At Datarecovery.com, we generally discourage the use of data recovery software — not because software doesn’t work, but because in certain failure scenarios, running a hard drive can cause permanent data loss.
Software can be effective in specific situations (for instance, when a user accidentally deletes files). However, it’s important to have detailed knowledge about the precise conditions of data loss before operating the drive. You’ll also need to know the capabilities of your data recovery software.
That’s especially important when files aren’t accessible due to data corruption. Below, we’ll explain the basics. However, if you’re looking for a quick, clear answer: It’s usually a bad idea to run data recovery software on a corrupted hard drive.
What is a “corrupted hard drive,” and what causes file corruption?
File corruption occurs when data becomes inaccessible because fragments of the file are missing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the data is gone forever, but the underlying problem will need to be addressed.
Data corruption can occur for a variety of reasons including:
- An application encounters an error while writing a file and can’t finish the process. Modern software is designed to prevent corruption from occurring when write processes are interrupted, but unfortunately, these mechanisms aren’t perfect.
- Your computer shuts down unexpectedly. Computers read and write data nearly constantly, and an improper shutdown can cause file damage and mechanical hard drive issues. If file corruption affects operating system files, your computer may not be able to boot properly.
- Power surges (or voltage spikes) interrupt your hard drive’s operation. Hard drives have sensitive electronic components, which is why proper surge protection is extremely important.
- Malicious software (or malware) intentionally corrupts data. Most malware infections can be resolved, and data recovery is usually possible — but the malware infection should be treated before running data recovery software.
- Your hard drive’s components are beginning to fail. Every hard drive has mechanical parts, and mechanical devices eventually break down. If the actuator assembly or spindle begins to fail, data transmission will be interrupted, which will cause file corruption. Corruption may also be caused by a breakdown in the performance of the magnetic material that stores data on the platter(s).
Ultimately, data corruption is a symptom — a frustrating, serious symptom. To recover your files, you’ll need to understand the underlying problem.
Data recovery software can’t treat all of the causes of file corruption.
Some types of data corruption can be resolved with data recovery software, but only in extremely specific circumstances. If you’re trying to recover data that isn’t particularly important — for instance, you’ve lost a few hours of work, but you could recreate that work with some extra effort — software tools might be an effective solution.
However, when data is essential, file corruption should be evaluated by a professional data recovery engineer. By running software, you take several risks:
- If your hard drive is physically failing, running software will make the symptoms worse. Data recovery software is extremely intensive, and if your hard drive is in the first stages of failure, it may become completely inaccessible as the software operates.
- Data recovery software may make file corruption more severe. Software only works when your computer system is mechanically healthy. If that’s not the case, the software may “scramble” the data when attempting repairs.
- Installing the software could overwrite your data. When files are corrupted, their data still exists somewhere — but that can change when you write new data to your hard drive. Most data recovery software includes warnings advising users to install the software on a separate PC, but unfortunately, users often ignore these warnings.
- Some data recovery software may skip bad sectors. Those bad sectors may contain important segments of your corrupted files.
Before using data recovery software, research your options carefully. Make sure you understand the risks. If you’re not willing to lose the data, we strongly recommend working with experienced experts.
If you’re dealing with a corrupted hard drive, Datarecovery.com can help.
We offer a no data, no charge policy for all hard drive failure scenarios, which provides peace of mind as your case progresses. Each of our full-service laboratories is outfitted with industry-leading technology to ensure high success rates, low recovery costs, and fast turnaround times.
Contact us today at 1-800-237-4200 or fill out our online case form to schedule a free evaluation.