There are two practical methods for the average computer user to recover data.

The user can take it in to a data recovery service. However, this will be painfully expensive.
The other option is to do it oneself, with professional data recovery software. This has the advantage of being much less expensive (and you get some good experience, but chances are good that if you screw up it will be a big screw up.

Chances don't have to be big that you will screw up, though.


Software will range in prices from free (independent backup sites, demo versions) to almost as much as a professional data recovery team would charge.
For free software, warez are the preferable source. Unfortunately, the pirates out there seem to be much more interested in thieving the latest version of Photoshop than decent data recovery suites, so you probably will have difficulties finding it.
Most companies offer trial versions of their software. This typically will only show you the data that is recoverable, or recover data less than a certain size.

If you plan to buy a software package, take a look at the trial version first. Not all packages are created equal.
For example, some packages are only useful if installed before your catastrophe. Don't pay for something until you know it'll do what you want it to.

Software for Windows 9x:
  Ontrack EasyRecovery Pro
  R-TT R-Studio

Software for DOS:
  Powerquest Lost and Found
  DriveMaster 2000


  • Read the manual
  • Follow the instructions in the manual as best you can
  • If you don't have a manual (warez), look for one, at least as hard as you looked for the software
  • Make sure you have a boot disk
  • For a formatted drive, hook it up as a slave disk to a computer running the necessary OS
  • Be very, very careful that you don't write anything to the drive you're trying to recover
  • Pay attention to what the software is doing