So you just wiped your entire hard drive by mistake? Then you're in my position exactly! But don't fret, here's a quick and easy way to get your partitions up and running in no time!

Me doing data salvage, failed OS installs... And some vacuum cleaning.
TUTORIAL As I was trying to do a fresh OS installation a few days ago, there were some problems with my partitions, resulting in the dreaded, ongoing error message "We couldn't create a new partition or locate an existing one" in the Windows 8 installer. As usual, I Google'd it and kept reading I needed to run a few commands in "diskpart", that would supposedly fix it. What wasn't explained, however, was that the operation suggested not only wiped the new Windows partition, but the entire drive! And on a different partition I had about 450 gigs of data that was now lost.

I admit being lazy, not backing up the entire drive beforehand, especially since I wasn't entire sure what I was doing. But it was late and I was both tired and frustrated -- and what's done is done. Luckily enough, all data could be restored and I'll let you know exactly how I did so, in this article!

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The trouble with most data recovery software...

First off, there are loads of software out there that can help you recover lost files, and they all work slightly (or drastically) differently. The most common type will scan the entire disk surface for raw data and then saves it into new files on a safer place (ie. on a different hard disk). You often get to choose between certain file types to look for, be it JPEG images, Word documents, MP3 audio files, etc.

This is what your hard drive might look like, after you've recovered it, with no file and folder structure.
These programmes do a fair job finding at least a good portion of your data, but everything that's restored typically ends up scrambled, since the software is not aware of your hard drive's original file and folder structure. Video files can also be shattered into still images, for instance, since it only finds raw data, without knowledge of how is was originally stored. So after recovering your work, you'll get to spend hours, days, YEARS trying to sort everything out, since you'll end up with thousands of files, all listed with generic file names like "image187854.jpg", "document9434565.docx" in a long list. Finding the exact file you're looking for is like a needle in a haystack. Trust me, it's a serious pain in the butt!

Then, there is software like EaseUS Data Recovery, which seem like a big leap in the right direction, since they are actually able to recover actual partitions and entire file structures on a drive that's been accidentally wiped. The programme finds the start of files, figures out how large it was and subsequently copies that much of data from the HDD, as an attempt to restore the file at hand. The problem with that approach, however, is that it only works if your drive already was a 100% free of fragmentation. Because if the disk is heavily fragmented, EaseUS Data Recovery has no way of knowing where all the different fragments of the file are located on the drive. Mine clearly was, since virtually every file I got back from the drive were corrupt and couldn't be opened. I literally restored 450 gigs of junk data with that software. But at least it got the folder and file names right, whatever that's worth!

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Re-create lost partitions - the proper way

A significantly better solution if you've accidentally wiped your partition table, and ended up with a whole disk of "unallocated space", is to use a programme like Partition Find and Mount. It's a real small, light-weight piece of software, that lets you do just that - scan your drive for old partitions and simply mount them, making them appear in you file explorer like they used to!

It only took it a minute for it to find my lost partitions. After that you can simply assign it a new drive letter, open it up in Windows Explorer and just pick and choose everything you want to restore and just copy it over to a new disk. I can most honestly assure you that I'm not affiliated with this software in any way, but I'm very glad, and relieved that I found it. It does exactly what you want it to do -- what you wished all recovery programmes had the option to do, really. It makes your drive come alive again, so you get a second chance to back it up!

Best of all, it's FREE - no trials, no codes, no credit cards, no bull! Only difference between the free and pro versions is speed. Pro version lets you copy the files over more quickly, but if you can leave the PC on overnight, the time aspect shouldn't be that much of an issue, hopefully.

> Download Partition Find and Mount <

Partition Find and Mount - step by step

The software is by no means difficult to use, but here's a little user guide anyway, to get your partition up and running again!


1. Find your drive and start scanning.

Partition Find and Mount lists all drives currently connected to the system. So first off we need to determine which drive drive we want to recover. If you know the make and size of the drive, you should have a pretty good idea which one it is. If not, just try one. Then, click the "Scan" button and choose "Intellectual Scan".


2. Choose your partition and mount it.

When it's done scanning the drive, you should hopefully have at least one partition listed under the disk. If you don't know which partition to recover, look at the size and "layout" columns to get an idea. Or just try one, you can always choose another later. Then click the "Mount As..." button and choose a drive letter to assign it to.


3. Start backing up your work

The drive is now back in your file explorer under the drive letter you chose previously! Just be sure to keep Partition Find and Mount running as long as you copy your files over to a new disk. Should you close the programme, the partition will unmount and once again disappear from your explorer window, and hence abrupt the file transfer.

Recovering deleted files

Note, however, that this tool is strictly for recovering lost partitions. If you accidentally deleted a file, this software won't help you. But at the other hand, there is plenty of other software that can help you with just that.

Recuva is a good option. The software is completely free, unless you need personal assistance from the company behind it. It's very straight forward and easy to use, just specify a location to search, then pick what files you want to restore.

For more tips, here's a list of other free tools you can try for recovering deleted files.

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General IMPORTANT tips

If you just did an epic boo-boo and lost all your data, immediately stop using that hard drive! In order to recover your data it's most vital that no more data is written to the disk, and jeopardise overwriting your precious files.

If the drive was the only one present in your system, take it out of the computer and mount it with another system. The easiest way is to use an external HDD docking station you just connect with a USB cable. Turn the dock on, and you'll have instant access to the drive. If your OS discovers a new unformatted drive and subsequently wants to format it, tell it not to! That would only make it worse, potentially making your lost data even harder to restore.

Good luck!
/Jo

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