Back From The Brink

"I waited too long," my friend Brad told me on the phone. I recognized the distinct strain of regret in his voice -I've known him since I was a young boy.

When I went back East a few months ago to visit, he showed me a fantastic collection of historic photos of the town where we grew up. He and his wife had also acquired an unusually large library of digital photos of family and friends.

His old computer became sluggish in the following weeks and he tried to back it up. I later discovered
that he was trying to use a flash drive that couldn't come close to storing his thousands of images, word processing and financial files stored on his hard drive.

Eventually, he asked me if I'd be willing to spec out a new computer for him and include a good all-in-one backup system.

I choose a Dell, logged onto dell.com and placed a new computer in a shopping cart for him to purchase. He said he would order it in a few days.

As Murphy's Law would have it, Brad's old computer failed just before he purchased the new computer. No matter what he tried the old computer would not start up. He took it to a local computer repair shop and they told him his data was gone. By the time he called me, his hope of ever getting his photo collection back was all but extinguished.

In a desperate attempt to help, I convinced him to buy the new computer and ship it to me along with the old computer.

I received them and removed the hard drive from the old computer. I plugged into my computer with a shuttle, but before I turned it on, I prayed for smooth noise. I wanted to hear a hum without any clicks. I didn't want a silent, dead drive because data recovery, in that case, could cost thousands. The drive revved up and I was tentatively relieved.

Unfortunately, none of the data was accessible on the drive. My many utilities reported failure after failure when trying to read it.

Only one program pulled off a miracle. The aptly named GetDataBack ($79) program was a Godsend. This program read every sector on the drive, regenerated a master file table and file system, and after a few hours of intensive restoration, it gave me a window showing all of Brad's files and allowed me to drag and drop them to the undamaged hard drive of his new computer.

One of the best things about GetDataBack is its user-friendliness. You don't have to understand its technology to use it. A series of easy-to-understand prompts can guide a computer novice through a successful recovery of a seemingly-lost hard drive. There is no risk of making a mistake while using the program because it is read-only, meaning it doesn't write any data to the drive you want to recover.

Thanks to this technology triumph, Brad is supplementing his large photo collection instead of rebuilding it from scratch.

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