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Computers

Protect and Recover Your Data With Disk Drill Pro

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:

Data loss is a terrible scenario that we never want to experience. Unfortunately, even with the best prevention methods, it’s still possible for it to happen. In this tutorial, we’ll look at how to protect your Mac and, if necessary, recover lost data using Disk Drill Pro.


Before We Begin...

I’ve written about data recovery options in a previous tutorial which explained the ways in which data could be lost and the best tools and options to recover it, but it’s high time that we actually delve into recovering some data! In addition, I’ll also be showing you how you can protect your data from accidental deletion.

We’re going to be using a Disk Drill Pro by Cleverfiles, a data recovery tool that also actively protects against data loss using some very clever things indeed.


Protect Your Data!

The best way to protect your data is to not let it get into harm’s way in the first place. Keep backups (multiple and/or offsite if possible), be conscious of what you’re doing with your data and always make sure to keep the backups running regularly.

Once you start Disk Drill Pro for the first time it will ask if you’d like to prevent your data from accidental deletion as well as monitor your hard drive(s) and alert you to any potential hardware faults in the future. To enable these features, simply keep them checked and click Next.

Disk Drill Pro will offer to setup some preventative measures
Disk Drill Pro will offer to setup some preventative measures

Tip: Disk Drill Pro makes both of these features completely optional and you can enable/disable them at any time. Additionally, it will ask if you if you’d like to run the product tour - this is highly recommended to better understand what it does and how it works.

After you’ve decided if you’d like to protect your Mac, Disk Drill Pro will launch and you’re presented with a very simple layout with just two options: Protect and Recover. We’ll first look at how to protect your data and make sure the possibility of data loss is as limited as possible.

The layout of the app is extremely simple to avoid confusion (and potentially further loss due to a misunderstanding)
The layout of the app is extremely simple to avoid confusion (and potentially further loss due to a misunderstanding)

At any point there’s always access to Cleverfile’s support site, knowledge base and Disk Drill Pro’s help guide should you be unsure about anything.

Disk Drill Pro constantly monitors your hard drives and data according to the settings you select. Whilst protection is switched on, Disk Drill Pro displays a menu icon that allows quick access to certain features such as S.M.A.R.T. monitoring and launching Disk Drill Pro.

A menu bar icon will be displayed when protection is on
A menu bar icon will be displayed when protection is on

Protection

Disk Drill Pro’s feature to prevent accidental data deletion has two parts to it - Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery.

When you first run Disk Drill Pro and are asked if you’d like to protect the data on your Mac, this enables the Recovery Vault across your whole Mac. In addition, you can customise the settings it uses using the Protect pane.

To access the protection features for your hard drive, click on the required drive’s icon. Disk Drill Pro offers protection to the partitions (volumes) on your Mac so it will ask you to then select a volume.

First select a drive
First select a drive...
then select a volume
...then select a volume

Tip: Since OS X Lion, you’ll notice a recovery volume called Recovery HD. This can be ignored.

Recovery Vault

Recovery Vault
Recovery Vault

So what does Recovery Vault do? For any folders specified, it constantly monitors any files that are deleted and keeps a record of where they physically are on the drive. For data recovery to work, a scan is performed whenever you need to recover the data. How Recovery Vault works is that it constantly keeps these scan results up to date. This means if you trash a file (and subsequently empty the trash) then shortly after think “uh-oh”, there’s a very good chance Disk Drill Pro can quickly recover that data.

To configure Recovery Vault, click the Advanced tab, which will pop open a list to add folders you wish to monitor. Your home folder will be added by default but maybe there’s another folder to keep protected on your Mac? To do this, simply click Add Folder and then specify the folder you wish to protect.

Guaranteed Recovery

Guaranteed Recovery
Guaranteed Recovery

Recovery Vault is extremely useful and will definitely help prevent against losing files that otherwise shouldn’t have been deleted. However, as I talked about in my previous data recovery tutorial, when a file is deleted the actual data on the drive isn’t modified, instead, the space it occupies on the drive is made available to be overwritten. This makes Recovery Vault ideal for short-term data loss, but if you remember deleting a file last year then the likelihood of recovering it reduces as time goes on.

Unlike Recovery Vault which keeps track of deleted files, Guaranteed Recovery works differently. You still specify folders to keep track of (and can add folders in the same way as Recovery Vault, but when a file is deleted - it isn’t actually deleted. Instead, Disk Drill Pro hides it in a special recovery area. That means the file isn’t removed from your hard drive so it will still occupy space.

So let’s say you had a 1GB file that you deleted. With Recovery Vault, the file is deleted as normal, freeing up space, but Disk Drill Pro keeps track of where it was located on the drive in case you need to recover it. With Guaranteed Recovery, the space isn’t freed up - Disk Drill Pro keeps the file in a secure location so that if you realise you needed that file, then Disk Drill Pro not only recovers the file immediately, but there’s no possibility of the data being overwritten.

There is a tradeoff as space isn’t made available when you’re deleting files, so you’ll notice free space on your Mac will decrease far quicker than before. To balance this out, there’s some options we can use.

There are a number of options we can specify for Guaranteed Recovery
There are a number of options we can specify for Guaranteed Recovery
Maximum Size

If you only want to keep files less than, say, 1GB protected then you can use this option to ignore files that are larger (all the way up to 32GB and unlimited).

Keep Deleted Items for X Amount of Time

To avoid all your free space being used up, you can tweak the amount of time deleted items are kept. You can keep them indefinitely, but unless you’ve got huge amounts of free space then that’s probably not advisable. Otherwise, you can specify regular intervals between 1 day and 1 year.

