Practical advice on what *NOT* to do when your hard drive fails

by Sally J.

in * How to PRESERVE Family History Treasures, Free Articles / Blog

Hard drive failure.

It’s a nightmare, no doubt about it. And it will happen to you eventually.

Here’s a quick tip on what you should never do if your hard drive crashes: Restart the machine.


Because accidentally deleted files could be overwritten. Permanently, irrevocably overwritten.

Below is a peek at a damaged JPEG file. The MZ in the right hand column is where it was overwritten. This photo was completely lost.

But, wait a minute!

If you can’t start up the computer, how on earth can you run the software that will attempt to recover your data?

According to Computerworld, if you don’t have a bootable CD you’ve got to remove the hard drive from the machine and either install it in another computer as a secondary disk drive or attach it to another machine.

I learned all this from a great article in Computerworld:

Surviving a home data disaster: How Shirley got her files back.

Author Robert Mitchell explains:

My experience should give you a good idea of what you’d face in a similar situation — as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the tools and techniques a recovery expert used to recover Shirley’s files. Along the way, you’ll also find tips on what you can do to prevent problems in the first place and ensure the best possible outcome when — not if — a data recovery problem crops up on your machine.

Read the full article here.

And then go back up all your important files. Anything you don’t want to lose. You won’t regret it. Heck, you might even sleep a little easier.

Sally J. December 11, 2007 at 4:19 am

@Bradley — This is wonderfully succinct: “The chances of data recovery depend on usage of the hard disk after data loss.”

@Brian — I would LOVE to say that I’m hard core enough to attempt a live boot, but I’d be more likely to hand it over to someone else. But then I’ve never had to pay for data recovery (thank goodness) so I don’t really know what it costs. Saving big bucks with the DIY approach might be enough incentive for me.

Brian December 4, 2007 at 9:21 pm

When I’ve had OS issues another good way is to use a bootable Linux CD, such as Knoppix, or I think even Ubuntu can do a Live boot.

This will boot everything right off of the CD/DVD and allow you access the hard drive and burn/move any files off that you need. It may be a slight learning curve due to it not being exactly like Windows (if you’re using Windows.)

This may not help if the hard drive is actually corrupted, but it will work fine if just the operating system has failed.

bradley November 28, 2007 at 10:19 am

When hard drives fail people panic and try all possible solutions hoping to recovery their data. The chances of data recovery depend on usage of the hard disk after data loss. Trying to restart the computer or installing any new application on the hard drive after data loss may lead to permanent data loss. Data recovery software can help in recovering the lost data. The tips mentioned in the article are really very helpful. Data loss experience of Shirley opens our eyes towards regular backup, to safeguard our data.

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