I'm such a pessimist that I get paranoid that people avoid me since
I always seem to be running about waving my hands saying "your hard drive is
going to crash" and "backup, backup, backup" makes me less
than fun to be around.
But it's true, with all that spinning around most likely your
first serious computer failure is going to be a hard drive failure. Problem is that
no matter how good you are at taking backups you're going to lose
some data. And if you don't back up your data you're toast.
Then there are malware infections. Despite the best security it's
still possible and wow, can it be nasty. Often I've been unable to
actually access the computer even in safe mode, just no way to
retrieve files or clean the infection so it's start over time with a
new Windows install. There go 5,000 digital photos.
In the past there wasn't much I could do. Perhaps boot off an
alternative drive and see what I could see on the damaged drive with
a sector viewer and various other "bare metal" utilities and try and
recover a file sector by sector but
often the choice was simply 1) forget it or 2) in the case of a
crashed drive send the drive off to
an expensive data recovery service. With the latter results were
iffy, sometimes it worked well, other times not so well but one
thing was for sure; it was going to hurt (financially) almost as
much as losing a project or pictures of the kids.
I've now found a life raft or more to the point a life boat in the
form of a data recovery program called Selkie Rescue from
The concept is elegant and all you need is a Selkie Rescue boot CD (or
floppy disk) and a 2nd computer. Both computers need to be network
capable and you'll also need a network cable; either conventional
cable if you already run a network or a straight through (also known
as a "gaming" cable) if you don't.
Bring up the computer running from the Selkie Rescue boot disk and
answer a few simple questions and run the "file browser" on the
working computer and bang, the disabled computer is magically a file
server you access from a working computer.
On the left you have the files on the crashed computer, in the
middle you have folder contents and on the right you have a window
of folders on the working computer. Select what you want off the
crashed computer, select a destination on the working computer click
the next button and it's copied from the crashed computer to the
working computer. Alternatively you may use the native Windows
networking structure if that's more to your taste.
I have no idea what kind of voodoo magic goes on behind the doors
deep within Selkie Rescue that allows it to access and recover data from
damaged hard drives but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the
mouth. I had a damaged hard drive that I had been meaning to try and
recover for a couple of years and I hooked it up, got to it from
another computer on the network and bang, everything that I wanted
to grab from it was there. I was surprised that I didn't even have
to load the special drivers for the RAID controller that I am
required to use when I install Windows.
The crashed drive was formatted NTFS but I tried it on a
non-damaged drive and Selkie Rescue work equally well on a FAT formatted
Note that Selkie Rescue didn't actually repair
the damaged drive, afterwards it was just as dead as it was before, but I
could, and did, easily copy data from it via the network. Nor do I
suspect that Selkie Rescue would recover data from a drive you'd taken a
baseball bat to, it does need to be able to spin up, but it's going
to work in the case of most hard drive failures.
Setting up a recovery network may sound
intimidating but the Selkie Rescue will gently guide you through the
I keep thinking I've left something out but gosh, it's as simple
as can be, the software does all the heavy lifting, you pretty much
just click and go.
If you have any concerns about your data, even if you do backups,
you'll want to check out Selkie Rescue. It's unique and by far the best
alternative to recovering data from a damaged drive.
Selkie Rescue will set you back $100 (okay, $99.99) and you can
download a demo (22Mb) that will limit recovery to the root
directory. Give it a try, think you'll be amazed at how easy it is
to set up and use.