Data recovery plan overview

When you discover you have just lost some valuable data, it is imperative that the first action you take to correct the problem does not aggravate the situation instead.

  1. First of all, ensure that no further changes are made to the affected data. Do not save files to the damaged volume. If it is your system (boot) volume, from which Windows loads, then it is best to just shut down the computer. It is not enough to just stop using the computer if you have SSD storage, because of the issues associated with TRIM command. All the necessary software preparations are best performed on the different computer.
  2. Once the system is secured, you then need to identify what is lost and where it was. We suggest that you actually write this information down on the sheet of paper. Keep the sheet of paper and the pencil handy at all times for error messages. If there is a backup of the data, it is about time you check that it can actually be restored.
  3. Then, you need a plan of action.
  4. Once the plan is ironed out, perform any necessary hardware reconfigurations and install whatever data recovery software is needed. This sometimes involves a fresh Windows installation on a blank hard drive.
  5. As soon as the appropriate changes are made, check (just one more time) if everything looks good, and perform the software part of the recovery.
  6. When done with the recovery, make sure you verify that the recovered data is actually readable before taking any further action.

There are also some additional points you probably want to consider before actually doing something, listed in no particular order:

  • You need a prioritized list of items you want to recover. Consider also asking people around you - "Is there someone else who has something valuable on this disk?". Whatever they reply is to be prioritized and added to the list as well.
  • If you are in organization, and your organization happens to have a designated IT department, consider calling them and having them deal with the problem. Note that they will need the same list of items to recover, so you better have it ready.
  • Avoid reusing disks that are involved in the data loss, unless the cause of the problem is positively identified. Otherwise they would fail on you once again.

Continue to Mechanical vs. software problems.