Digital storage has become one of the most convenient and paradigm shifting technologies for businesses and individuals alike.  The ability to store, organize, and quickly retrieve and analyze photos, tax documents, and schoolwork allows us to work quickly, efficiently and effectively, and it doesn’t take up any of that wall space which was previously occupied by a bank of filing cabinets.

However, when hard drives fail, or optical media gets scratched, it is easy to curse this technology.  While backup systems will always protect you from this type of disaster, it usually takes a loss of data before the investment seems prudent.

Fortunately there is a faint glimmer of hope for those affected by digital storage media failure.

The first thing that must be discovered is whether the hard drive failure is a software or a hardware problem.  Software problems are for the lucky ones out there.  This usually means that something has gone wrong with the operating system and the hard drive will no longer boot (into Windows for example).  It is a fairly trivial matter to extract the data lost as a result of software failure and involves using an external hard drive enclosure connected to another computer, or simply connecting the hard drive directly to the mother board of another working computer.

Hardware failure is the tricky one.  This is usually identified by clicking or clunking noises coming from the hard drive when it is powered up.  We call that the “Click of Death” and usually means disaster to whatever data was stored exclusively on the device.  When hardware failure is the cause, there is really only a few things that can happen.  First, we will use a free tool, such as MHDD to run some diagnostics on the hard drive.  For hardware failure, the drive must be connected directly to the hard drive – not in an external USB enclosure.


The first thing that is required when you are attempting to recover digital data is to determine what type of damage your dear media has suffered.  MHDD allows you to determine the status of the mechanical pieces of the drive, as well as the output of various common tests such as SMART.  With this information you will have a better idea of how difficult the task ahead may be.

Once you know that the hard drive is responding you will use software similar to DeepSpar Disc Imager ( which will do a bit by bit extraction of all data that can be recovered.  This software doesn’t come cheap though, so it is at this point where you may need to be calling a professional recovery firm to take care of you.

Luckily, most hard drive failures are of the software type, and with the help of a technically savvy individual – you could dodge a pretty big bullet.  Then, once your data has been recovered – be sure to invest in a backup system – it will help you sleep at night.

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