You turn on your computer only to see the dreaded blue screen of death or something worse—nothing at all. What do you do? Any IT professional will tell you that even nowadays, data loss happens incredibly often. Whether it’s the result of hardware/software failure or a deliberate cyber attack, the impact can be incredibly damaging.
The good news is that data is often never truly gone in these situations. There may be ways to recover it.
Here’s what you need to know about data recovery and some vital tips on how to prevent these situations from happening again in the future.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Like any good friend, we’re going to give you an “I told so” moment before we help you on the path to recovery.
There’s a saying floating around the tech world that goes, “if you don’t back up your data, you don’t own it, you’re just leasing it from fate.” It doesn’t matter whether you have the latest and most expensive MacBook Pro or a 20-year old HP, this adage always applies.
Practice “The Rule of Three.” You need at least three copies of your data and at least two different media types (i.e., cloud and hard disk). You also need to keep one off-site.
This may sound excessive, but it’s neither difficult nor expensive to do. Cloud storage and physical drives are cheaper than ever, meaning there’s no excuse not to back up your data.
At the same time, you have to protect yourself against cybercriminals. Since all threats nowadays originate online, the most effective way to do this is with a VPN. VPNs both hide your IP address and encrypt your internet connection, making you a much more difficult target for fraudsters.
Then don’t forget about the essentials like ensuring your computer and apps are up to date. Likewise, you need to routinely run antimalware scans and keep a sharp eye out for suspicious emails and other threats. 94% of malware is delivered straight to your inbox, so stay on your guard!
Even if you’re in the throes of a data loss debacle, start integrating these steps now as you are getting on the right track.
Without further ado, here’s how you can try to recover your data.
Data Recovery: 5 Steps to Take After Losing Your Data
Step 1: Determine the Source of the Problem
Many people want to leap right into recovering their data. But you need to assess and hopefully fix what’s causing your data to disappear on your first. Otherwise, you might be in the middle of bringing your data back from the grave only for your computer to suddenly shut down again.
The first step is figuring out whether this results from a hardware/software problem or a malware issue.
Both aren’t great. But at least with the first option, you don’t have to fear that there may be somebody watching your every move, ready to make the next strike.
If possible, run whatever diagnostic you can. You may also need to boot into Windows Safe Mode. If you have somehow managed a stable state, then you start to extract your data. This is also a good time to back up any data that is still remaining.
On the other hand, if you’ve lost your data due to malware, then you’ll need to act quickly. These days, ransomware is one of the most common threats to users. In ransomware attacks, cybercriminals lock people out of their files until they pay a ransom fee. With some versions, like the infamous WannaCry, hackers may start deleting files at random to make you pay up faster.
Whatever type of attack, you’ll need to remove the malware ASAP. If your built-in software can’t help, then your best option might be taking it to a repair system to get things checked out. The perk here is they should be able also to help you retrieve your data.
Step 2: Recovering Lost Data
If you wanted your files back in the old days, you were pretty much limited to pretty expensive thirty-party software.
Fortunately, Microsoft recently rolled out a file recovery tool that can help bring your files back. But the important thing to remember is that time is of the essence.
When you delete your files, they aren’t really gone. Instead, the slots they occupy are marked as available. However, any new data, such as file downloads, could fill those spaces at any time.
So, if you’ve just deleted the file, your odds are pretty good that you’ll be able to get it again. But don’t get your hopes up if it’s been a few weeks or you just downloaded 8 seasons of Game of Thrones.
Step 3: Doing a Deeper Search
The Windows file recovery tool doesn’t do the deepest dive. It essentially skims just below the surface. If you are really desperate, you can change the settings to “Segment.”
This is more aggressive and will dive deeper into your past. Unsurprisingly, it does likewise take longer to pull back files for you. But if you have a large storage drive, especially something over 1 TB, then you might be able to get back whatever you lost.
Step 4: Check Out File History
Microsoft also has a free File History feature. With it, you can restore any files that may have lost. Unfortunately, there is one catch. You have to already have it turned on for the specific file before whatever event happened to it. And, even with it, there’s still no guarantee it can bring your data back.
Step 5: Go to the Experts
Some professionals have even better tools for recovering lost data. But they don’t come cheap. You’ll be lucky if it costs you a few hundred dollars. You’ll have to ask yourself whether or not this data is truly worth it.
But make sure you do your homework. You don’t want to pay somebody to run the same software you can do at home for free.
Don’t Let Data Loss Get You Down
Data loss is an avoidable tragedy. While we never know when a hacker or system failure may strike, we can be prepared for it. Whether your hard drive just died, or everything is running fine, back up now before it’s too late.