Is the hard drive you’ve been storing all of your videos, photos and work documents no longer working properly? Can you no longer copy and/or view many of the files on it? Don’t fall into despair right away… maybe there’s still something you can do.

If you want to know more, take a few minutes of your free time and discover, together with me, how to perform data recovery from a damaged hard disk using some easy-to-apply procedures and some ad hoc tools available directly on the Net. I assure you that, although it may seem the opposite, you won’t have to do anything particularly complicated or only within the reach of “geeks”.

With a little luck you’ll surely be able to recover your files, or part of them, and limit the damage to a minimum. Obviously, however, don’t expect miracles: if your disk is seriously damaged there is little that commonly used software can do. For the most desperate cases you have to turn to professionals and rely on their tools. Don’t think about it now, don’t worry before breaking your head and try to fix the situation with your own strength. I’m sure you’ll get great results, good luck!

Preliminary information

Hard Disk

Before we get to the heart of the tutorial, explaining how to attempt to recover damaged hard disk data, there is some preliminary information that it is my duty to provide you with.

First of all, before you try to recover the data on your broken hard drive, I suggest you try to repair it, or rather make sure that the malfunction you are experiencing is not due to software causes. To do this, just use the disk checker utilities included directly in your operating system and very easy to use. To learn more, read my tutorial on how to repair hard drives.

If your attempt to repair the drive is unsuccessful, you may consider using the software I mentioned at the beginning. These are programs that allow you to recover data from the storage drives you give them. If you can, you can try using them by selecting the hard disk directly.

If your attempt to repair the drive is unsuccessful, you may consider using the software I mentioned at the beginning. These are programs that allow you to recover data from the storage drives you give them. If you can, you can try using them by selecting the hard disk directly.

To create a hard disk image, you can use a tool like DataRescue, which is free, available for both Windows and macOS and works seamlessly with all popular file systems. To download it, visit its website and click on the Windows Version link (if you’re using Windows) or the OS X Version link (if you’re using macOS).

After downloading, if you are using Windows, extract the ZIP archive and run the .exe file it contains. I recommend copying the software to an external drive (e.g. a USB stick) and start it from there to make all the work easier and avoid any possible hiccups.

If you are using macOS, on the other hand, extract the ZIP archive obtained, open the .dmg file inside it and drag the icon of the program in the window that appears on the Desktop to the Applications folder of your Mac, then right-click on it and select Open twice in order to circumvent the restrictions imposed by Apple on non-certified developers (this should be done only on first startup).

Once the program window appears on the screen, regardless of the operating system you are using, select the drive of the damaged disk from the Source drop-down list. If you do not see the drive where the operating system resides, it is because it is the system drive and to use it with DataRescue DD it should be connected as a slave (you can find more information about this on Wikipedia).

After completing the above steps, click the Browse button, select the folder where you want to create the hard disk image file and start the data copying process using the Play button located at the bottom.

If you feel it is necessary, you can also limit the creation of the image file to specific areas of the disk by setting the number of sectors or MB to start and stop recovery operations from in the Start, Size and End fields. This is very useful if you have damaged blocks on your drive.

Also keep in mind the Last log option, through which you can view reports on the creation of image files and in case the file copy crashes it will tell you which are the bad sectors of the disk to bypass.

Damaged hard disk data recovery: programs
Now, let’s see which programs you can turn to in order to perform data recovery from the damaged hard disk, the ones I mentioned in the previous lines. To learn more, keep reading.

PhotoRec (Windows/MacOS/Linux)
PhotoRec

PhotoRec is undoubtedly an excellent solution for free damaged hard disk data recovery. In fact, it is completely free, open source and allows you to restore any type of file quite easily. It works on Windows, macOS and Linux, but the graphical user interface is only available for Microsoft operating systems, otherwise it should be used from the command line. Another important thing to note is that the software comes bundled with TestDisk, another free program that allows you to recover lost partitions and restore failed disks.

To download PhotoRec to your computer, go to the PhotoRec website and click on the link for the operating system you are using under TestDisk & PhotoRec x.x (month, day, year), Data Recovery.

After the download is complete, if you are using Windows, extract the ZIP archive to any location and run the qphotorec_win.exe file contained within it. In the window that appears on your desktop, click the Yes button and once you see the main screen of the program, click the dropdown menu at the top of the screen and specify the disk you want to work on or select the Add a raw disk image option and select the disk image you created earlier.

At this point, select the Unknown item (the one labeled Whole Disk) from the central part of the PhotoRec window, make sure that the Complete option is set at the bottom of the window and that the File System Type section shows the file system used on the disk, then click the Browse button to select the folder where you want to save all recovered data.

Once you’ve gone through this step, click the Search button to start searching for recoverable files and wait patiently for the operation to be completed. If you do not want to recover all file types but only some of them (e.g. only photos or documents), click the File formats button beforehand and leave the checkmark next to the entries for the files you want to recover.

