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Updated Thursday, September 27, 2012
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Data Recovery

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(704) 882-7551

Restoring lost files, directories, or drives that have dissappeared for whatever reason is, far more often than not, a fairly simple task if it is done immediately and properly.

In most cases, data can be recovered with just a few hours work and the cost rarely exceedes a few hundred dollars. When it becomes more complicated, it is always possible to analyze the problem and derive an accurate estimate within three hours.

I have been performing data recovery work since 1979, on every type of media and using virtually every operating system, current or obsolete. Windows, Dos, Mac, Novell, NT, Unix, or CP/M; SCSI, Ide, MFM, or Raid; erased files, computer virus damage, formatted, system or head crash; they are all just another hard drive to me.

The keys to successful recovery are in determining exactly what happened that caused the data loss and, from that, to know what needs to be done to correct the problem.

Please feel free to call or E-mail me with the specifics of your situation.

A telephone appraisal is free, so why wait? (704) 882-7551 or (704) 609-1970

Types of Data Recovery

A hard disk drive is nothing more than a filing cabinet filled with magnetic pages of information. The first page, or partition table, contains the information which says whether it is a Windows, Dos, MacIntosh, Novell, Unix, or other type of filing cabinet, where it begins, and how big it is. Other pages contain lists of which pages are used (FAT's), directories, or files. Knowing the correct contents of each page allows proper diagnosis of the problem and allows for data to be recovered that would otherwise be gone forever.

Sometimes, the only problem is that something has accidentally been erased; but, nothing is ever truly erased on most computers. The first character of the filename is changed so that it no longer appears in a directory and the pages used by that file are put back in the pool of available pages, but the contents are still untouched. If it is caught before one of those pages is actually overwritten, the file is easily recovered. Often, erased files can be recovered in a matter of minutes.

Even if the drive was formatted, only that which has been overwritten by the installation of new software is lost. The format operation reads the entire data area to find bad spots, but only writes over the Fat's and root directory. Since most drives get pretty full before they are reformatted, the odds are very good that the missing work can again be recovered. There is a minor downside, which is that all of the newly installed software should be thoroughly destroyed to prevent it's presence from confusing the recovery process. This; however, is often a small price to pay for the work that is reclaimed.

Next we might encounter the damaged partition table, boot sector, or FAT. Here there is no substitute for intimate knowledge of the correct contents of each and the ability to manually create a correct one, after which we have what I like to call magic reappearing data. Correct the damage, reboot, and poof, it is all back. This kind of damage is often deliberately caused by viruses, but there is often enough left intact for a full recovery.

Ironically, what may seem the most devastating can be the easiest to repair. If there is a hardware failure and the system suddenly thinks there is no hard disk at all, the problem is almost never with the data itself and correcting the failing hardware instantly restores everything.

The most critical factor in data recovery is determining exactly what the problem is before attempting repair. Literally hundreds of times I have been presented with the task after somebody else has tried and failed. Usually this does not prevent recovery, but it does triple the average time necessary. With hard disks capable of writing over five million characters in one second, a lot of damage can be done in the blink of an eye when a well meaning, but under educated "expert" makes the attempt without having first identified what is really wrong.

I have the skills to repair the hard disk to allow access the drive, get all of the "pages" that can be retrieved, and then replace the critical damage, if necessary.

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Clients

The clients for whom I have performed data recovery number in the thousands and are far too lengthy to list. Of the federal agencies, I doubt there is one I have not recovered data for and the list includes the FBI, the CIA, FEMA, NASA, the NSA, the Treasury Department, DARPA, senators and congressmen, and every branch of the military.

Along with thousands of data recoveries for smaller companies, the list of commercial clients includes IBM, Hewlett Packard, Novell, AT&T, US Airways, Kodak, GE, Hughs, Gannett, and General Motors.

In the academic sector, it is safe to say that every college or university in the Washington area has received my services; Georgetown, American, and George Mason, to name a few.

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Examples

Following are a few examples of the thousands of data recoveries I have performed; but, for you technical types, I thought you might appreciate some technique.

Since the mid 1980's the final head circuitry has been mounted on the head stack, inside the drive chamber and often, this is what has failed. Since we don't really care if the drive can be used again, in about 1987, I started moving the head assembly from an identical good drive to the drive we want the data from with a success rate of about 75%. A clean room is not necessary, at all. It should be noted that this has been less successful with drives over four gigabytes and there are numerous specifics that have to be known and addressed to ensure the greatest probability of success.

IBM had flown a senior executive to Washington for the purpose of giving a presentation to the federal government. Unfortunately, when he went to use his laptop, he discovered that the hard disk had died. In my shop I found that the drive would respond to seek commands, but failed when asked to read any data. A technician at IBM overnighted an exact replacement drive so that I might have a full set of it's parts and, sure enough, when the logic pca was exchanged, the data was readable.

Without her knowledge and while she was on vacation, a professor at George Mason University had her IT people reformat and reload her computer. On it were the results of over ten years of research that she had been carefully moving to each new computer and IT had not backed it up. This job was time consuming and she did lose about 2% of her files because they had been overwritten, but the 98% I recovered were the results of millions of dollars spent on mainframe use and statistical analysis.

The FBI's index to every case in progress for most of New York state had crashed and their backup wasn't working either. They literally drove it to Washington for me to attempt recovery and, luckily, it was a relatively simple hardware problem. I repaired their drive, duplicated it onto another for safety, and had them on their way back less than four hours later.

More examples to come, but why not call? (704) 882-7551


This website is a work in progress, for which I hope to have changes almost every day.

Please bear with me and check back soon.

If you have any questions or comments, please E-mail me.

Davis' Biography


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