Data Recovery

How data recovery software and the system works

how data recovery software works

Human error is the cause of 32% of data loss cases, behind hardware failures (44%). Recovery time depends on the device and the damage it has suffered. Making backup copies regularly is the best way to prevent data loss cases.

Maria is going on vacation to Paris. Before closing the front door, follow all the usual rituals to ensure everything is in order: turn off the electricity and water, keep the windows closed, water the plants, give the key to your neighbor, and … laptop tucked in the oven. So, as is, lest a thief enters during her absence and takes her away. Who would think that there is something of value in the oven?

And she was right. Back at home, everything was just as he had left it. It’s 9 p.m. Before unpacking, turn on the oven for a quick dinner. The problem comes when he is going to put the pizza, open the door, and … the laptop! It’s still on its site, but now quite scorched and with all its lost files, right? Although the protagonist’s name is fictitious, this story is based on actual events.

Looking for the fault

This is just one of the cases the technicians of Kroll Ontrack, a company dedicated to data recovery, have encountered during the ten years they have been in Spain. A laptop crushed by a car or a computer full of ants has been faced with other remains. As they have verified, human error is behind 32% of the data loss cases, only surpassed by hardware failures (44%).

Fortunately for Maria, even the high temperatures of an oven are not enough to eliminate the hard drive’s information. When a device arrives at Kroll Ontrack Labs, they assess its condition to find out what they are against. They perform visual and sound analysis, for example, to check which components have deteriorated and detect if the heads of a hard disk emit a strange sound.

how data recovery software works
In the data loss cases, If there is a physical failure, the next step is to go to the clean chamber for further analysis, detect damaged parts, and replace them. For this, they have a warehouse where they keep original spare parts, even hard drives, that have not been sold for a long time. The way to get them is to buy several units when a new model comes onto the market and share them with the laboratories they have in different countries.

Meanwhile, the software analyzes which data is damaged and which can be recovered. This information is stored for other Kroll Ontrack teams to access if necessary. “In the logical area, there is more variety than in the physical one; that is why we work with specialized teams from other European countries,” explains the company’s general director in Spain, Nicholas Green. And he clarifies: “These working groups do not see the information, only its structure.”

This is enough to analyze what data can be recovered and ensure the confidentiality of its customers. In each workbench, a webcam is used by teams from different countries to work almost side by side and, incidentally, put faces on colleagues.

Confidential data recovery

The recovery time changes depending on the device and the damage suffered. If it’s a hard drive, it can take six to eight days, while solid-state drives (SSDs) and encrypted media require more dedication. The cost varies, from € 500 for a smartphone or laptop to slightly less for a USB.

If you need to speed up the process, free software from the Kroll Ontrack website tells you if there are possibilities for recovery. If the result convinces you, you can buy it online for € 90. Keep in mind that if there is to be any physical repair, this is not enough. Once the recovery is made, the result is sent to the client, usually done by ordinary mail because it is a large volume of data.

The files are kept in the Kroll Ontrack laboratories for 30 days and only for a practical matter: “If there is a problem during shipping, you can always make a new one in a short time. This protocol is followed because there is no guarantee that second data recovery will have the same quality as the first, or that it can be performed again,” Green describes.

Confidentiality, in any case, data recovery is always guaranteed. In many cases, they do not know the end-user’s identity. Since 50% of their business comes through partners. Individuals and SMEs are the ones that tend to lose more data. At the same time, the Administration and large companies suffer fewer losses but more catastrophes.

Among the cases they have faced, and they can mention, is the commitment made by the Ministry of the Interior for the recovery of the information stored in a laptop found in the explosion of the apartment in Leganés (Madrid), where they were hiding. The terrorists of the 9/11 attack.


Our protagonist, María, would have avoided all this if she had had a backup of her files. But be honest, few of us dedicate time to this task and even less do we keep those copies up to date. “With more and more devices at home, they are not being done as often as necessary,” says Nicholas Green. And if it is the mobile … who dumps your data periodically?

With this device, we keep more and more information, and the incorporation of increasingly better cameras has led us to take photos almost at any time in our lives. These are precisely the data that Spanish users value the most. This is recognized by 59.33%, followed by office documents (49.87%) and multimedia files (21.87%). That is videos and music, according to a study by Recovery Labs. Dedicated to the recovery of corrupted information.

The hard disk is the most reliable medium to keep a copy of our data, but not the most durable. In this, it is the CD that wins. “It is best if it is well preserved. In its box, without dust and being switched on,” says Kroll Ontrack technician Eduardo Hernández. SSDs are more susceptible to loss since they need current for correct operation.

Rescuing the information in these cases is more complicated since the recovery is more logical than physical. “In flash memory, data is not stored linearly, and each manufacturer uses different algorithms to store the information.”

Prevention above all

Although, no doubt, the best way to avoid scars is to treat our devices with a bit of affection. If a data loss is still detected, it is best to do nothing. The more you delve into it, the worse. In the case of hard drives, the reason is usually thermal decompensation. That is, overheating is caused by a rise in temperatures or by an electrical overload. To prevent them, Nicholas Green tells us that he has voltage regulators in the outlets of his house to avoid surprises.

If you fall down your smartphone into the water, the solution of putting it in rice seems to be a false myth. We are recommended not to dry it; on the contrary, put it in a bag full of water. And go to a data recovery service if it matters to us to not lose the information we keep in it.

In Maria’s case, the solution is even easier. Next time she can leave the laptop with her neighbor and the house keys. And in addition, she will also keep her oven.

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