Your primary hard drive crashed, and you went to restore your backup from your external hard drive, only to find that your external hard drive crashed too. Or you had all your media files saved to an external hard drive to free up space on your system, and your drive failed. There's good news: external hard drive recovery of your data is possible, but you should know the limitations before committing your data to an external drive.
What's Causing the Problem?
Software problems and hardware problems translate to very different methods of hard drive data recovery. With a little know-how, you can you can work around software problems and get your data back. Hardware problems are a bit trickier, and may require professional assistance.
To determine whether you're facing software or hardware issues, hook your external hard drive up to your computer. Does the drive activity indicator light up? Does the drive make any unusual clicking noises, the normal whirring noise of successful data access or no noise at all? If the hard drive clicks or remains completely silent, or if the drive activity indicator doesn't light, you probably have a hardware problem. If it sounds normal but you still can't get at your data, you're probably dealing with a software problem.
Using a Data Recovery Service
Hardware failures are the most severe types of hard drive problems. Unless you're willing to completely give up on the drive, you shouldn't attempt data recovery from a damaged drive on your own. Because damaged hard drives require special equipment and a dust-free, static-free environment to repair, your best bet is to leave hardware issues in the hands of the professionals. Hard drive data recovery services can be extremely expensive, however, charging anywhere from $500 to $2,500 for service. It's much cheaper to maintain copies of your data in the event of a hard drive failure. A 1TB drive costs less than $500; back everything up onto it and put it in the closet in case disaster strikes.
Using Data Recovery Software
If you've got a software issue, additional software could provide a solution. Whether you've accidentally partitioned your hard drive or have contracted a nasty virus, data recovery software can help you recover your lost files. When using data recovery software, you typically don't have to have a high level of computer savvy. You simply hook up the damaged drive, make sure you have enough space on an intact drive to store the data you want to save, and run the software. You'll be walked through a series of steps to select the damaged data source, choose the data recovery destination and begin the process. Note that some software programs will only restore certain types of data; for example, e-mail files or data files.
An Imperfect Science
Hard drive data recovery isn't a surefire way to recover all of your lost data. When you use data recovery software, you're limited by its capabilities. Some programs must be installed ahead of time to provide data protection and recovery. Make sure that the program you choose will work with an external hard drive; some don't.
Hardware damage can be even more difficult to deal with. If you use a hard drive data recovery service, you're likely to get all of your data back with a reliable company. Keep in mind, however, that exposure to magnetic fields or severe damage to the drive may destroy some of your data permanently.
The more valuable your data, the more steps you should take to protect it. Outfit your external hard drive with data recovery software as soon as you get it, and keep a second external on hand for periodic backups of the data you just can't afford to lose.
How does a hard drive work with data recovery software? External hard drive data recovery software can save you hours of precious time and restore data that you thought was gone forever. However, different hard drive data recovery programs come with different functions, so you need to make sure you get the features that you need.
Wondering how to use an external hard drive? USB makes plug-and-play functionality easy, so a few short steps can have you using your hard drive in no time.