Can a wiped hard drive be recovered?

We regularly recover accidentally deleted data here at Fields. Usually, though, we’re trying to retrieve the odd file – not the entire contents of a hard drive. Still, if you’ve wiped your hard drive and really wish you hadn’t, it’s entirely possible that your data can be recovered.

Why a wiped hard drive can be recovered

When data is deleted from a hard drive, it’s not erased. Instead, the locations of the bytes that form the document, MP3 file etc. are removed meaning the data itself still exists. It’s location, however, is marked as being free and will be erased as soon as a single one of these bytes is overwritten with new data. So, if you have accidentally wiped your hard drive, time is of the essence. Refrain from using the drive and get in touch with a company providing hard drive recovery services as soon as possible.

Why isn’t data erased permanently when it’s deleted?

In a word: efficiency. The process of removing any reference to the locations of the bytes that form a file is extremely quick whereas erasing the data completely is a much lengthier process. If, for example, you deleted a file that took up 5GBs of storage space, erasing it could take several minutes rather than a few seconds.

Plus, as an added bonus, this means that anyone that accidentally deletes a file they want to keep has an opportunity to get it recovered.

Can I recover accidentally deleted data with software?

Technically, yes: you can recover deleted date with software – but we wouldn’t recommend it.

Data recovery software is not designed for the layperson – it needs to be operated by someone with appropriate training as it’s often necessary to use metadata to reconstruct deleted files and return them to working order. This is a complicated task and it should really be performed by a professional.

Is this true of all storage media?

Afraid not. Flash-based memory – typically found in SSDs and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets – must erase data before new information can be stored in the same location. So, if you’ve accidentally deleted data from one of these devices, we’re sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your data won’t be recoverable.

But what if I want to permanently delete sensitive data?

If you don’t want to sell your drive on, you can simply physically destroy it. This isn’t absolutely guaranteed to erase all of the data contained on it but it makes the data recovery process so difficult and laborious that only the most skilled and experienced technicians would even know where to begin.

If you do wish to sell on your drive and need to ensure that everything on it has been erased, there’s software and hardware than can completely erase all of the data held on a hard drive.

Conclusion

Data can be recovered from a wiped hard drive provided the user acts quickly and stops using the drive the moment they realise they’ve made a mistake.

If someone wants to securely erase all of the data held on a hard drive, this is entirely possible.

Sadly, if a user has accidentally deleted data held on a piece of storage media using Flash, their data is, indeed, permanently deleted.  

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