Recover Lost Files with Disk Drill for Mac

Have you ever been looking for a file and then realize you trashed it? If this has happened to you recently, you may be in luck. You can download Disk Drill from Cleverfiles Software for the Mac. Disk Drill can scan your hard drive drive for recently deleted files and can restore the lost files or folder.

Disk Drill is free for now, but pricing points for the full release have not been set yet. Cleverfiles software wishes to have it released in February 2011. If your interested and free is more in your budget, hurry up and get the beta builds!

Main Screen

Setup is easy

Open the app, hit protect, pick your drive and don’t worry about Disk Drill until you need it. To get the most out of Disk Drill, enable the “Recovery Vault” on the drive you wish to save. Disk Drill becomes your friend when a file goes missing and time machine is not in place to save the day.

What Happens Quote

Restoration

Open the app and choose Recover, pick your drive and hit undelete from recovery vault. If that doesn’t find your file, Deep Scan is an option. The deep scan can take an hour or more but depending on how important that file is to you it may not matter as to it iss your only choice.

Deep Scan

Testing

With Disk Drill closed, I copied a folder full of pictures I had to the desktop. I then proceeded to delete the folder with 250 MB or so worth of pictures and continued on with my night. The next day I opened up Disk Drill and did the recovery vault and did a quick scan that took less than 5 minutes. It recovered every single one of the pictures perfectly.

Results will vary due to hard drive use. For example, if you deleted a file and copied 30 gigs worth of something before the recovery attempt, the results may not be as good.

Resources

Disk Drill is light on computer resources. You may think an index of your hard drive would take a large database, but according to Cleverfiles Software:

Generally, for every 2-3 low-level data writing tacts, Disk Drill does 1 modification of its protection database. It means that, your hard disk speed changes within 1-3% when Disk Drill is doing internal Recovery Vault routines. Nothing to worry about at all. This caused no visible slowdowns of your system on our regular tests.
Additionally, speaking of disk space required by Recovery Vault, it’s only 6 KB of written data for every single entity Recovery Vault monitors (files, folders). In a regular scenario Recovery Vault will monitor 5000-7000 of files. With 10000 files protected, Recovery Vault’s database will be just ~60MB in size.

Basically if you have a new intel mac computer, and you will have to for this software, you will be fine. if you have a large high speed hard drive you will not notice a thing except for the scans are more fast vs other software.

Alternative

Apple’s own Time Machine may be an alternative, but that requires an entire external hard drive and none of the external drive’s space can be used to store personal data; it is all devoted to the computer backup. Time Machine also only runs the backup every hour on a USB drive which may not catch that file you just lost.

Summing it up

Disk Drill is still in beta so take that with a grain of salt. From the testing I have done the software has shown no effect on my system performance or speed. I have not “needed” to use it yet, but with some tests it works well for its intended purpose if you catch the fact the file is missing in the first place. If you wait too long, your chances for recovery go down with every file written.

Note
This product is still in beta testing. While it is in beta still it is currently free. Future pricing is unavailable at this time.

Easily Hot Swap SATA Hard Drives With HotSwap!

One advantage that SATA added over previous connection standards is the ability to hot swap devices. This allows users to add and remove devices, such as hard drives and optical drives, without restarting the computer. While it is possible to manage these hot swapped devices in Windows, it doesn’t always work properly and can be a pain. Thankfully, there’s a program out there that takes care of all the heavy lifting for you.

HotSwap! (downloads are near the bottom of the page) makes it incredibly easy to manage all of your SATA drives. After extracting the downloaded file, double click the executable. You’ll notice a new icon appear in the notification area of the task bar.

By left clicking on the icon you can view all of the SATA devices currently attached to your system. If you want to remove one of the drives, simply left click it in the list. HotSwap! will allow Windows to finish any operations it might still be doing on the drive, spin the drive down, and safely eject it. A popup will notify you when your drive is safe to remove.

Adding new devices is just as easy. Of course, you might be wondering how you can add new SATA devices while the computer is running without opening up the case and plugging a cable directly into an open SATA port (which isn’t recommended, by the way). As you might have guessed, there is a solution.

If your computer supports eSATA, HotSwap! will happily manage any devices plugged into an eSATA port. If you’re on a desktop without eSATA ports, there are enclosures that fit into your computer’s 5.25″ bay. These enclosures plug into an internal SATA port and accept 3.5″ hard drives. If you need to mange 2.5″ hard drives, you can buy an adapter that converts 2.5″ SATA hard drives into the 3.5″ form factor.

