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You Just Lost Your Data: a 5 Step Plan of What to Do Next

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Hard drives are not invulnerable.One day, yours is going to fail.

The silver lining to this hard truth is that drive death doesn't automatically mean the loss of all your files; with the right recovery plan, you can regain all your documents and photos and be back in business in no time.

Here are five steps to basic data recovery.

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You Just Lost Your Data - A 5 Step Plan of What to Do Next[1]

Step 1: Asses The Nature of the Damage
What happened to make you lose your data? Was it a spill, a shock, a fall? If you’re having a hardware problems like smoking or overheating, you should quickly power off your device and place it in an anti-static bag until you can have it examined by the professionals. If it’s something simple, however, like a corrupted file or accidental deletion, it should relatively safe to attempt data recovery on your own.

Step 2: Run Diagnostics and Data Recovery Software
Determine the exact nature of your problem with diagnostics software like Fujitsu or Seagate, then run a recovery program that will crawl through your drive and restore what it can through backups and echoes. Recuva and Undelete 360 are two free options; programs like Stellar Phoenix and Data Rescue PC require purchase, but their price tag comes with additional features and troubleshooting tools.

Step 3: Dive Into Your Files
If you know exactly what you’re missing, you can search online for software or brand-related hacks that will allow you to regain what you’ve lost. For example, if you accidentally axed all your Firefox bookmarks, you can go into the Mozilla folder of your Program Files and check if your places.sqlite file has been corrupted.

Step 4: Clean Up Your Drive
It’s a long shot, but sometimes malware can make your data appear lost or unretrievable even when it’s perfectly fine. Run a deep, full-system scan for viruses, trojans and spyware. Quarantine all threats. Defrag your hard drive while you’re at it. If you’re not sure how to do this, consult a professional and they will know exactly where to look to see if your data is in fact gone, or if it is just hiding from you.

Step 5: Secure Your Data For The Future
Once you’ve recovered your data, it’s important to keep the nightmare from ever happening again. Start by making registry copies of your clean, functional system to use as a backup the next time your OS fails; you should also make a habit of backing up your photos and documents to external drives. If you’re working with multiple servers, look into safeguards like seismic cabinets that will protect your information in the event of accidents or disasters.

Data recovery is never without frustration, but by following these steps, you should be able to streamline the process and hopefully take back some of what you’ve lost. The good news is that you have a few options. If you run into a wall, you may be out of luck, but you will at least be prepared for situations like this in the future. Good luck!

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