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Like this article? We recommend Choosing the Right Tools or Services

Choosing the Right Tools or Services

Now that we've looked at the potential causes and types of data loss, it's time to look at the options for data recovery. As I mentioned earlier, for missing or renamed files, Spotlight and other search options are your best course of action. Likewise, for general directory or file-system corruption, appropriate utilities may be indicated (but check for physical damage first).

That leaves us with two types of issues: accidentally deleted files or erased/reformatted drives, and physical damage. So long as you haven't performed an advanced secure delete/erase and you haven't written too much data to the drive in the intervening time, typically you'll have some success with consumer-oriented recovery solutions. (I discuss the options in the next section of this article.)

The level of success and the state of recovered data can vary widely, regardless of which tool you choose. In some—admittedly rare—cases, you may be able to recover whole folders and files in configurations that are nearly identical to the originals. In other cases, you may wind up with a mishmash of partly restored files with no readable names, simply organized by file type. By examining these results, you may be able to reassemble the original files or extract important information. For some file types, such as music or video files, you may need to use editing tools such as GarageBand or iMovie to piece together the jumbled files by hand, though it's possible that some segments of media files may be missing after recovery.

As I already warned, physical damage should be left to the experts. Although professional data-recovery services can be expensive (easily running into the thousands of dollars in some cases), they offer the greatest chance of success in any form of data-loss event, and they're the only real option in the event of hardware failure or damage. The experts have access to recovery tools that go beyond what's available on the market for consumers and general technicians for any recovery operation. In the case of physical damage, a data-recovery expert will also have access to clean-room facilities, where a drive can be dismantled safely and searched for lost data.

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