Despite our best efforts, all hard drives are bound to fail at some point. Mechanical errors can happen to hard disk drives (HDDs) at any time, and even the most advanced solid-state drives (SSDs) are only meant to last for a few years at most.
Although we always recommend keeping an updated backup of your critical files, this isn't always viable. In cases that result in sudden data loss or corruption, it's important to have a contingency plan in place.
Determining Your Approach
Emergency file recovery tools are useful when trying to restore files that have been lost, but you'll need to know which ones to use. The brunt of your emergency file recovery will revolve around numerous factors, including:
Answering these questions is a great start for your emergency file recovery. From here, you'll need to utilize the appropriate software and, in some cases, hardware, to attempt a file recovery. Many different tools exist, including free and paid solutions, so it's important to find the right one for the job.
Built-In Data Recovery
It's also important to note that some modern software suites have built-in data recovery tools. While these might not be accessible if an entire drive has failed, these can be useful when trying to recover files that have been accidentally deleted, overwritten, or corrupted.
Microsoft 365's live subscription service, for example, has integrated data recovery for Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and others. Adobe Photoshop performs an automatic backup of your work every 10 minutes, so it's easy to revert to a previous version if needed. If your data is already associated with a particular program or software solution, and if you still have access to the program, this should be your first attempt at performing an emergency file recovery.
File Recovery via Professional Services
In extreme cases, emergency file recoveries aren't possible by the end-user. These scenarios, such as the case with a physically damaged hard drive, will require the services of a professional – if they're even recoverable at all.