How to Recover Data Off a Re-Written Hard Drive

By Shawn M. Tomlinson

  • Overview

    One of the great things about computer hard drives is that no matter what you put on them, it rarely disappears completely. Even if you erase an HD or write new data over the old, you really have to go out of your way to totally remove the original data. So, unlike taking old paper files to the incinerator and then discovering too late that you need something in them, with HDs, you still have a good chance of getting it back.
    • Step 1

      Use file-saver software from the moment you start using a hard drive. This is the best way to make certain you can recover data later, whether it is lost due to a crash or overwriting. Most utilities programs allow you to start file-saver software at any time. Programs like TechTool Pro installs tags in data files that allow the program to later search for and recover files.
    • Step 2

      Use data-recovery software to search for files. Computers will fill up empty space before they start using previously written space. Data-recovery software will search for the scattered bits of data all over the hard drive and provide a list of what it can recover, usually giving a percentage chance of recovery.


    • Step 3

      Use a new or separate HD for data recovery. Trying to recover lost files to the same HD can cause problems such as fragmentation and overwriting more. Hooking up a new, unused HD for data recovery provides the best possibilities for recovering files.
    • Step 4

      Don't trash any files you may need in the future. Save them to CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs to clear hard-drive space. This will prevent the need for future data-recovery missions that can be time-consuming and don't result in 100 percent success.
    • Step 5

      Back up recovered files as soon as possible. Put them on external media in their recovered forms. If you need to put them back on the HD, you still have external safe copies.
    • Skill: Moderately Challenging
    • Ingredients:
    • Data-recovery software

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