What is a corrupted file and can my data be recovered?

Corrupted files are one of the most common causes of data loss. Most people have experienced it in some form, with files becoming inoperable for no apparent reason. As common as it may be, though, very few people understand why it happens or what can be done to return corrupted files to working order.

Why files can become corrupted

Files of any kind can become corrupted for a multitude of reasons; so many, in fact, that providing a comprehensive list is simply not possible. Generally, though, they’re attributable to bugs in software or a problem with the read/write process when initially creating and storing data or when trying to retrieve it at a later date.

A file becomes corrupted when a piece or pieces of the data that form it are lost. As a result, when a user tries to open such a file, the storage media is unable to reconstruct it and reports an error. At other times, the data required to reconstruct the file is still present, but the media is unable to locate it. Either way, the file in question has been corrupted.

The most common causes of these errors include power surges, failing to shut down a device properly and ageing media.

Can corrupted data be recovered?

For those asking if it’s possible to recover corrupted data we have good and bad news: it’s possible but professional help may be needed.

Sometimes, users will be able to recover a previous version of the file using their operating system’s built-in software. These tools are often able to reconstruct files by finding older versions and using them to piece the corrupted file back together.

If this is unsuccessful, then a user may purchase specialist software and attempt a recovery themselves. This may work but we’d recommend against this, particularly if the data is of emotional, monetary or practical value.

Data recovery software is capable of achieving results in certain circumstances, but using it effectively requires a skillset that the vast majority of people simply do not possess. Instead, you should trust the professionals.

How to prevent data corruption

It may not be possible to ensure that you never have to deal with corrupted data again but, with a little effort, you can go a long way towards preventing it.

Firstly, ensure you always shut down your device correctly. This is undoubtedly behind the majority of corrupted files we’ve encountered over the past two decades.

Older hard drives often generate corrupt data at a far greater rate so we’d also recommend that you remain mindful of this and replace your drive once it reaches a certain age.

Finally – and most importantly – always backup your important data. This won’t prevent data corruption directly, but it’ll ensure that you always have a secure copy of your data to hand when it does.

What if I’ve forgotten to backup my data?

If you’ve lost vital data and don’t have a backup, Fields Data Recovery can help! We’re data recovery experts offering a free diagnostic and no-obligation quote. Get in touch with us today.