If you are using PhotoRec on macOS, on the other hand, open the tar.bz2 archive that is downloaded to your computer, extract its content to a location of your choice and start the photorec file inside it by right-clicking on its icon and selecting Open from the menu that appears.

Now, use the right arrow of your keyboard to select the Sudo option, press the Enter key and enter the Mac administration password. Next, select the drive from which you want to recover data or the disk image file, indicate the partition you want to work on, choose the file system it is formatted with and decide whether you want to scan only the space marked as free or check the entire drive thoroughly.

Finally, select the folder where you would like to save the recovered hard disk content and press the C key on your keyboard to confirm your intention to start the damaged Mac hard disk data recovery. Wait until the entire procedure is completed.

Disk Drill (Windows/MacOS)
Disk Drill

Disk Drill is another data recovery program that I recommend you to try. It uses sophisticated scanning algorithms that can identify and reconstruct hundreds of different file types. It also supports recovery of lost partitions, unformatted drives and RAW data. It is available for both Windows and macOS and is free of charge, but on PC it allows you to recover a maximum of 500 MB of data, while on Mac you cannot proceed with recovery. To get around these limitations, you need to upgrade to the paid version (with costs starting at €91.95).

To use Disk Drill, go to the program’s website and click on the Free Download button.

After the download is complete, if you are using Windows, open the .exe file and click the Install button in the window that appears on your desktop. Next, press the Yes and Restart buttons to complete the setup and reboot your system. Next, start Disk Drill by selecting the Disk Drill shortcut that has been added to the Start menu.

If you are using macOS, on the other hand, open the .dmg package and move the Disk Drill icon to the Applications folder of your Mac, then launch the software by right-clicking on it and choosing Open twice in a row, in order to bypass Apple’s restrictions on non-certified developers (which should be done only on first startup).

Now that you see the main window of the program on the screen, follow the initial configuration procedure that is proposed to you, then click the Attach Disk Image link and select the hard disk image file. Alternatively, select the disk to be analyzed directly from the list. Then expand the drop-down list that appears on the right and choose a recovery method from the available ones. I recommend choosing All recovery methods.

Next, click the Search for lost data button and wait for the scanning process to complete. Next, select the type of files you want to recover by clicking the appropriate icons, expand the View menu at the top of the screen to choose how you want to view the recoverable files, click the Filter button to filter the scan results and browse the available folders until you find the files you are interested in.

Finally, check the boxes of the files you want to recover, click the Recover button in the lower left corner, specify the destination path and press the OK button to finish the procedure.

EaseUS Data Recovery (Windows/MacOS)
EaseUS Data Recovery

Another software for performing the task that is the subject of this tutorial that, in my opinion, you would do well to turn to is EaseUS Data Recovery. It is available for both Windows and macOS and allows you to recover images, videos, documents and various other types of files from external and internal hard drives, as well as USB sticks, SD cards and any other media. It’s free, but allows you to recover up to 2 GB of data. To go further, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid version (which costs from €66.69/month).

To download the program to your computer, if you are using Windows, go to the EaseUS Data Recovery website and click the Free Download button. After the download is complete, open the .exe file and click the Yes button in the window that appears on your desktop. After that, press the Install Now and Start Now buttons.

To download the program on macOS, go to this other section of the EaseUS Data Recovery website and click the Free Download button. Once the download is complete, open the .dmg package, drag the software icon to the Applications folder of macOS, right-click on it and select Open twice in order to start the program and bypass Apple’s restrictions on applications from non-certified developers (which should be done only on first startup).

In the main window of the software that now appears, move the mouse pointer directly to the drive of the damaged hard disk and click the Scan button (on Windows) or Scan (on macOS) that appears. If you are using Windows, you can also select the hard disk image file by clicking the Folder button under the Specify a path section.

Wait until the disk analysis process is completed. After that, you can recover the contents of the disk by selecting the files you are interested in, pressing the Recover (on Windows) or Recover Now (on macOS) button at the bottom right of the screen and specifying the location on your computer where you want to save them.

If you cannot find the files you need, you can filter the various data by type by clicking on the funnel icon at the top and selecting the category you are interested in. Instead, if you need to preview a certain file, select it from the list, right-click on it and select the appropriate item from the context menu that opens.

Once you’ve found the files you want to recover, select them, click the Recover button in the lower right corner, specify the location on your computer where you want to save them and click the Done button. If you feel you need more details about how the program works, you can refer to my guide on how EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard works.

Corrupted hard disk data recovery: other solutions
Disassembled hard disk

Using the programs I have mentioned in the previous lines, the procedure for hard disk data recovery failed and you would like to know if there are other solutions? Well, the only way you can try is to contact a specialized center for data recovery from damaged drives. However, their services are not very affordable.

However, you can find out where the nearest center is located in your area and the cost of the service by doing a search on Google, using keywords such as: data recovery damaged hard disk Milan, data recovery damaged hard disk prices, data recovery damaged hard disk cost etc. and then selecting the relevant pages from the proposed results.

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