From a user viewpoint, the computer is only as good as the data it contains. If the computer can't boot up, it's practically useless. If it can boot up but the files are corrupted and cannot be opened for reading or writing, the file is useless. This happens often enough that data backup and recovery tools are a must with computer users. In fact, it's a good idea to have two copies of important data, just in case the first backup fails. Data recovery tools make sure that the backup is restored and the user can go back to using the computer in as little a downtime as possible.
You might say that the root cause of data corruption is the hard disk. And of all the various parts of a computer, the hard disk is most prone to failure. There are only so many moving parts to a computer. These are usually either fans or the disk drives. And a hard disk spins much faster than a cooling fan. A slowest hard disk spins at 5,400 RPM, and some expensive high performance hard disks spin almost three times faster at 15,000 RPM.
Aside from the processor, the hard disk generates a large amount of heat. The faster it spins, the hotter the disk. Although the expected life span of a hard disk is five years, with the continuous spinning and the generated heat, disks start to fail after three years of use. Within the first three years of use, hard disk failure in one form or another is expected to occur.
Data corruption can occur due to any of a number of reasons. An electrical outage or a spike can cause data corruption. An improper shut down can also cause data corruption. In most instances the data corruption might not go unnoticed. Unless the file is hit and the computer does not work properly, only then will the problem show itself.
Worst case would be when the hard disk's master boot record (MBR) is corrupted or a boot sector develops a bad sector. In which case the computer would not be able to boot up and the user is forced to do a data recovery as well as a hard disk recovery.
Any hard disk recovery effort would also be useless if it does not recover the latest data. Part of any data recovery tool kit would be a backup program and procedure. For data backup, the simplest tool is a file copy on a separate disk. This is especially useful for important files. Recovering from corrupted files on the computer is as easy as copying from the remote computer or hard disk.
It would be better however to have a data backup or a data recovery software. A data recovery software can schedule file backups to a tape backup device or a another drive. Windows has a backup software included called Backup.
Data recovery for corrupted files or folders should not be a problem if the data backup is up-to-date. Windows Backup also has the facility to restore data from backed up files.
When the computer fails to boot up, it might be because the master boot record or the operating system is corrupted, or the partition might be lost. For lost partitions or lost boot records, a simple file backup will not suffice. The computer has to boot up first before it can start any file backup.
Some data recovery tools have the facility to recover hard disk partition information. As with regular file backup, the recovery tool needs a backup. To recover a hard disk, either a hard disk as a whole is backed up (called a mirror) or just the partition. Commercial data recovery packages such as DriveClone and Ghost can backup a partition or a hard drive and recreate it to repair the failed hard drive, or to write it to another hard disk or computer altogether. These programs can boot from a recovery CD and proceed to do a hard disk and data recovery.
For larger installations, there are data recovery software from vendors like Acronis and Veritas which can backup multi-volume disks and RAIDs using disk backups and tape drives.
Hard disk failure and data corruption is a serious concern. In cases like these when the computer fails to boot up, or the data could not be read, it helps a lot if data recovery tools are ready, in use and allows easy recovery of data.
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