Recovering information from formatted disks, USB flash drives and memory cards requires careful choice of a data recovery tool. Using tools designed to solve a different task may give unpredictable results. In this article, we’ll explain the differences between various data recovery tool in the context of fixing data from a formatted drive.
The first thing (and the first in series of costly mistakes) many computer users do when they format their disk by an accident is finding, installing and using an “unformat” tool. There is a huge supply of those on the market; some are commercial and some are freeware. What these tools do is an attempt to reconstruct, rebuild or otherwise re-create the original, pre-format state of the disk by restoring the file system.
While this may sound as a valid approach to the inexperienced, there could be no bigger mistake. Formatting the disk empties the original file system by overwriting at least some part of it (usually, the beginning). By attempting to restore the old file system, the best you can get is a readable disk that has some of your files on it. Not all of them, and not the most valuable ones (such as documents, archives or photo albums), but just some random sample of files that were originally located on that disk. And if you’re thinking of “unformatting” a system drive, forget about it: at least some system files are deemed to be missing, so even if you manage to boot the OS, you’ll never get a stable system.
Recommendation: don’t use “unformat” tools.
Using an undelete tool is the second thing many computer users will do. While such tools exist and tend to do their job in good faith, they are simply not designed to handle disks with erased file systems. With some of the best undelete tools such as RS File Recovery you may be able to extract some of the files… but that’ll be it. Not all of them, mind you.
Partition recovery tools such as RS Partition Recovery are what you are looking for. Designed to handle repartitioned, formatted and damaged disks, these tools can actually scan the entire surface of the disk or partition in order to recover everything they can find. Even if the file system is empty or erased, they can still locate and recover many types of files such as office documents, pictures and videos by their characteristic signatures.
But… there’s always a “but”. Partition recovery tools are cream of the crop in data recovery, but they tend to cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re just about to recover a single formatted disk, it may be worth it to look around – and save.
FAT and NTFS Recovery
You can save as much as 40% of the price of RS Partition Recovery by opting to a tool that can only recover disks formatted with FAT or NTFS. Note that you’ll need to buy a tool that matches the original file system, and not the one that’s been written on top. If your original drive was NTFS, get RS NTFS Recovery. If it was FAT/FAT32, get RS FAT Recovery. This way you’ll be getting exactly the same quality tool – just limited to either FAT or NTFS. A perfect choice for a one-time job.