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EasyRecovery Professional

By Terry Currier

EasyRecovery Professional is marketed by Ontrack who have been recovering data from failed hard drives for years. First off, it is not a utility to bring a hard drive back from death. It is for the recovery, or repair of files from faulty hard drives. It will help you retrieve deleted files, or even a file on a disk that was formatted.

Before you have problems (hopefully) you can run diagnostics of your hard drive. You can do a quick test which takes 90 seconds and they say with a 90 percent certainty it can determine whether your hard disk has a physical problem. The full diagnostic test will check/read the entire hard drive looking for physical problems such as unreadable sectors.

You can also run the SMARTTtest. SMART is an acronym for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. SMART tests help prevent data loss by predicting possible drive failures using special algorithms built into the firmware of your hard drive. Most new IDE and SCSI hard drives support the SMART technology. It has three separate diagnostic tests: 1) SMART Status check returns the current SMART status of the hard drive. Your drive monitors itís health during normal operation and logs SMART thresholds. If any of the drives SMART thresholds have been exceeded, a SMART alert will be reported in this test. 2) The Short SMART Test will issue a short self-test command to your drive designed to quickly identify major internal failures with your drive. 3) The Extended SMART Test will issue a comprehensive self-test command to your hard disk. Designed to find minor internal problems or inconsistencies with your drive.

The PartitionTests tool is designed to analyze on-disk file system structures. The tool will do an extensive scan of the file systems structure generating a report on the condition of your file data. It verifies the data integrity of FAT and NTFS partitions.

For future use you can create a Data Advisorô disk. This is an emergency boot disk which includes diagnostic tools for assessing the condition of your computer system. It  assesses the health of your hard disk drive, file structures, and computer memory by identifying problems that could cause data loss. If not too late problems are identified,  and you will have time to backup your valuable information. Also in this section is SizeManager which shows you graphically the size, and or space each folder is taking from the hard drive. JumperViewer merely takes you to a web site where you can look up the jumpers settings for any hard drive.

Click on image to show you a larger image. Holding the cursor over it gives description.

EasyRecovery opening menu

DataRecovery menu

Partition test

Displaying size of folders on drive

Smart test on hard drive

For those not familiar with the design of the File Allocation Table (FAT) Ė a deleted file is not really deleted. When you delete a file the operating system merely marks the space that was taken up by the file as now open for reuse. Recovery programs look at the FAT to see where the file was and attempts to bring them back. Even if you have deleted it and emptied out your recycle bin, the space where the file was is still there, and therefore the file is also. That is until the space is reused. That is why if you find you did error in deleting a file, you need to recover it right away. The more you add more files, or  especially if you defrag your computer which moves everything up, the less chance you have for a complete recovery.

The Data Recovery will get back those files from the brink of extinction. Unless working with a formatted disk the first thing to try is the DeletedRecovery. This will scan your drive and report to you files it found deleted and the condition (chance) of recovery. You can look for everything or filter the response by telling it to look for a specific type of file such as (.DOC ) Microsoft Word file. It presents your drive with all the folders on the left, and the deleted files on the right. It shows the file name, date, size, and its condition. Even better is the ability to view the deleted file to verify if it is what you want. This also allows to gauge if you can get the file back okay. If you can view it you can definitely get it back.

AdvancedRecovery depending on the size of your hard drive will take hours. For my drive which is 40Gb it took about six hours. They say to use this options when you feel the information is incorrect for a partition listed in the Device Tree, or you are unable to recover data with the default options. File System Scan Tab - Allows you to customize a search for a missing or unidentified partition. Partition Settings Tab - Allows you to ignore existing partition information, forcing the tool to search for previous file data.  This option allows you to recover data after a reinstall or repartition of your partition. Recovery Options Tab - Allows you to ignore files found during a scan that have invalid attributes or have been deleted. 

The RawRecovery tool allows you to scan severely corrupted partitions for files using a file signature search algorithm. This tool will help you recover files from a partition with damaged directory structures. It will read all sectors on the disk sequentially (sector-by-sector) looking for specific file header signatures. It will typically recover small files that are stored in one cluster, or larger files stored in consecutive clusters on the disk.

FormatRecovery helps you recover files from a hard drive that was formatted. This type of recovery will ignore the existing file system structures and search for structures associated with the previous file system. It can look at the file data on the formatted partition and recovered them.

Advance scan choices

Scanning for deleted files on the CompactFlash drive

After choosing which files to undelete pick where to put them.

Shows delete files able to recover, even after drive was defragged

viewing digital images from CompactFlash even after format

Putting it to the test I searched for files I had deleted files directly from explorer and empting out the recycle bin. It had no problems recovering those 100% of the time. But, hey I could do that with my Ontrack SystemSuite. To really put it to a test I deleted some files, and then defragged the drive. It had the worse problems with PDF files. Neither of the two it tried to bring back were a success. On some of the jpg and gif files it worked half of the time. On one of the gif files I was even able to fully view it before recovery. Trying it on a word file the viewer showed garbage. However after recovering it I ran it through the WordRecovery, and it was perfect. This type of recovery will depend where on the drive the file was when deleted and how much was moved forward (chance of overwriting it.)

I actually used both the DeletedRecovery and RawRecovery on a CompactFlash card to recovery files. I put the card into a holder which than goes into the PCMCIA slot on my notebook. Then the system looks at it like another drive. I was able to recover deleted files using the DeletedRecovery. I then formatted the card (in the camera of course) and was able to again get pictures using the RawRecovery.

The FileRepair section will repair Microsoft Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Zip files. Before working on the selected file it make a backup and works with it. EasyRecovery Professional can also attempt to repair corrupt Microsoft Outlook files.

The greatest test came from someone at work who brought me a notebook with a system that would not book up, and asked me to look at it. How bad was it? If you have ever heard a bicycle with a loose chain, that is what the drive sound like. Trying to boot up the computer it would right away go into scandisk and not get past 8%. It could not get past that, nor even get to safe mode. I created an emergency boot disk and used that to get on to the computer. Using it I was able tag some data files and copy them to a floppy disk. After that the drive was toast. I fdisked the drive and tried to formatted it, several times. Each time the format failed and the restage could not be completed. I took it back and told him it was no use.

EasyRecovery for Outlook

File repair menu

Recovery of Word file

Recovered Word file before repair

Recovered Word file after repair

The EasyRecovery Professional is for single computer only. There is a EasyRecovery Professional Commercial License per technician for commercial and consulting use to recover, repair, and restore data. The EasyRecovery Professional Enterprise License is licensed for business and corporate use to internally support up to a designated number of users of an organization.

EasyRecovery Professional is sold directly at the Ontrack web site http://www.ontrackdatarecovery.com the price is $499, and is 31.4Mb. Expensive yes, but like the dues paid to the Automobile Club when you need it, it is worth every penny.

From our December 2002 newsletter. Screen captures were done with SnagIt from www.techsmith.com


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