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Do-It-Yourself Windows File Recovery Software: A Comparison

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Fragmentation May Reduce Chance of Successful Recovery

If you’ve been using a computer for more than a year, your system’s performance is probably affected by disk fragmentation. Many don’t even realize it, and others don’t even know what it means to have a fragmented hard drive. However, all modern operating systems include their own defrag utilities for a reason; to ensure drive efficiency and prevent failure. In some cases, an overly fragmented hard drive can even reduce your chance of restoring lost data.

What is Disk Fragmentation?

All hard drives are prone to defragmentation. It’s a natural process that occurs whenever digital data is recorded, stored, transferred or even deleted. While early IT systems faced much larger hazards via the results of disk fragmentation, today’s computers are built to accommodate the inherent fragmentation that comes with digital data.

Counteracting Disk Fragmentation

Modern operating systems make it easy to deal with normal disk fragmentation. Built-in utilities are able to defrag drives according to a schedule or manual intervention. In either case, the app puts the data in your hard drive back into an order that is easily readable by other programs. The result is a system that is much faster and more efficient when compared to one that holds a lot of fragmented files.

Recovering Fragmented Files

While the issue of recovering lost data is stressful enough, the recovery of fragmented files is even more challenging. In extreme cases, the only solution to restoration involves a highly advanced computer forensics technique known as file carving.

Because this is such a specialized process, file carving is usually reserved for criminal cases and investigations. One of the most famous cases of file carving to date involves the numerous hard drives that were confiscated from Osama Bin Laden’s compound in 2011. IT experts used file carving to recover as much data as possible from the hardware.

Numerous programs exist that specialize in file carving, but they’re not for novice users. One of the most popular programs, known as {{|Scalpel}}, is available as a free, open source kit on GitHub’s file repository.

A Special Note About SSDs

Solid-state drives, or SSDs, represent a significant leap in technology when compared to traditional, disk-based drives. As such, they’re not as susceptible to the problems caused by disk fragmentation. In fact, most SSD users won’t even have to worry about fragmentation at all. Current Windows operating systems automate the entire process of defragging SSDs, which is done approximately once per month, to keep your system operating at its peak efficiency.

To Defrag or Not to Defrag

While the issue of disk fragmentation isn’t as cut-and-dry as it used to be, older hardware should be treated the same as it ever was. Defragging disk-based drives on a regular basis is critical to maintaining system performance and ensuring your data is available for recovery in the event of a catastrophe. While SSD users don’t have to worry as much, the fact that modern operating systems assume the responsibility of defragmentation speaks volumes about its importance.


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