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Data Recovery from Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows, as a standard for the majority of servers and desktops, presents a number of common issues when it comes to data recovery. Windows is more susceptible to virus attack than other operating systems and the disparity of file systems, developed and refined over more than two decades, can make for complications when considering action to recover lost data from a non-functioning hard drive.

Windows File Systems

There are two main file systems that Windows employs: FAT32 and NTFS.


File Allocation Table (FAT) was originally developed for MS-DOS and is the file system for Microsoft Windows up to Windows Me. The FAT file system is relatively uncomplicated and offers a simple and convenient method of sharing data across different operating systems in a common environment. The biggest problem with FAT32 is that is slowed down by fragmentation (fragments of deleted files get scattered across the media which slows down the Read / Write process) which can make data recovery from failed drives and rescuing deleted files a delicate process.

FAT32 is a stronger file system than previous versions of FAT. It can relocate the root directory and employ a backup of the File Allocation Table instead of the default copy. FAT32 also supports volumes of up to 2TB in size but the limits of the BIOS INT13 interface restrict individual drives to 7.8GB. It's also flexible in that the root directory is in a cluster chain that can be located anywhere on the drive making any number of root directories possible.

It is recommended that FAT32 always be used for drives that are larger than 1.2GB. Because FAT32 organises data in smaller clusters than, say, FAT16, it operates more efficiently and wastes less disk space. Despite the advantages, FAT32 will not support some older applications and operating systems such as Windows NT version 3.51 or 4.0, so it is important to make sure before formatting a drive that compatibility issues are resolved first.


New Technology File System (NTFS) is the standard file system for Microsoft Windows from Windows 2000 though to Vista - having replaced the FAT system used previously. It has several advantages over FAT32 through enhanced data structures that make for better performance, reliability, security and disk space organization. NTFS supports larger volumes as well as RAID configurations and also provides encryption of files and folders to protect sensitive data.

NTFS ensures that complete transactions appear on the drive. When you need to perform a recovery, NTFS reprocesses each transaction in the log file and finds any transactions that were not committed at the time of the system failure. It then disallows incomplete modifications on the volume so that it can undo incomplete or erroneous transactions.

Windows Hard Drive Data Recovery

If you have suffered a hard drive crash or have accidentally deleted files, the most important thing you can do is to ensure that you do not write anything to the drive and stop using it immediately. In the case of accidental deletion, the files will still subsist on the drive but will be removed as new data is written. Therefore any further operation of the unit will likely lead to further loss of critical data.

We employ a range of processes to cater for the many types of failure that can befall a Windows implementation. Although there are data recovery applications that can be used when the drive has not sustained physical damage, we strongly recommend that, as soon as you notice any problem, you contact us so we can inspect the drive and file system for you.

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