How to Recover Hard Drive Files

By Techwalla Contributor

Have you experienced data loss and need to recover your hard drive files? Do you have important information on your hard drive that needs to be restored? Are you unsure of how to recover lost hard drive data? This article provides you with information you need to learn how to recover data from a hard drive.

Things You'll Need

  • a second computer OR
  • another hard drive with an OS installed

Step 1

Make sure your problem is actually the hard drive and not the controller. Many people who think they have suffered hard drive data loss and want to recover files from the hard drive do not know that sometimes the problem is actually the controller. Remove the hard drive from your system, if possible, and install as the main drive in a different computer system. If you find it boots as it should, the problem then may be your controller. Otherwise, go to step 2.

Step 2

Do not write any more data to the hard drive if you want to restore hard drive files. If you've erased a file via the recycle bin, do not save any more files to the hard drive. New data will copy over the erased data, rendering it (almost or completely) unretrievable.

Step 3

Attach the hard drive as a slave to another computer if the hard drive is unable to boot up to the operating system. If you have another hard drive with an OS installed, you can also use that as the main drive instead of switching computers.

Step 4

Use Windows Explorer to access the hard drive with lost data, if partition data hasn't been damaged or changed. This will enable you to move the data from the hard drive with lost data to the main hard drive with the working OS. This is one of the best ways to recover hard drive files.

Step 5

Use a DOS program like TestDisk to recover data on removed or damaged partitions. Make sure to read the help guide that comes with the program to ensure you use it properly.

Step 6

Consult a data recovery specialist if recovering hard drive files seems too difficult for you. Not everyone is a technical person, and if you attempt to do things you don't fully understand when working with your computer, you can end up damaging your system further. So if you want to recover hard drive files but are not sure if you can do what's on this how to, stick to the professionals.

Step 7

To prevent future hard drive data loss, make sure to back up your files regularly. When working with computers, to ensure no damage comes to your hard disk, make sure to use proper care and always wear an anti-static wrist strap.

Tips & Warnings

  • This guide is NOT for hard drives that have been physically damaged, are smoking, grinding, rattling, et cetera.
  • This article assumes you have basic working knowledge of computers and hardware. Make sure the tips in this article are not beyond your knowledge level before attempting to recover data.
  • If you don't have another computer or hard drive, you can use a DOS boot disk and DOS recovery program to get back the data, but copying the recovered data to the old hard drive will likely erase the data you're trying to save. To recover hard drive files completely, it's always recommended that you have a second drive of some kind of store the new files in.