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Going the DIY data recovery route – tips and warnings

(Image credit: Image Credit: Pexels / Pixabay)

Consumers are often advised to not go the “DIY route” when it comes to working on their laptop or desktop computer or other devices such as digital cameras. They typically shouldn’t try to pop the back off the machine and extract the hard drive in an attempt to access missing or corrupt files. Laptops are built really thin and they’re nearly impossible to open, and in many cases the person attempting the recovery might damage the computer’s internal parts.

Despite these warnings, there are often ways to retrieve files from such devices without causing any harm by utilising a recovery software program. Many users conduct a quick “Googling” of “file recovery software” and then are faced with a range of choices, including many free utilities that promise fast and easy recovery. Unfortunately, these programs are more likely to infect the user’s devices with malware than they are to actually recover any content. And these programs are usually only offered in English, which leaves out billions of other potential users. It’s best to select quality software from a reliable source, one that understands there’s a need for a global presence. Here are some tips for choosing and working with a recovery program:

Understand the tools and use cases

Many different issues can damage personal electronics such as cameras and laptops, and the odds of recovering data with DIY tools largely depends on what caused data loss.  A common computer user problem involves moving items to the Recycle Bin by accident. This type of issue can be resolved with recovery programs that are built for non-technical users, especially in cases where not too much time or restarts has passed since the files were “trashed.” The best programs will have uncomplicated user interfaces that allow people to follow simple prompts in order to locate file

SD cards found in a GoPro, digital camera, or tablet device are often susceptible to file errors, but these cards are also quite simple, especially compared to complex computers. There are several products on the market such as RescuePRO which are built for managing all sorts of SD card errors. If for example a user pulls a SD card out of a tablet and then puts it into their digital camera, formatting issues will likely develop as each device formats the card in different ways and the formats will conflict with each other.

Another common error is caused by the camera operator turning off the camera too quickly, and not giving the device enough time to properly “write” the data to the card. The card might become also corrupted without any underlying user-error.  In either case, it’s not likely there will be permanent damage to the files, and a good recovery program will be able to help.  Using a recovery tool with SD cards is exceedingly simple. You just plug the card into a reader, and then follow some simple prompt commands so the program can search for the missing files. They require only a bare minimum of tech knowledge, and they’re built so they won’t alter or delete any files by accident.

Pick a reputable firm

SanDisk is a leading provider of SD cards, and also offers a reliable recovery tool that is developed in partnership with a top recovery specialist. Most of the company’s higher-end cards come with access to the recovery tool, which are very successful at retrieving data.

For example, many products from manufacturers such as Toshiba and Wester Digital include built-in recovery tools that are licensed from a recovery company. Many users do not know about these programs, although they can be found with a quick search of available programs on the device. It’s best to utilise such a program before choosing another recovery tool since they are purpose-built for managing that specific device. These built-in recovery tools are endorsed products that are backed by the manufacturer for optimal performance.

Quality recovery tools are also frequently updated so they can work with a wide variety of device and file formats. The best providers are constantly adding updates that might cover new devices such as GoPro’s, a video design program such as BlackMagic, and the latest file and image formats. Quality products will also perform security updates to ensure the recovery tool works properly with the latest security parameters to that users aren’t exposing themselves to threats.

Rely on quality customer service

A leading recovery provider will offer multiple channels of experienced customer service staff. Using a free software recovery utility won’t be backed by any type of service, so you’re stuck if there’s a problem. Customer service teams at recovery firms have seen it all. They can help guide you through multiple situations. Perhaps the user pulled the card out before it was done writing or it was exposed to some static electricity. People panic when it comes to losing data, and they might have trouble using even the best-designed recovery problems. Immediately accessible customer service can quiet the panic. Top software providers will have multiple levels of support and a global reach through offices around the world. Pick one that offers online chat which is an especially useful feature for users to get quick answers.

Some data recovery jobs require expert technicians with access to advanced equipment. If a laptop is exposed to salt water from a flood, then the user needs to bring or ship the device to a qualified recovery facility. These companies operate “clean room” environments and will understand how to carefully remove hardened salt water deposits and access the hard drive. DIY recovery is very often possible, but it’s important for users to understand their technical limits, and it’s useful to have a reputable firm on “speed dial” that can tackle bigger jobs.

Recovering data is fundamentally complex on the back-end, but in some cases it’s easily accomplished by a user armed with the right tools. Going the “DIY route” can be a useful way and inexpensive way to recover data from computers or portable devices and save those precious files or photos.

David Zimmerman, CEO, LC Technology International (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Pexels / Pixabay

David Zimmerman, CEO of LC Technology International, Inc., has been in the hardware/software industry for over 30 years, specifically in the data recovery software market for 18 years.