In the past, memories were stored in scrap books and libraries of photo albums. Personal data was filed away in folders and binders. With the advent of computer based technology, the majority of our personal data and precious memories have all gone digital. Storing this ever growing volume of digital data has become the dutiful responsibility of the modern day hard drive. With all its moving parts and internal mechanisms it is inevitable that they will eventually fail over time. Although solid state hard drives have begun to infiltrate the market with its enhanced reliability over traditional hard drives, the cost is still a premium for the average consumer. Recovering your data from a failing or failed hard drive can seem an un-daunting task. If you're comfortable with diagnosing, connecting and disconnecting hard drives then these tips may be helpful to you and your data recovery efforts.
Most consumer grade hard drives sold within the last 5 years or so include predictive failure function known as Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T). This feature can easily be enabled on most systems by entering the BIOS or System Setup. During the pc boot up process, a warning will be displayed if the S.M.A.R.T function detects issues on the hard drive. Immediately back up your data then replace the hard drive. Another area that can reveal problems is the event logs on Microsoft Windows based systems. The most common hard drive related error event log message is "windows has detected a bad block on device." This message is usually accompanied with blue screens, corrupt data and sluggish performance. At this point, backing up your files is critical. Consider using an external hard drive via USB or fire wire for backing up your data if the failing drive is still accessible via the operating system. If the failing drive is no longer accessible then offline access is probably the next best option.
If you have another computer available, you could attach the failing hard drive as a secondary drive then copy off the data. Another option would be to install the failing drive into an external hard drive case then pull data via USB or a fire wire connection. If the operating system is unable to copy off your data then try software recovery.
Data recovery software, assuming the drive is still accessible, scans the failing hard drive, maps and identifies files it determines can be successfully restored. A list of recoverable files is usually generated and presented to the end user for selection and subsequent recovery. The price range can vary from freeware to hundreds of dollars. Data recovery applications are readily available on the web for download and immediate purchase. Professional Data recovery service is the next and usually final option if the drive is longer detected by the pc or is completely nonfunctional.
Professional Data Recovery
If you absolutely cannot part with data on an inaccessible hard drive, then consider using a professional data recovery service. These services have the facilities and technical expertise to recover data from hard drives in almost any condition. The cost of such services can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the recovery methods used and amount of data.
Safe guarding personal data that resides on consumer grade hard drives should be a proactive endeavor. Regular backups, local or off site and monitoring of preeminent failures can greatly increase and secure the long term availability of your personal data. Implementing Raid if your computer system supports it can also assist in protecting your data.