What is Data Recovery and How it Works?

Summary: In this blog, we’ll share common aspects of data recovery process that will help you effectively restore your data from any type of data loss situation. Some of these aspects are:
1. Data recovery
2. Benefits of data recovery
3. Data loss
4. Reasons for data loss
5. Supported devices for data recovery
6. Technical aspects of data recovery
7. Data recovery versus data repair
8. Precautions against data loss
9. Unreliable data recovery tricks
10. Limitations of data recovery
11. Scope of data recovery

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Data recovery is the act of retrieving data from a storage device when the data turns inaccessible due to logical or physical failure of the device.

Logical failure in accessing data from a storage device can occur due to accidental data deletion, drive formatting, volume deletion, drive corruption, boot failure, reinstallation of an operating system, etc.While physical failure can materialize on a storage medium owing to bad areas in the physical storage space, connectivity issue, component damage, electronic equipment malfunction, etc.

Data recovery can be performed on a variety of storage devices including internal storage drive of laptop or desktop, external hard disk drive, solid-state drive, USB flash drive, optical storage medium (CD/DVD/BD), and memory card (SD, SDHC, SDXC).

Data recovery process searches for the desired files in the storage device and retrieves them successfully.

Benefits of Data Recovery

Data recovery is helpful in many ways whether you are at home or in a professional setting. Your photos, videos, and voice recordings amassed and saved on your computer or an external storage medium can’t be recreated or relived. Data recovery helps you get back those treasured digital memories.

Your business-critical documents, projects, developed software, etc. can’t be recreated easily if they are lost. Data recovery salvages such data and helps prevent monetary, business, and reputation loss. It helps recoup data loss disasters and ensures business continuity.

Data Loss

Understanding data loss is as important as recovering lost data. Data loss is often misunderstood,and thus,it results in unsuccessful data recovery or permanent in accessibility of data.

By deleting files from its stored location, you don’t lose them irreversibly. In fact, you can still find them in the temporary storage folder of your system—‘Recycle Bin’ for Windows or ‘Trash’ for mac OS. From the temporary folder, you can easily select the files and restore them to its original location—by choosing ‘Restore’ for Windows or ‘Put Back’ for mac OS.

Also, if you delete files from the temporary folder or empty it, the deleted files aren’t lost permanently from the storage medium.Similarly, you don’t lose your data permanently in case of other logical data loss situations.

Reasons for Data Loss

Data loss can occur due to two basic reasons:

  • Logical Failure or,
  • Physical Failure

Logical failure happens if you can’t access your files from a storage drive due to loss of file references that indicate the physical storage area where in the files are present.Emptying of temporary storage folder, corruption of drive’s file system, OS failure, and drive formatting are the top contributing factors in logical failure to access the data. Also, if the drive turns inaccessible—RAW or unallocated in Disk Management (Windows) or greyed out in Disk Utility (mac OS)—it can’t be accessed and its stored data becomes unreachable too. As the data stored on the drive is intact, and if you stop using the drive immediately after data loss to avoid overwriting, there is good hope of data recovery.

Physical failure happens when the storage drive can’t be detected in the Disk Management for Windows or Disk Utility for macOS. Connectivity issues, damage of components, and bad areas in physical storage space are the top contributing factors in the physical failure to access a storage drive. A drive can suffer physical failure due to physical shock, fire, liquid, electrical surge, etc. This kind of failure prevents access to the storage drive and requires you to take a data recovery service to salvage your valuable files.Data recovery service provider uses replaceable components, advanced data recovery tools, and class 100 clean room to treat the troubled drive, and recovers data from it.

Supported Devices for Data Recovery

Data recovery is possible from almost any kind of devices that stores data, including:

Hard disk drive (standalone or hybrid)Computer (laptop, desktop, tablet)
Solid-state drive (NVME, PCIe)Digital camera (internal memory)
USB flash driveDrone (internal memory)
Memory card (SDHC, SDXC)iPhone (internal memory)
Optical drive (CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disk)Android Phone (internal memory)

Data recovery can be done from the above devices by using different data recovery techniques. Besides, different devices require different kinds of data recovery operations; for instance, Android phones require rooting for data recovery.

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Technical Aspects of Data Recovery

Data recovery is feasible because all operating systems are designed to maximize the speed of computing during the deletion or formatting process. Instead of erasing the data permanently from the physical storage location by overwriting random 0s and 1s, which requires significant computing resource and time, the OS simply removes the references of the deleted files on the existing file system or recreates a new file system during formatting. For proper data wiping or erasure, dedicated software uses advanced data erasure algorithms that work on several passes, which the OS avoids to augment computing experience.

