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What To Do If Your Hard Drive Crashes 
 
by John Krane May 26, 2005

A guide telling readers what to do in the event of a computer crash.

Hard Drive Blues

No matter what you do, it’s going to happen.

“Even the best hard drives crash,” says Ben Carmitchel, president of ESS Data Recovery, Inc. “Usually, during the most inopportune time. If your drive hasn’t crashed yet, it will.”

Every year, thousands of cases pour in to data recovery companies like ESS from people with crashed or physically damaged hard drives. In a world increasingly more dependant on information technology, a hard drive crash can be fatal for a small business. Luckily, in most cases the information is not necessarily lost.There’s no need to crawl up in the fetal position in a corner sucking your thumb,” said Carmitchel. “Over 90% of the cases we get are completely recoverable.”

Chances of Recovery

What influences whether a case is recoverable? Sometimes, user error is the obvious culprit; unintentional deletions and formats are very common at data recovery centers such as ESS, and most of the time a full recovery is probable. Deleting a file doesn’t entirely destroy it, and even after it’s been written over, a deleted file can often be restored. The United States Department of Defense claims that a file can only be truly deleted if it has been written over in binary code seven or more times.

Though deleting files is common, it rarely causes a complete hard drive failure. Most hard drive crashes are caused by a physical error in the drive itself. Modern drives consist of “heads,” small mechanisms that read and write data, and “platters,” silver, thick disks that store the data. In a normal hard drive, the heads float only about a micron above the platters. If the drive is contaminated by dirt or the heads become misaligned, the heads can scrape against the platters, causing data loss and hard times for the drive’s owner. If the platters are scoured too much, however, data recovery becomes impossible.

This type of damage is rare, and companies that specialize in data recovery can get lost data back in most cases, but often frustrated users make the drive worse by acting irrationally. If you fear your computer’s hard drive may have crashed, follow these steps:

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