IT Dojo: Restore files from a damaged hard drive with ZAR
July 20, 2009, 10:56am PDT | Length: 00:06:40
Hard drive failures are always a nuisance -- if not a disaster -- especially when the backups have gone missing or were never made. Whether it's your own oversight or that of a panicked user, at some point you'll probably attempt to retrieve files from a damaged hard drive. Bill Detwiler shows you how the Zero Assumption Recovery (ZAR) tool can help you find and restore recoverable files from a failed hard drive. Once you’ve watched this IT Dojo video, you can find a link to the original TechRepublic article and print the tip from our IT Dojo Blog.
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Bill Detwiler: Hard drive failures are always a nuisance -- if not a disaster -- especially when the backups have gone missing or were never made Whether it's your own oversight or that of a panicked user, at some point you'll probably attempt to retrieve files from a damaged hard drive.
I'm Bill Detwiler, and in this IT Dojo, I'll show you how to use a handy tool to help you find and restore recoverable files from a failed hard drive.
The Zero Assumption Recovery tool (or ZAR) is a shareware-based utility that can scan a hard drive for files, even if it has been reformatted or won't boot.
ZAR works with FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS partitions running on Windows 2000, XP, Vista or Windows Server 2003.
You can download a free, trial version from z-a-recovery.com. The full version is available for $49.95.
As with most trial software, ZAR's trial version has limited functionality. Each time you make a recovery attempt, you're only able to recover files from four separate folders-including subfolders. If you need to recover files from many folders, you'll either have to make multiple passes or spring for the full version.
Now, there are a couple ways to recover data using ZAR. First you can put the damaged hard drive in another machine and install ZAR on that system. This is a common technique for recovering data using software tools, but if you don't have access to another system or that system has no open IDE or SATA ports, you can use another method. You can create a Windows bootable flash drive, as I outlined in a previous IT Dojo episode, and install ZAR on that device. You can then connect the flash drive to the damaged system and boot directly from the USB drive.
Now before going any further, I must remind everyone about the potential dangers of using self-service data recovery tools -- because someone always brings this up when I talk about data recovery.
It is entirely possible, that during the process you will further damage the drive and make recovering the data impossible. If the data is critical or the drive has physical damage, I highly recommend you contact a qualified data recovery company. These companies often charge high prices to recover your data, but if the data is critical, it can be worth the expense.
Finally, a specific warning about using ZAR. If your drive is only partially damaged and still boots, don't install ZAR on that hard drive and attempt to recover files. You may cause further damage to your data and make recovery impossible.
With the warnings out of the way, let's look at a basic recovery operation using ZAR.
Once you've downloaded and installed ZAR, the recovery wizard launches automatically.
On the Welcome screen, enter your unlock code (if you purchased one) or simply click Next to begin the recovery process.
Next, you'll be prompted to choose the Recovery Type. For this example, I'll choose the first option: Recover data from a simple volume or from a functional RAID volume and keep the default choice for handling Deleted Files.
ZAR will first scan your system for devices from which to attempt recovery. From the results screen, choose the damaged hard drive and click Next.
You are then prompted to choose the volume within that drive that is damaged. Many hard drives will contain only one volume, so this is an easy choice. If you are unsure which volume to choose, you can always back up to this screen and choose another.
ZAR will perform a multi-step process of scanning your hard drive for all file information and plotting different block types in a graph. Depending on the size of your drive and the speed of your computer, this phase can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to several hours.
Once the scan is complete, you see a list of files and folder that can be recovered. If you see folders named Fragments or LostFiles followed by a number, these usually contain recently deleted files.
Select the files and folders you want by simply checking the box next to them. Remember if you are using the trial version, you'll be limited to four folders. Once you've select the files and folders to recover, click Next. Now, choose a destination folder for the recovered files and click the Start Copying button to finish the process.
If you're using the trial version, you will need to start again completely from scratch and repeat this process for each folder you want to recover.
Now that you've seen the Zero Assumption Recovery tool in action, check out Wally Bahny's original post for more details on using the tool. Also, let us know if you've used the ZAR utility or another recover tool or service and what your experience was like.
And as always, for more teachings on your path to becoming an IT Ninja, visit itdojo.techrepublic.com. And please let us know if this tip was helpful.
You can also submit your favorite IT Ninja tips by e-mailing them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use them for an episode of IT Dojo, we'll send you a TechRepublic coffee mug.
I'm Bill Detwiler. Thanks for visiting TechRepublic's IT Dojo.