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How to recover data from a damaged hard drive

What to do when you can no longer access files and photos

Your PC's hard drive overheats and then shuts down, leaving precious files and photos beyond your reach. How do you recover data from the damaged hard drive? Our Helproom Expert explains all.

QUESTION My CPU cooler became detached, resulting in the PC overheating and shutting down. I can no longer access the partition on which I store my photos. The 230GB IDE disk is partitioned into H: 128GB RAW Healthy Primary Partition and K: 104.89GB NTFS Healthy Logical Drive. Windows 7 reports that H is inaccessible and the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable. Is there anything I can do to regain contact with the H partition and all my photographs? My backup is a few weeks out of date. Malcolm Sharpe

HELPROOM ANSWER Given the right tools, data can be easily recovered from almost any hard drive. For severely damaged drives this can be an expensive process, but users all too often give up on valuable data that's far easier and less expensive to restore. Even data stored on a hard drive that's no longer recognised by the PC's Bios can occasionally be recovered using software tools alone.

Thankfully, the relatively small file size and self-contained nature of Jpeg images makes partial recovery possible, even if sections of the drive can't be read.

Basic and freeware utilities such as Piriform Recuva are ideal tools for recovering photos from damaged hard drives, but will often struggle to bring back data from a RAW partition.

One free utility that can achieve this task is EaseUs Data Recovery Wizard. That link lets you download the free version; the full program costs $69 (£44). You could also try ZAR.

You may need to take additional steps to start recovering your data from a RAW partition, such as ‘unformatting' the drive. ZAR provides a tutorial for completing this process. The tool's image-recovery feature is free to use.

A further option is to try the Damaged Partition Recovery module of MiniTool Power Data Recovery. It will recover 1GB of data for free, after which you'll need the $49 (£31) full version.

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