The Dummes' Take on Data Recovery

Contributed by Lison Joseph

A low down on the Data Recovery mumbo-jumbo

Here you will read about data recovery in all its technicality, but in lay man's terms! The discussion is about how is it possible to recover your data even after the hard disk has been accidentally formatted or important files are unintentionally deleted. Most of these interesting aspects about data recovery are in fact present on the net but the language might be highly technical. This article is for those who consider technical portals to be beyond their comprehension.

Some of the questions that we will deal with include how are files stored in common forms of storage media like hard disks, what happens when you delete a file and what makes data recovery possible even when operating system claims that the disk is not accessible or is damaged beyond repair.

Understanding fundamentals of File Storing makes data recovery simple!

There will be several thousands of files saved on any computer at any given point of time. To make the retrieval of these files easier, there is a systematic way of storing these files, which is called the File System. Common file systems are File Allocation Table (FAT), NT File System (NTFS) and CD File System (CDFS).

All these file systems have distinct ways of keeping a record of the files stored on the computer. It is this record which sometimes makes data recovery easier. For each file stored on the hard disk, the File System will have a unique entry containing details regarding the region of the hard disk where the file stored. If the file is scattered at different regions of the hard disk, then the entry in file system will have details regarding that. It is this information that helps majority of the data recovery software in tracing the lost data from a damaged hard disk.

So how does Data Recovery work?

When you delete a file, it is taken off the list of files that the user sees. The file system writes at the beginning of the file that the region where the deleted file is stored could be used for storing other files. This means that the file continues to exist on the hard disk but under the label "free space". If you understand this concept, Data Recovery becomes simpler to understand. For those of you who did not understand the concept, let us try explaining this concept through an easy-to-understand example.

Consider the hard disk to be a classroom, the files to be students and the teacher to be the file system. Teacher has a register that has a separate entry for details regarding each of the students in the class. Deleting a file can be compared to removing the name of a particular student from the register but not actually forcing him to physically vacate the classroom. The modified entry in the register in fact informs the admission officials that there is a vacancy for another student.

This means that the student continues to be present in the class until the teacher makes another student take up his position.

The same applies to deleted data, which continues to be present on the disk but under the banner, "free space". Unless new data is physically over-written at that same location on the hard disk, the successful data recovery is possible. All the data recovery software needs to do is look analyze the file system information and locate the file.

Lison Joseph is a contributor at -- the home of the popular tool for personal online backup -- Back2zip. This article can be found at

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