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When Is It Too Late to Recover Data?

Data loss is not about if, but when. At some point or another, you will suffer data loss. It might just be accidentally permanently deleting a file, or it might be something greater, like losing an external hard drive or an internal drive failing and corrupting your data.

In an ideal world, you’ll have a backup plan that will cover all eventualities. You will back your data up to multiple locations and in multiple formats; one of those locations will be off-site. Of course, we’re not in an ideal world. Perhaps you don’t have a backup plan at all, or it doesn’t cover all eventualities. If you land in the former group, you need to correct that mistake. If you’re in the latter, that’s more forgivable – time and money are limited.

However, you might want to consider the time and money that you’ll have to spend trying to get your data back. That’s right – it is possible to get your data back under the right circumstances.

When data is removed from your drive, the space it occupied is marked as free. That data is still there, just invisible to the operating system. Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to physical corruption or other drive formats.

The question you might be wondering is at what point does it become too late to recover data? That’s a difficult one to definitively answer because it needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Broadly speaking, though, it’s never too late to try and attempt recovery. However, the longer you leave it, the less your chances of success become.

Unless you drive has been burnt to a crisp and nothing remains of it, it could be possible to recover some data. This is why businesses make use of enterprise-grade shredders when destroying their storage media because it’s the only way to actually get rid of the data. It’s certainly why you should never sell any used devices on auction websites because someone could just run some recovery tools and pull up your sensitive data.

If your damage is logical (the drive isn’t physically damaged, but instead is corrupted at a system level), you should download some data recovery software so it can scan the drive. You might be surprised at what it can detect, providing you didn’t keep using the drive once you discovered the data loss.

If the drive damage is physical (perhaps through natural disaster), you need to take it to a professional company who can deal with it using the right tools and facilities. Unless you’re a trained expert, there’s no way you can safely attempt data recovery.

You should never give up hope when it comes to getting your data back. You’d be surprised at what software and professionals can recover from a drive; data you deleted years ago could be pulled right back out. It may not be entirely in one piece – for example, images could be distorted or documents could have missing characters – but that’s better than nothing.


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