So, when data is deleted or a drive is formatted, the data is not removed from the storage drive. Rather, the data remains intactin the storage medium in an inaccessible state ready to be overwritten by new data. This marooned data can be retrieved by using a data recovery software that uses file signatures to scan the entire storage drive bit by bit. You can then preview and select the required data from the scanned items and recover them to a distinct storage drive to avoid overwriting. In case the data that you are trying to recover is overwritten or corrupt, it can’t be fixed by a data recovery software. In such a situation, you can try a data repair software to repair the header corruption issue.

Data Recovery Versus Data Repair

Data recovery and data repair are two different operations. In data recovery, recovery software is used to scan a storage drive bit by bit based on file signatures to locate the unreferenced data. The software lists the scanned data and allows saving of the recoverable data to a distinct storage destination.

Whereas, in data repair, repair software is used to fix the corrupt data that can’t be read or opened in its dedicated program. The repair software uses standard file headers to fix the corruption issue in the header area of the corrupt data. The software may at times require perfect sample files to repair damages in severely corrupt files.

Precautions Against Data Loss

The best precaution against data loss is to back up your data to an external backup drive. This can be done either manually or by using the native backup app provided in your operating system; for instance, use File History for Windows or Time Machine for mac OS.For data that you have saved on your external storage device without its copy on your computer, you must create its back up to yet another external medium manually or clone it using cloning software.

The best way to back up is to follow a 3-2-1 backup plan. This plan requires you to create at least 3 copies of your critical data, 2 copies on different storage media, and 1 copy on an offsite storage location.

For offsite storage, you can rely on cloud space (OneDrive, iCloud, etc.) Back up the specific folder containing all your critical files to a cloud drive. Cloud storage ensures you can retrieve important data from any computer by logging in to your cloud account using the Internet. Enterprises can go for virtual cloud space to store huge amounts of data and make it accessible throughout various servers so that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

By following the 3-2-1 backup plan, you increase data availability even if the primary source becomes inaccessible or fails permanently, or the backup drive itself has turned corrupt or damaged.Also, check the consistency of your backup source, as it boosts up the chances of immediate data restoration during data loss disaster.

In case you don’t have a backup and you lost your data, the best precaution that you need to take to avoid data loss is to stop using the computer or the external storage device immediately to prevent any overwriting—until you recover your data.

Unreliable Data Recovery Tricks

Don’t trust any non-reliable tricks to get back your data from a non-working or physically failed storage drive. Because unreliable tricks make the situation worse and create new challenges for successful data recovery. For instance, don’t put the failed hard drive into the freezer of your refrigerator to make it accessible from a computer. This trick may or may not work but might result in permanent data loss. It’s better not to use such a trick to keep your hope alive of accessing your drive and data.

Also, major data recovery industry leaders have reported that many end-users have lost their data permanently by employing unreliable data recovery techniques—like opening the case of a storage device to change the failing equipment or connecting the drive directly to the motherboard so that it can be accessed. These actions have created new challenges for the data recovery industry and have aroused great concerns for the safety of user’s data.

Limitations of Data Recovery

Data recovery isn’t always guaranteed and depends on the causes of data loss. For instance, you can recover your data from all logical data loss cases by using a data recovery software—provided you stop using the drive immediately. If your drive is dead or has undergone physical damage, don’t try any unreliable method to recover your data and prevent permanent data loss. Rather, take the help of a data recovery service.

Situations in which data recovery is difficult or impossible are as follows:

  • Data is overwritten
  • Data is corrupt
  • Data is present in a bad area (sector or block)

Scope of Data Recovery

Data recovery often faces challenges with different kinds of storage devices being introduced in the market. For instance, if your computer has a solid-state drive with the TRIM command enabled by default for garbage collection, then the deleted data is erased immediately and permanently. You can’t use a data recovery software to recover your deleted data from such SSD; then, a backup is your savior. For TRIM disabled or external SSD, data recovery is feasible.


Valuable information stored on your storage device can get lost at any point in time. And you might not always have a clue about how and why this has happened and how you might revive the lost data. So, backing up your important files is the need of the time.

But if you don’t have a backup to counteract a data loss event, then Stellar Data Recovery Standard for Windows can help you recoup your lost data from all logical data loss situations. And if your storage drive has been physically damaged, you may take data recovery service to rescue your inaccessible data.

  1. James Morgan June 27, 2017
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  6. Linda Scott January 10, 2017

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