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The best data recovery software

October 6th, 2007

There are hundreds if not thousands of different recovery softwares on the market. Which one is the best?

The fact is, most of them are the same basic functions with a different GUI. Going a step further, most of them are performing functions available for free in an open source piece of software. Why use open source instead of a software that costs money? Not only can you be sure exactly what an open source piece of software is doing, but it’s also free! As well, there is generally a good size community of users that are willing to discuss solutions and problems with the code.

Warning: Before moving forward with any self-recovery, please be aware you can easily make the disk COMPLETELY UNRECOVERABLE if you move forward without knowing what you are doing (and in some cases when you do). If the data is worth less than $199 to you feel free to try some of these suggestions. If the data is worth $199, don’t mess around with your chances. Power the drive down, pack it up and send it to us. Now without further annoying warnings, here is the best data recovery software available:

The Winner and Still Champion

Antonio Diaz’s GNU ddrescue. This software can copy a failing drive to a new disk – giving you a better chance of recovery because you will be working on a disk that is not failing. This is an important step and one of the first steps DriveFish takes when recovering data. Imagine you have a hard drive that is failing (you know it has bad blocks, is making noise, giving CRC errors etc). With ddrescue you can copy all of the data in RAW mode from the bad disk to a working one – which you can then work with to try and reconstruct your data. This way, you arent constantly spinning the bad drive and reducing your chances of recovery. Copy the disk using ddrescue to a working disk for your best chance of success!

It’s important to mention, ddrescue is very different from ddrescue and dd. ddrescue is authored by Antonio Diaz, is GNU and is more functional and safer than the other titles. In our experience we have never lost a single byte to a bug in ddrescue. To describe what this software does, we’ll use the description from the author:

“GNU ddrescue is a data recovery tool. It copies data from one file or block device (hard disc, cdrom, etc) to another, trying hard to rescue data in case of read errors. GNU ddrescue does not truncate the output file if not asked to. So, every time you run it on the same output file, it tries to fill in the gaps. The basic operation of GNU ddrescue is fully automatic. That is, you don’t have to wait for an error, stop the program, read the log, run it in reverse mode, etc. If you use the logfile feature of GNU ddrescue, the data is rescued very efficiently (only the needed blocks are read). Also you can interrupt the rescue at any time and resume it later at the same point.”

One of the coolest things about this software is the logfile feature – allowing you to resume a failed copy and tweak down on troubled sectors.

You can find this wonderful software here.

How to use it?

Installation

Debian Linux:
# apt-get install ddrescue

RedHat Linux:
# yum -y install ddrescue

Installs as /usr/bin/ddrescue

Example:

To copy /dev/sda (damaged \device\harddisk0) to another drive /dev/sdb (empty \device\harddisk1)

# ddrescue /dev/sda /dev/sdb

To recover the partition data run fsck, for example if /home (user data) is on /dev/sda2, run fsck on partition /dev/sdb2:
# fsck /dev/sdb2

This avoids touching the damaged /dev/sda, if the procedure fails you can send the original disk to us.

Lastly mount the partition somewhere and see if you can access the data:
# mount /dev/sdb2 /mnt/data

Honorable Mentions

Testdisk, Photorec and pdisk are all present in our engineers collections. Click the software titles to read more about them.

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