iPod Touch and iPhone not supported at this time). Recuva will even recover songs with Apple’s FairPlay DRM.
    Recover Canon RAW (.CRW) format image files.
    Recover files from NTFS, FAT, and exFAT-formatted drives.
  2. Testdisk by CGSecurity
    TestDisk is powerful free data recovery software! It was primarily designed to help recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software: certain types of viruses or human error (such as accidentally deleting a Partition Table). Partition table recovery using TestDisk is really easy.
    Testdisk can:
    Copy files from deleted FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2/ext3/ext4 partitions.
    Fix FAT tables.
    Fix MFT using MFT mirror.
    Fix partition table, recover deleted partition.
    Locate ext2/ext3/ext4 Backup SuperBlock.
    Rebuild FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sector.
    Rebuild NTFS boot sector.
    Recover FAT32 boot sector from its backup.
    Recover NTFS boot sector from its backup.
    Undelete files from FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2 filesystem.
     
  3. PhotoRec by CGSecurity
    PhotoRec is file data recovery software designed to recover lost files including video, documents and archives from hard disks, CD-ROMs, and lost pictures (thus the Photo Recovery name) from digital camera memory. PhotoRec ignores the file system and goes after the underlying data, so it will still work even if your media’s file system has been severely damaged or reformatted.
    PhotoRec ignores the file system; this way it works even if the file system is severely damaged. It can recover lost files from at least:
    Filesystem:
    FAT
    NTFS
    exFAT
    ext2/ext3/ext4
    HFS+
    PhotoRec works with hard disks, CD-ROMs, memory cards (CompactFlash, Memory Stick, Secure Digital/SD, SmartMedia, Microdrive, MMC, etc.), USB memory drives, DD raw image, EnCase E01 image, etc. PhotoRec has been successfully tested with various portable media players including iPod.
  4. FTK Imager by AccessData
    The Forensic Toolkit Imager (FTK Imager) is a commercial forensic imaging software package distributed by AccessData. FTK Imager supports storage of disk images in EnCase’s or SMART’s file format, as well as in raw (dd) format. With Isobuster technology built in, FTK Imager Images CD’s to a ISO/CUE file combination. This also includes multi and open session CDs.

Subreddits

Subreddits to help with data recovery if everything else fails.

  1. /r/datarecovery A place to discuss the ins and outs of data recovery, both logical and physical.

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