Looking for tips and advice for file recovery


I have a WD Passport Essential external hd. Recently the password got corrupted and I can no longer access my data. My only hope is to reformat, then run a data recovery program. I've been locked out, so no files have been overwritten. I have a few questions before attempting this...

1. What is the best data recovery program to run? Is the make/model of drive relevant when choosing the recovery program? I would prefer one that is free of course, but would be willing to pay some nominal fee, say up to ~$100.

2. I have the choice of running from WIn7, XP or Mac. I'm guessing Win7 is best?

3. Where do the recovered files end up? If it is on the computer's hd, then that means my XP machine is no good for this.

4. If I run a data recovery program and get only partial recovery, can I try it again with a different program?

5. Are there any options/settings that I should be aware of when reformatting which might lead to a better chance of recovery?

6. Any other tips that I should be aware of?

Please indicate if you have experience recovering data from a WD Passport hd. I welcome all responses, but will listen a little more closely if you have been through the exact same situation, especially regarding the answer to #5 and possibly #1. Thanks in advance,

Wile E. Dingo
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  1. Hey WileEDingo. I'm sorry to hear you're having such issues with your drive. Even though this sounds like kind of a long shot, you might get lucky. Although if you have encrypted the data besides setting a password for the HDD, even if you're able to recover anything, it will probably not be readable because of the encryption. Having in mind it sounds like you don't have a lot of choices right now, I'll go on and answer the questions you have about the process.
    1. Take a look at this thread here: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/id-1644496/lost-data-recovery.html
    If i were you, I'd try the first solution and continue with the ones after it if you don't have any luck with the first one.
    2. and 3. From what you've written it really sounds like your best option would be the Windows 7 computer.
    4. Yep, sure you can keep trying with each program you thing will help you. The important thing is that you don't write anything on this drive.
    5. Just do not write zeros on the HDD. I'd recommend that you try quick formatting the drive.
    6. I know you've set a budget for this recovery operation, but if your data is important to you and you run out of options, you could always try a professional solution such as a data recovery company even though it could prove to be quite costly sometimes: WD Data Recovery Partners

    Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.
    Hope that helps.
  2. Hey Boogieman_WD,

    Thanks for the reply. No worries - it's IT calamities like this that keep us on our toes, right? The disc had 1000s of files on it, including the last 10 years of digital photos, but luckily I had burned those onto dvds about a month ago. Most everything else can either be regathered (e.g. anything bought from iTunes can be redownloaded), or I'll have to live without it. Not the end of the world, by any means.

    I ran Recuva last night, as it seemed to be widely regarded as the best. The quick scan found nothing. The deep scan took about 6 hours and found 6 files, all of which were garbage. I'm now trying EaseUS; 3 hours in it has found 1318 files, but I won't know if they're any good until it completes in about 2 hours. By then I'll be in the dentist's chair getting a root canal (yes this week is just getting better and better :) ), but I'll report back when I can.

    I'm not sure if the data was encrypted, or if it was just the password. Maybe someone else out there knows. I was told by a WD support rep that when the drive gets reformatted by the SmartWare program, that it just does a quick erase, which to me means it just erases the FAT. But this is NTFS, so maybe it means more than that...

    I'll let you know how it goes.

  3. Okay here is the final summary. First I'll give answers to my questions (thanks again to Boogieman_WD for advice offered), then I'll give the results of 3 recovery attempts using different programs.

    1. There is no one program that is specifically for file recoveries from WD hard drives. So it's like anything else - read the reviews, consider the price, then decide which one might work for your particular situation.

    2. I believe all of the programs I tried were made for XP, however, they work just fine in Win7. Didn't try any on my mac.

    3. You can restore the files to the same drive, but all the programs recommended against it. I went with my Win7 machine over my XP because the newer one has a 250GB hard drive versus 38GB. I didn't get the chance to really restore any files, but it appears you can do it in batches. This would allow you to restore some, burn them to dvd, and repeat until done. Or, just get a second external hd and restore them all at once.

    4. Yes you can attempt to restore files repeatedly - just don't write any files to the hard drive. I expect I will try again with another program one day, but for now I've spent enough time and effort on it and am ready to move on.

    5. None that I found. Just don't write anything to the reformatted drive, as that will overwrite restoreable files.

    Results: I ran Recuva, EaseUS and Stellar Phoenix. None of them resulted in any restored files, however, this could very well suggest that the drive has more problems than just a corrupted password.

    Recova: 6 hour "deep" scan resulted in 6 unreadable files

    EaseUS: 5 hour scan resulted in 350 files, 281.6GB in total. For some reason it said 1318 files for most of the scan, then dropped to 350. Most of the volume were in .mpg files between 100MB and 1.6GB. I restored one but it wouldn't run. Originally there were probably about 60 actual .mpg files (they were video lectures), but they were pretty uniform in size, around 700-800MB. What was restored was not those files. No Office files were found (there had been lots of those), but the only thing recoverable were about 25 Microsoft eulas (.rtf) which at least were readable.

    3. Stellar Phoenix - approximately 5 hour scan resulted in 143 files of 336.6MB total. Mostly garbage, but it also found the 25 or so MS eulas.

    None of them restored my pictures, music or video lectures, all of which probably made up about 95% of what was lost. I'm so glad I burned those pictures to dvd, otherwise I'd be permanently in the dog house.

    Lessons learned:

    1) Do not use an external hard drive as an archive. They're fine for temporary backup, but don't rely on them.

    2) Be more proactive about archiving to dvd or blue ray.

    3) If I were to buy a WD external hard drive again, and if I didn't require the security features, I would look into completely removing the VCD. In my case I had turned the security off, but it came on suddenly out of the blue, asked me for a password, then locked me out.
  4. I'm sorry you had to go through all that trouble with your drive especially while going through some other personal stuff. It's a good thing that you've backed up your photos and that everything else is downloadable. It doesn't seem very likely that a drive would lock itself with a password alone, but then again, I've seen some pretty weird stuff with all kinds of drives. As for the backups - a file is considered properly backed up when you have two separate copies of it on two different locations (onsite and offsite) which decreases greatly the chance of losing your data, although this depends a lot on the users budget. And as for restoring the files to the same drive - yes it is possible, but that would mean to overwrite some of the ones you're trying to restore, that's why I advised against it. This is probably OK if you're recovering separate partitions, although, again - I wouldn't recommend it.
    Hopefully you never have to deal with such issues again. Best of luck.
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