How to recover files after I have formatted my computer?
December 26, 2010 10:43 AM   Subscribe

How to recover files after I have formatted my computer c: drive? I have windows ultimate 64 bit. Thanks
posted by omaralarifi to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From a backup.

Seriously, unles you want to spend thousands with a data recovery service, those files are, more or less, gone.
posted by SansPoint at 10:50 AM on December 26, 2010

Did you install Windows on the same disk in question after formatting?

Even with thousands of dollars I'd think any data that was previously on the disk would be gone.
posted by rancidchickn at 11:30 AM on December 26, 2010

There is software that can recover files after a format. There are others that shouldn't be hard to find but here's the first one I could find, Disk Doctors Windows Data Recovery. The first thing you MUST DO NOW is stop using that computer, because every action you take on it degrades the underlying deteled files & makes it harder to recover them.
posted by scalefree at 11:30 AM on December 26, 2010

Here's another one that has a good reputation - Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery. Again, I cannot stress this enough - STOP USING THAT COMPUTER if you want any hope of recovering the files.
posted by scalefree at 11:34 AM on December 26, 2010

yeah, stop using that computer, find someone with forensic software link ncase, or some other one and see if anything is still there...
posted by fozzie33 at 11:39 AM on December 26, 2010

Yeah.. It might theoretically be possible to recover some of the data. When a deletes a file, all it does is mark that location on the disk as being 'free' So the data could theoretically be recovered. With reformatting, a lot of times just the start of the disk gets erased. But if you reinstall windows, that's going to be a lot of data lost.

Really, remember your backups!
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on December 26, 2010

It all depends on whether you did a quick format or a full format. A full format writes zeros to every sector and makes it impossible to use any of the recovery software listed above.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:59 AM on December 26, 2010

Even with a full format it's not theoretically impossible to do a recovery, but it is prohibitively expensive. You have to use a technique called data remanence, which basically looks at the settings the individual bits on the drive previously held before they were overwritten. Not easy & not cheap, but it is possible.
posted by scalefree at 12:52 PM on December 26, 2010

One the the best free data recovery tools I've used over the years is PC Disk Inspector. But yes, you'll definitely want to stop using the disk asap. If you can, attach it to another working PC as a secondary drive during the recover process.

There's two types of formatting operations you could have done...quick format and full format. If you've only done a quick format (eg. it only took a few seconds to complete) then you should be fine for data recovery. In fact, most if not all of your previous data is recoverable in this state. If you've written things to the drive you've possibly overwritten deleted data as noted in a previous response.

If you performed a full format however, you might consider thowing in the towel if it is not crucial data that is lost. The options from a full format (where each bit is overwritten) are fairly expensive.
posted by samsara at 2:20 PM on December 26, 2010

Best advice is to stop using that drive immediately - you will continue to overwrite those files if you do anything to it. The act of "formatting" in windows doesn't mean that the data is lost, just that it is flagged as "okay to overwrite".

I don't know how big this drive is, but the first thing I would do is take an image of the drive using DD (if you know someone who is comfortable at the command-line), or using a tool called FTK Imager, which can create a DD image or an E01 image that can be used in a forensic utility (like FTK or Encase). You'll want to do a physical image, not a logical one. There are a few other utilities out there that will "carve" out files from disk images. Sorry I can't be more helpful there, but I mainly use software like Encase and FTK to perform data recovery, and that software is expensive.

If you're not comfortable with computers in general and really really need this data, you're going to have to spend some money to get your data back.
posted by antonymous at 3:25 PM on December 26, 2010

This sort of thing is as much an art as a science; if you're not familiar with the concepts & the process involved & the data is that important, you really should consider going to a recovery service & let them do it for you. They'll be able to get back much more of your data than you would on your own. It all depends on how important & valuable the lost files are.
posted by scalefree at 9:23 AM on December 27, 2010

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