    

Once you have the device connected, right click on the HotSwap! icon. There are a few options you can adjust in this menu, but the one you’re looking for right now is “Scan for hardware changes.” Windows will then install the necessary drivers and let you view and edit the contents of the drive just like any other storage device. When you’re done, just eject the device as shown previously. That’s it!

How to Partition Your Hard Drive with Easeus Partition Master

harddrive_blue_featMost hard drives come with multiple partitions – which can be thought of as individual hard drives within your main hard drive – to separate a hard drive into multiple sections.  Partitions are very useful if you want to separate your operating system from your documents (allows for easier OS reinstallation), and most manufacturers include a recovery partition in lieu of a recovery disc with new computers.

If you want to create, delete, format, or resize hard drive partitions, Easeus Partition Master lets you do this quickly and for free.

Before you begin: As with any software that modifies your hard drive, partitioning can cause data loss if something goes wrong. Be sure to backup any important data before following this guide.

Step 1: Download and install Easeus Partition Master.

Step 2: Open the program.  You will see a horizontal image corresponding to your hard drive’s current partitioning, as well as a detailed list of the current partitions.  From here, you can select any partition and use the buttons at the top of the screen

partition-easeus-buttons

Resizing Partitions: If you have multiple partitions and want to make one larger, you must first reduce the size of one by clicking the Resize/Move button and select a smaller size.  To enlarge the other partition, select it and select Resize/Move again and increase it to fill the extra space you created by shrinking the other.  The graphical sliders can also be used to adjust the partition’s size.

Be sure to note that the partitions are listed in MB, so if you want to calculate how many gigabytes you will have, divide it by 1024.

partition-easeus-resize

Deleting a Partition: If you have multiple partitions and want to remove one, just select it then click the Delete button.  Remember that deleting a partition removes all data stored in it, so be careful with this one.

Creating a Partition: To create a partition, select any unpartitioned space and click the Create button.  If you don’t have any unpartitioned space, you will first have to resize or delete an existing partition.

Formatting a Partition: Easeus Partition Master only lets you format partitions as NTFS or FAT32, so if your intention is to create a Linux partition (with the ext file system), you’ll want to use free software like GParted which can be used as a LiveCD  and also comes included with the Ubuntu LiveCD.

partition-easeus-applyStep 3: Once you’ve configured your partitions, you must click the Apply partition to actually make the changes.  You will have to restart your computer, and while it is restarting you may see several screens regarding the partitions being modified.  Once it restarts, you should have your partitions configured to your liking!

Easeus Partition Master is free for personal use and supports Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP 32-bit, and Windows Vista 32-bit.  If you’re looking for 64-bit support, it’s offered in the Professional and Server editions of the software.  I have tested Easeus Partition Master in Windows 7 and have experienced no problems.

Have a different method of managing your computer’s partitions?  Share it with us in the comments.

How To: Securely Erase Your Hard Drive Using DBAN

DBAN-thumbnailIt’s likely that at some point in time, you will either sell your computer or install a new operating system on your current machine.  In either situation, it’s recommended that you wipe your hard drive clean of any and all information.

Most people will tell you to format your computer because it deletes everything from the hard drive, but while formatting does in fact remove information and prepare your hard drive for something new, it doesn’t completely remove traces of your private information.

If you only plan on upgrading your current Windows installation (i.e. Windows XP to Windows 7), then formatting your hard drive will certainly do the trick.  If you want a more thorough clean, however, you should consider the open-source application DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) as an alternative.

Warning: DBAN will erase ALL data on your hard drive(s).  Do not attempt this unless you have a backup of any important data!

When To Use DBAN

When you format a hard drive it deletes all your information, but it does not securely delete that info by overwriting it like DBAN does.  DBAN uses the Department of Defense 5220.22-M secure data erasing algorithm to overwrite all your files three times.  This is the grade of security the government trusts to destroy classified data and prevents all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis, so anybody looking to spy on your information will be left without a trace to follow.

If you are just going to throw away a computer and think that taking a hammer to your old hard drive is a good idea, you should think again.  A snoop with a certain level of technical knowledge could still recover sensitive information from the partially ruined drive, and possibly steal your identity.

How To Use DBAN

Using DBAN is easy:  Visit the Darik’s Boot and Nuke website and download the stable release for CD and DVD media.  Once you’ve downloaded it, use your burning program of choice to write the ISO file to the disc.

