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Data Recovery

TECHTALKS Technology

In this article, I talked about some important facts when it comes to data recovery from storage devices that are password protected and they have physically failed.

We store data on hard drives and computer systems and are always worried about our data security. For the protection of our data, we mostly use passwords. There are various levels of securities when it comes to passwords. There are professional systems that use complex programs encrypting information. This kind of security is considered the highest one. The way normal user passwords were being used with traditional operating systems has changed over time. In older operating systems whether it was Microsoft Windows PC computers or Mac computers, the contents could be read offline even if there was a password on a user account. Apple started high-end security allowing users to protect their information when it comes to accessing it off-line.

Talking of modern operating systems, I have to give credit to Apple who brought secure system known as File Vault. This is a built-in feature in their modern operating systems used in all MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air and all other Apple computers. Under this system, if file vault is turned on, the computer uses the user’s login password and encrypts the data. This is very good feature available in all new operating systems in all Macintosh computers, ipads and iPhones. Windows systems come with their own BitLocker feature that encrypts the data if the feature is turned on. Encryption is very high level system which is not easy to work with without proper technology. Encrypted data or passwords are one level of difficulty in data retrieval. There is a second one which will be discussed in the following lines.

When a hard drive, USB, server drive or NAS fails, we have to deal with the first line of security which is the password but what if the hard drive fails physically? This is the hard one. When a drive i.e. a traditional storage or flash drive physically fails, this can be a big problem. Password information is stored randomly all over the available space. If an area where the password or key information is stored is not accessible, it will be impossible to recover data even if we have the right password or encryption key. This means, if someone has encrypted password on storage and they format the drive, this will make data recovery impossible. On the other hand data recovery using the right tools and technology may be quite possible if the physically broken drive is properly recovered and then password is applied. A lot of time users try different software and follow online instructions to attempt data recovery. This approach brings the same destruction as if someone deletes or formats a drive that has a secure or encrypted data combined with a password.

There are a lot of online services and companies that claim that their data recovery software can recover any kind of situation. This is mostly not true. Trying different software, copying more content on to the drive, running a physically damaged drive unnecessarily increases the risk of losing data permanently. It does not matter if the data is password protected or not, trying different ways and letting other inexperienced technicians playing with these situations is not recommended ways of recovering data. When it comes to crucial data recovery, it is highly recommended to do a little research about data recovery otherwise risk of losing data will always remain high.

It will be unfair not to talk about another device that has bit locker encryption. This device is known as Microsoft Surface tablet. It most has bit locker security enabled by default. If this device fails physically, it can be a huge problem sometimes. The main issue starts when the user does not have encryption key which is a 48 character numeric key. The next challenge is the kind of problem with the device. For example if the device is liquid damaged and certain components are dead, the data could be lost permanently. It is therefore recommended for users to keep the bit locker key and protect the machine from liquid damage which is the most destructive possibility when it comes losing data. The same can happen to Microsoft laptop or any other brand laptop if bit locker is enabled.

Sometimes if the operating system is corrupt and the password is not readable the same can happen meaning the data will not be recoverable. In some cases the data will be lost due to corruption of data files too. We have heard about people formatting hard drives accidentally or some computer literates will format a storage media that was initialized by computer in order to run data recovery software on the drive but they don’t realize that this may not work if there was a password on the drive. This becomes even worse when the password encryption is enabled. In this situation, the password must be entered to access data but because the drive was formatted, there is no way to do that and data is lost forever.

Written by Khan