Recently at a TechNet briefing in Ohio, I happened to walk past a PowerQuest booth and saw an advertisement for a product called Lost & Found. The advertisement claimed that as long as your hard disk is spinning, there’s a good chance that you can recover any data that had been deleted. Needless to say, I had to get my hands on a copy to see if these claims were true.

The purpose of Lost & Found is to allow you to recover deleted data. Lost & Found supports FAT16 and FAT32 formats and can recover files from hard disks and floppy disks. PowerQuest claims that Lost & Found can help you recover data even after a disk has been formatted—as long as it hasn’t been overwritten. It’s also supposed to help in situations of accidental deletion or a viral attack, even if the file allocation table has been destroyed.

The real advantage to Lost & Found is that it doesn’t have to be installed prior to a crash. It ships on a bootable floppy disk. When you need to recover from a deletion, simply boot the system from the Lost & Found floppy disk and follow the prompts. Operation is simple and straightforward. A comprehensive instruction manual is also included.

The program detects your hardware and then asks for the location of the deleted data. It prompts you for a destination drive that it can use to recover the deleted files. Once you’ve supplied this information, the program begins scanning the damaged disk. Be aware that this process can take a long time. Upon completion, the program analyzes the file and directory structure of the drive and generates a file containing information on the disk’s current state.

This is where I ran into problems. I tried the test on several different machines. Each machine had a single hard drive containing a single partition. Each machine also had a single floppy disk drive. Lost & Found requires that your source and destination drives be different. In each test, I scanned the hard disk and the program tried to write the results to a floppy disk. I tested hard drives ranging in size from 1 GB to 40 GB. In each case, I ran out of floppies before I had anything useful.

I tried to scan a floppy disk and use the hard disk as my destination. However, a bug in the program prevents you from using the hard disk as the destination when scanning floppies. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a machine with multiple hard drives for the testing. Overall, Lost & Found was totally useless to me.

One of the biggest flaws with this product is its license agreement. The box clearly states that Lost & Found will only run on one system. It also states that if you need to recover a second PC, you’ll have to buy a second copy of Lost & Found. Personally, I have a real problem with this. Almost all other disaster recovery tools that I’ve used can be utilized to recover as many crashed computers as necessary—as long as you don’t have the product installed on more than one machine at a time. Does PowerQuest expect customers to run out to a computer store at 3:00 A.M. when disaster strikes? Perhaps instead they expect us to keep a few dozen copies on hand for every time a file is accidentally deleted.

In a nutshell, PowerQuest has really dropped the ball with this one. Lost & Found has the potential to be a great program. However, bugs and poor design prevented me from recovering a single file from the six test machines that I used. If you have multiple hard drives, the program may be of use to you.
PowerQuest CorporationP.O. Box 1911Orem, UT 84059-1911(801)

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.