Maximum Size of Recovery Storage / Clear Recovered Items

The last option is actually two options that can be used as an either / or. You can either specify the maximum size of the recovery storage (meaning a guaranteed amount of space) or you can specify the amount of free space that your hard drive should have, letting it grow as much as it can. Only you will be able to decide which feature is best for you, I personally have the recovery size as 2GB since I’ve set my file size limit to 1GB.


Recovery

Before recovering any files, it’s important to know that the types of files that can be recovered are dependent on the software being used. To see what filetypes Disk Drill Pro can recover, go to Preferences , accessible via the menu bar.

The list of files that Disk Drill Pro can recover is extensive
The list of files that Disk Drill Pro can recover is extensive

There’s hundreds of different ones available but if you can specify the types you need to look for at any one time, it’ll make the deep scan and recovery that little bit more efficient.

I have a spare external hard drive that I loaded with random files and a couple of movie trailers. Unfortunately, it seems some of them may have been accidentally deleted - time to perform some data recovery!

Tip: To perform data recovery, you must recover data to another drive. If you try and recover a file to the same drive it’s located on, the chances of recovery drop dramatically.

So what’s missing? Well, I don’t seem to have a Movies folder on my external hard drive and I’m sure it was there last week.

Launch Disk Drill Pro and select Recover. Just like setting up the protection features, you select a disk and then a volume. For me, I select my external hard drive and then the volume (in this case, it’s called Valenwood).

Select the drive and volume you need to recover data from
Select the drive and volume you need to recover data from

Once you select the volume to perform recovery on, the available recovery options are displayed. As you can see, I don’t have Disk Drill Pro protecting this drive so the first option to Undelete protected items isn’t available. However, there’s still plenty I can do.

Quick Scan

A quick scan takes only a few minutes and can quickly check for recently deleted files (the more recent the file was deleted, the easier it is to detect). It’s always worth running this first - there’s no point jumping to a deep scan (which can take hours) when a quick scan takes a few moments and will probably get you the information you need.

Disk Drill Pro will display a progress bar of the scan
Disk Drill Pro will display a progress bar as the scan progresses

A quick scan works by checking for existing file table information for deleted files. Think of a quick scan as trying to find your keys, you know they’re all together somewhere so you first check the places they would usually be.

Once the scan is complete, you’re then presented with the results.

The Scan Results
The scan results

As you can see, there’s a Movies folder that Disk Drill Pro found. If I expand the folder, I can see the two videos it contained are located and Disk Drill Pro reports that the recovery chances are “good”.

To recover the data, you need to first specify the folder to recover to. Again, make sure you select a different disk to ensure the best possible outcome.

Select a location to save the recovered data to
Select a location to save the recovered data to

And that’s it! I’ve just recovered some files that I’d recently deleted - data otherwise lost.

You'll be notified if recovery was successful
You'll be notified if recovery was successful

Here we can see the recovered files back where they belong!

Deep Scan

A deep scan is pretty much the same as a quick scan, the only difference is that sometimes the information required for a quick scan isn’t enough - or isn’t available. If we go back to our keys metaphor, a deep scan is the next stage if we couldn’t find our keys in the usual places. We start spending longer looking in places they’re less likely to be. Additionally, the keys may not even be on the same keychain anymore, some keys could be in one place and other keys elsewhere.


A deep scan can take much, much longer than a quick scan.

A deep scan can check either the volume or the entire hard drive, bit for bit, rebuilding this information. It takes considerably longer and often the filenames aren’t recoverable, but the actual data is.


You'll be prompted to decide if you'd like to scan the entire drive or just the partition.

Apart from the lengths Disk Drill Pro goes to in recovering the data, the Deep Scan option works in exactly the same way as the Quick Scan option does.


As potentially recoverable files are discovered they'll populate in the window.

Backup to DMG

Click, click, click, whirr, click. These are not sounds we ever want to hear from a hard drive… but it happens. These are indicative of a failing hard drive and once a drive starts to fail then it’s simply a matter of time before it goes completely.

But what if this hard drive is failing and you need to perform some data recovery on it? You could run various scans on the hard drive (which would take considerably longer to do with its poor condition) but that puts extra strain on the drive.

Disk Drill Pro includes the option to grab the contents of the entire volume and save it as a DMG. What’s really great about this feature is that you can still run data recovery on the DMG.

Select the volume you need to backup and then select Backup to DMG-Image…. Disk Drill Pro will ask where you’d like to save the DMG to, then begin.


Backing up to DMG means you can work on the data later without worrying if the hard drive fails!

Once it’s done, you can then open the DMG and start your data recovery on that instead.

Search for Lost Partitions

If you’ve repartitioned a drive and realised that there was data you still needed, you can potentially recover them using the Search for Lost Partitions option.


Lost partitions can even be recovered but again, it can take some time to find them.

Again, select the drive you want to check for lost partitions, and if any are found, they’ll then display in the main window. You can then back it up as a DMG (see above) or even attempt recovery directly.


Once a lost partition has been found you can then work on it just like any other.

Wrapping Up

We’ll all experience data loss at some point in our computer-using lives so the more we can prevent it, the better. But when that fateful day does happen, you now know that there’s still a lot more you can do and data recovery isn’t as scary (or expensive) as it sounds!

To make data protection and recovery even more affordable, the fine folks over at Cleverfiles have generously provided a coupon code exclusively for Mactuts+ readers. Simply enter MAC-TUTS-DDP during checkout and you’ll receive 15% off your order of Disk Drill Pro!

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