How Does Data Recovery Software Work?

If you’ve accidentally deleted some data and think it’s gone forever, there’s a chance you might be mistaken – and data recovery software could help.

All data stored on storage media such as hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), USB flash drives, SD cards and so on, are made up of string of binary digits or bits, which have a value of 0 or 1. These strings make up files such as documents, photos, audio and video; a byte is equal to 8 bits. Documents are fairly simple, with letters becoming numbers. For example, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, around 1250 pages, contains 40 million bits, one byte per letter. The bits that make up photos indicate the location, colour and brightness of each individual pixel.

When you delete data on a hard disk drive on a Windows PC, the files are moved to the Recycle Bin, and they can be restored from here if you change your mind. When you empty the Recycle Bin, the files are seemingly gone forever. However, this isn’t strictly true. When the Recycle Bin is emptied, what is actually being deleted is something known as the master file table reference, which is essentially a map that points to where the data is stored on the drive. But the data itself, stored as a series of 0s and 1s, is still physically there and can be accessed again as long as it isn’t overwritten. When the master file table reference is deleted, the portion of the drive where the data is stored is marked as free, ready to have new data overwritten. As long as no data is overwritten, data recovery is still possible. This, in essence, is how data recovery software works.

If you want the highest chance of success when using data recovery software to undelete files, you need to act fact. Your OS will be constantly writing data to your drive, even if you’re not aware of it. One obvious way you could accidentally overwrite the portion of the drive where the data you want to recover is stored is installing the data recovery software itself; for this reason, we recommend installing your data recovery software of choice in advance in order to prevent this potential problem from occurring.

Data Recovery