When the burning process is complete, put the DBAN disc in your optical drive and restart your computer.  Most modern computers will boot to the optical drive by default, but if not you will need to change this setting in your BIOS.

DBAN will begin running with a blue screen and a warning message about the usage and a few erasing options.  Below the warning and options you will see text that reads ‘boot:’

DBAN-3

The safe and easy way to run DBAN is by typing “autonuke” (without the quotations – as seen above) after the ‘boot:’ prompt to begin running the program and wiping any hard drives that are part of your computer.  Keep in mind that the larger the hard drive, the longer the wiping process will take.

If the DBAN completed successfully, you will get a success message after the program has finished.  You can eject the disc and strike the power button to power off the machine.

Congratulations!  Your computer has now been cleaned and is ready for a new owner, operating system, or the trash.  You can feel confident that nobody will be able to recover your sensitive information from that hard drive in the future.

Have you tried DBAN or an alternative to wipe your hard drive?  Let us know your opinions in the comments below!

How To: Check Your Hard Drive Health With A Linux LiveCD

Previously, I wrote a guide on monitoring your drive’s status with S.M.A.R.T. tools from a running system [see Check your HDD’s S.M.A.R.T. Status].  Although these programs work well for checking the live status of your hard drive, you may run across a situation where you cannot boot the operating system to access these programs.

If you system does not boot, it may be necessary to use a boot disc to check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your hard drive.  This is easily done with a Linux LiveCD such as Knoppix and a program called smartctl.  Although almost all versions of Linux come with this utility preinstalled, I recommending using Knoppix for booting your system, as it tends to have better out-of-the-box hardware support, especially for older hardware.

Important Note: For reasons unknown, the smartctl utility is not included in the newest version of Knoppix 6.0.1.  For this reason, it is necessary to use Knoppix 5.3.1 DVD or Knoppix 5.1.1 CD/DVD.

Download Knoppix 5.1.1 LiveCD via FTP.

Download Knoppix 5.3.1 LiveDVD via BitTorrent.

The Process

Once you have downloaded and burned the LiveCD ISO image, insert the disc into your CD/DVD drive and boot from it.  Unless there are hardware problems, your computer will automatically boot to the KDE Linux Desktop.  If you are not able to boot, enter failsafe at the Boot: prompt.  The KDE desktop looks like this:

Knoppix 5.3.1 Desktop
Knoppix 5.3.1 Desktop

When the desktop is shown, select the terminal icon as shown below.

knoppix-terminal-icon

Type the following command to check the first hard drive on the system:

smartctl –all /dev/hda | less

This will check the S.M.A.R.T. attributes of the hard drive and display then on the screen in scrollable form.  A description of the common attributes can be found here.

When you have reviewed the S.M.A.R.T. attributes of your drive, you can simply press q to return to the terminal input.  Type reboot at there terminal to reboot the computer and eject the LiveCD.

How often have you used a Linux LiveCD to help diagnose your computer?  Is there another Linux program or LiveCD that you use to check your hard drive S.M.A.R.T. status?  Let us know by commenting below.

How To Check Your HDD’s S.M.A.R.T. Status

As your hard drive begins to age, the chance for failure and resulting data loss increases.  Today’s hard drives feature a monitoring system called Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology or S.M.A.R.T. for short.  With S.M.A.R.T. and the appropriate software, it is possible to keep updated on the status of your hard drive and the important data that resides on it.

To check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your hard drive, there are many programs that are available.  The two programs that I have found to be most useful and user-friendly are:

Speedfan S.M.A.R.T
Image from almico.com
  • Speedfan
    • Although S.M.A.R.T status is a secondary feature of Speedfan, it offers the date in an easy to understand webpage format.  You can also view and control fan speeds and temperatures of your motherboard.  Attribute stats must be check manually.
  • HDD Health
    • HDD Health provides the same S.M.A.R.T. attribute information as Speedfan, but runs in the system tray and constantly monitors for problems.  If a problem does occur, HDD Health will warn you.

There are several attributes that makeup a S.M.A.R.T. status.  It is important to know what each one means for the health of your hard drive.  A good description of each status is available here.

Knowing the S.M.A.R.T. status of your hard drive is not an alternative to backups.  Having up-to-date backups is the only way to fully protect against hard drive failure.

Do you check the S.M.A.R.T. attributes of your hard drive?  Which attributes do you watch the most?  Are there other programs that you use to check S.M.A.R.T. attributes?  Let us know by commenting below.