Maybe it was hardware failure or user error or a malicious attack... but you don't necessarily have to kiss that data goodbye. Here are some apps that just might get it back for you.
It's never fun when a hard disk or other data media goes bad. Losing irreplaceable data can really ruin your day. Thankfully, a wide variety of data recovery tools are available that may be able to help you get your stuff back.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: Data Rescue PC 3
I've used Data Rescue PC 3 (Figure A) on several occasions and had good luck with it. The download consists of a CD/DVD image. The program requires you to burn this image to a blank CD or DVD and then boot the ailing PC from the removable media you've created. This is an important capability, since installing a data recovery utility onto the disk that needs to be recovered risks data loss.
Data Rescue PC 3 has all the basics covered, and a Mac version is also available. The software is designed to work even if a drive does not mount properly or if the drive has been corrupted due to hardware errors or viruses. It can recover an entire drive or specific files. If you do decide to perform a full drive recovery, you can opt to perform a block-by-block copy of data from an old drive to a new drive.
Data Rescue PC 3 sells for $99.00, but a free trial is available for download.
2: Bad CD/DVD Recovery
Bad CD/DVD Recovery (Figure B) is a free tool specifically created to recover data from damaged CDs or DVDs. Not only can this tool perform standard data recovery functions, it can also convert a disc's contents into an ISO file.
There is even a function for ripping audio files that may exist on a damaged CD.
3: Search and Recover
Search and Recover ( (Figure C) is designed to perform file-level data recovery, although full disk recovery is also possible. The thing that makes Search and Recover unique is its application and device awareness. For example, if you opt to recover pictures and movies, the software asks if you would like to recover data from your camera or from another location, such as your hard disk. The tool contains options for recovering pictures and movies, songs and sounds, emails, and an entire PC.
Search and Recover sells for $39.95, but a free trial version is available for download.
4: Boomerang Data Recovery
Boomerang Data Recovery (Figure D) is another nice tool for performing data recovery. It offers two main features worth mentioning. First, it can rebuild a failed RAID array. This can be done manually or automatically.
The other nice capability is deep file type awareness. The software knows the difference between various file types and can search for specific types of data during a recovery.
Boomerang Data Recovery sells for $99.95, but a free trial version is available for download.
5: Free Any Data Recovery
Free Any Data Recovery (Figure E) is marketed as a free data recovery tool. In reality, it allows you to recover up to 500 MB of data, but you will have to upgrade to the paid version if you want to recover more data than that.
The tool itself uses a relatively simple interface and its best feature is its ability to locate specific types of deleted files, such as MP3 files or Microsoft Word documents.