It's 8am in the morning. George arrives at the office after a battle with rush hour traffic with only one goal in his head: the deadline for sending his application for start-up funding is today. He and his team have been working on this for the past few months, and the business needs financial help to stay alive. But when George arrives at his desk and jams the start button of his desktop computer, disaster strikes: the computer won't start!
It’s a struggle that can happen to anyone, and when the computer shows no sign of life and the hard drive containing all their data is dead, it’s easy to panic – especially when the stakes are so high. But what is the solution in such situations? Can that precious data be restored?
1. Connect the Dead Drive to Another Computer
As the header suggests, you will need another computer to connect the failed drive to. Desktop PC users can connect it through a SATA cable, while laptop owners can purchase an external USB cradle designed to accept common types of hard drives.
For Mac users in such a scenario, the Mac's target disk mode is very handy. Just connect the faulty Mac to another via FireWire or Thunderbolt cable, turn the second Mac on, and then press and hold the T key while it starts up. The second Mac should see the hard drive of the failed machine as an external disk.
2. Assess Whether It Is a Mechanical or Logical Drive Failure
Every storage medium will eventually fail, but it does matter how. A mechanical failure is far worse than a logical failure because this means there is a physical problem with the drive, and it takes the necessary tools, skills, and environment (a dust-free clean lab) to fix it. If the problem is a mechanical issue, you'll hear a distinguishable clicking sound.
As you may already know, hard drives contain moving parts and dropping a laptop or mishandling it can cause serious damage to the platters and/or the magnetic head of the HDD. Fixing it requires professional help and as such it's more expensive than a logical drive failure.
The latter means the damage is ‘only’ on the software side of the storage medium. It's still bad news, but it's easier and cheaper to fix than a mechanical failure because a data recovery application is often enough in most cases to fix the file system issue and bring the lost files back.
3. Retrieve the Files via a Data Recovery App
On a Mac, it's wise to run Disk Utility first to see if the powerful built-in application can fix the logical failure related to the file system. If not, a third-party app such as Disk Drill or Stellar Mac Data Recovery is needed, while PC owners have no in-built tool and will need opt for such an application to recover the data. The good news is that these apps provide free versions to first assess the success rate of the data recovery before paying. If the results are positive, then purchase a license and prepare an external drive to save the recovered data onto.
Best Data Recovery Software of 2020
Best Data Recovery Software for PC
|Editor's Choice 2020|
Best Data Recovery Software for Mac
|Editor's Choice 2020|