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At times, data recovery is required because a disk suddenly fails due to an unforeseen physical reason. The machine may have experienced a large power spike, or perhaps your laptop was inadvertently dropped on the floor and now will not start. In these cases you may not be able to access the hard drive at all and your recovery options may be limited to backups that were created at a previous time. Hopefully, those backups exist.

Signs of a Failing Hard Drive

Your hard drive will often give you subtle or more direct hints that it is not operating at full capacity and may be getting ready to crash on you. It is a physical device that will eventually wear out in some respect. It could just be wear and tear, or the accumulation of small power spikes, but your disk just is not performing as well as when it was new.

Recovery Hard Drive
Excessive heat, human errors such as faulty registry settings, corrupt files, and firmware problems are other reasons your drive may be underperforming. Here are some signs to look for that indicate your disk is headed for trouble.

  • Strange sounds coming from the disk. Grinding sounds may indicate problems with the spinning disk. A clicking sound often accompanies write errors as the head attempts to recover from the error.
  • Frequent error messages when performing regular activities such as moving files. These may be strange messages that seemingly do not make sense based on what you are doing with the computer at the time.
  • Extended wait time when attempting to open files or folders. The disk may take a long time to respond to the command or to return the results.
  • Slow overall response from your computer accompanied by missing files and folders. Garbled file contents and file names are another indicator of impending drive failure.
  • Frequent system crashes are another strong signal that your disk is in danger of failing.

Why Create a Disk Image?

If you think your hard drive may be malfunctioning, it is in your best interest to back it up to enable you to perform data recovery on it at a later point in time. Unfortunately, by the time you notice that your drive may be getting ready to fail, it might not be able to take the stress of performing a regular backup on it.

At this time, you need to employ the features of the Disk Drill data recovery tool that will enable you to preserve as much of your data as possible and put it into a format that you can use for data recovery. The first step in this process is to create a byte-to-byte disk image of the troubled disk.

You may think that you should try an immediate recovery rather than running any kind of backup on your damaged disk. This is not the recommended procedure when using Disk Drill to recover files from your damaged disk. The reason is that scanning can involve a much greater level of disk activity than does the process to create the disk image. Your damaged disk may not be able to handle the scanning process, and will totally fail. With no backup of the disk, you are now in a very bad situation.

The preferred method of data recovery is to create the disk image and then run the recovery against the image rather than the original disk. Using the feature in Disk Drill to create a DMG file starts a backup process that copies your disk byte-by-byte to create an exact image of the disk and the data resident on it. The DMG file is a mountable disk image created by Mac OS X and contains raw block data. Disk Drill will use this data to perform data recovery on your disk.

The only drawback to this method is that you need enough space on another disk to hold the backup. It would be pointless to store the backup on the affected disk, as the object is to get the data safely off a damaged disk. We need the backup to be on a healthy disk so it can go through the strain of the recovery process.

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Creating and Recovering From a Disk Image with Disk Drill

Below we will walk you through the steps to enact this type of recovery. We are using a removable USB drive named ‘IBM Memory Key’ as our target drive, and will create the DMG image and perform a recovery from that image. The process can also be done using your main hard drive if you have an external drive attached that can hold the backup image. Here we go.

  1. If you haven’t already done so, download and install Disk Drill on your computer.
  2. Start the program and you should see a screen like this:
  3. start Disk Drill

  4. Select ‘Backup’ and then choose ‘Backup into DMG image’.
  5. backup into dmg image

  6. You will now be presented with the disks that are available to be backed up into a disk image. Click the Backup button to the right of the disk name.
  7. Disk Image

  8. Select a name and location where the DMG image will be saved.
  9. name and location

  10. Click Save and your backup will begin. Status screen looks like this:
  11. backup-into-dmg-image

  12. When the backup is complete you will see the following message:
  13. create Disk image

  14. At this point you want to eject the original damaged disk that we just copied. After the disk is ejected, we now want to attach the recently created disk image. Choose ‘Backup’ from the top left and then ‘Attach non-mountable images’.
  15. Attach non mountable images

  16. Select the image file that was created earlier in the process. Here we select ‘IBM Memory Key BKP.dmg’. Click ‘Recover’ to begin the recovery process by scanning the disk image. Here we have a ‘Continue’ button rather than ‘Recover’ since we had scanned this disk previously. Clicking ‘Continue’ will simply continue our earlier recovery. In either case, when the scan is complete, the next screen we see is this one:
  17. Recovery disk

  18. Select the files that you want to recover from the disk image. You also can select a location where the recovered files will be stored. Now you simply check the boxes of the files that you want to recover. When your selection is complete, click the ‘Recover’ button in the top right of the screen. This performs the actual data recovery. When the recovery is complete, you will see this screen:
  19. Recovery method

Using Disk Drill and this procedure to recover files from a damaged hard drive that is still accessible gives you a greater chance of performing a successful recovery. You only make one last pass on the damaged disk as you create the disk image, and all further recovery procedures can then use that image. This minimizes the opportunity for a total disk failure before you get a chance to safeguard the data. Disk Drill provides all the tools to accomplish this data recovery task in one package.

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.updated: January 5, 2019 author: uralenf