If you have a new drive in your Mac with a fresh system, this guide shows you how to get the recovered data back in the right places. We can transfer your whole user account and most Applications into the correct locations on the new system. When you reboot, the Mac will be back how you left it when the hard drive failed. Perfect!
Connect the new hard drive to your Mac. If it’s a desktop 3.5” drive then plug in the power adapter and switch it on. The Mac should be off at this point. If you are restoring to a laptop then it would be a good idea to have the AC adapter plugged in, as this could take a while.
Power on the Mac, and wait for it to load the setup assistant. You will be asked a few questions so answer as necessary.
Choose “Migrate from another disk or Time Machine backup,” and then click next. You should see the orange icon for the external drive, labelled with your job number. Click on it and then click continue.
You can choose to migrate everything, or be a bit selective. You cannot choose individual files to migrate, only whole user accounts, Applications, Settings, and other files. Make your choice and click next.
The migration itself can take a while depending how much data you have. Once complete you can boot into the Mac and it will feel very familiar. As if nothing ever failed.
Setup Assistant generally does a good job of transferring your data and software. Some software installs files into the Mac system in unusual locations & may need to be reinstalled or re-downloaded. Most Applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop will be transferred correctly.
Raw data is what we get when we recover files without their folder and file names. Instead of a My Documents folder, with photos and documents arranged into separate folders, what we get is a folder named JPEG for example, with thousands of consecutively numbered jpg files. The same with office documents, you would get a folder with thousands of doc, xls, docx or xlsx files.
These raw files will be fully usable and contain all the same info that they did originally. You will still be able to open them, edit them and save them, they are just unnamed.
Why is this data in RAW format?
When we recover data, we always prefer to get it back in the original structured form. When data has been deleted from a Mac, or when a hard drive has been reformatted and then partially overwritten, it can be impossible to rebuild all of the data in structured form, as the structure has been overwritten or damaged. This is when we opt for RAW files.
With a RAW recovery, what we are basically doing is searching the whole hard drive for files in known formats. This means we usually get a lot of office documents, jpg images, photoshop psd files and some others. If we need to find an unusual file type then we need a few sample files to be able to generate the correct scan info. RAW recovery is not always possible for every type of file. An example is Apple Garageband project files, which are actually just folders with the name .band on the end. On the mac, these folders are treated as packages, with folders and files inside that you don’t usually see, (If you right click one and choose ‘Show Package Contents’ you will see what I mean,) but for the purposes of RAW recovery we cannot get back those files. (We would however get back the RAW AIFF files and recordings from within the projects. It’s not ideal but may be better than nothing.)
What to do with the RAW files
If there is only a small number of files, then you can manually open them all up, see what’s inside and then rename them to something useful. Luckily, for certain file types, there are other ways to make sense of them. It’s called meta data, meta tags or EXIF data.
This meta information is stored inside the files, so even if the file and folder names are lost, we still have the tags.
A brilliant piece of software called Amok EXIF sorter will plough through thousands of jpg files, read their date tags and then place them in dated folders. It can also do other fancy things with tags, but default setting will create a decent structure.
For music, iTunes or any other music manager will usually rename the files in the library based on the artist and album tags. In iTunes, just make sure it is set to: ‘Keep iTunes media folder organised.’
Document files such as doc, docx, xls and xlsx also have some useful tags that we can use to make sense of the masses of numbered files.
In Windows, set the View to ‘Details’ and you should see a series of headings such as Name, Date Modified, Type, and Size. Date modified will show the date that the files were recovered so is useless for this task, however if you right click on this heading you will see other available columns, with ticks beside a few of them. The ‘More…‘ option at the bottom contains loads of tags that we can use to sort the data.
Good headings for office documents are Author and Date last saved. You can experiment and see if any of the other tags are more useful to your specific data.
Good headings for jpg files are Date taken (Date picture taken) and Camera model. Again, there are others which may be useful.
For Mac users who cannot get their Mac to boot, this is a quick guide to find out the level of the problem with your internal hard drive. If on start up you get to the Apple logo and beyond, then this means that your Mac can read the internal hard drive. For this to happen the drive will have carried out it’s own start up process when you pressed your mac power on button. This therefore tells you that your drive is functional to a point, but has some reading problems.
If however on start up your Mac shows a folder with a question mark, then this means that your Mac cannot read the drive at all. Therefore your drive may have a more serious problem.
It’s something we should all be doing but never seems important until it’s too late. I’m not talking about taking the dog for a walk or feeding the cat, I’m talking about backing up your PC. In the words of Joni Mitchell “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” How would you feel if you never saw your data again. Family photos, years worth of e-mails, documents, music and videos all gone in the blink of an eye. This is usually where we come in with our data recovery process. But there is an alternative. Lifehacker has an excellent guide on using free software to backup your PC. The only prerequisite is that you purchase an external hard disk of sufficient storage capacity.
For Mac users there is a totally different process. If you are running Leopard (10.5) then take a look at Time Machine. (More on this in a future post)
Disk warrior has long been a favourite utility used by mac support companies and enthusiasts to analyse and repair Macintosh disks. It is favoured mainly for it’s simplicity and many features including data recovery.
As a data recovery company we have received many mac hard drives from clients who had previously used Disk Warrior to attempt to gain access to their data. In some cases the particular hard drive being examined was too severely damaged for Disk Warrior to be of any use. In other cases Disk Warrior was used but the data left afterwards was corrupt and not accessible.
The problem is not so much the utility itself, but the lack of a users understanding of how powerful this utility is. This is a quote used on Alsoft’s website that can be misleading.
“ Simply click the rebuild button and Disk Warrior goes to work ”
In any data loss situation writing to the hard drive that has your lost data is something that should never happen, as it is this writing process that can do more damage than good. If you allow DiskWarrior to write a repaired structure to your disk, you lose any chance of getting back data what was missed out. If the rebuilt data is damaged, the disk will be in a worse state than the original failure.
We recommend that you read the documentation that comes with the utility carefully and fully understand its capabilities.
We recently received a white 5G iPod for repair. The problem with this iPod seemed fairly simple. After loading tracks from a windows version of iTunes, the songs would appear in the list as usual, but after playing one or two songs the iPod would stop playing and appear to skip through the rest of the songs. We have seen this sort of issue before, when songs have gone into the iTunes Library but never copy correctly over to the iPod. We confirmed that this was not the case as we were using a fresh iTunes install with only one album in the library.
Another issue we see is when the iPod’s system area becomes corrupt and therefore causes problems playing music. We removed the Toshiba hard drive from the iPod and performed a complete write process on the drive to remove all partition and data information. As a matter of interest we decided to restore the iPod on a Macintosh computer. When we added the sample songs, all was good. They played correctly and we thought problem solved. We had to restore the iPod on a Windows PC to give back to the customer, so we carried out the restore and added some sample tracks. Unexpectedly we were back in the same situation again. The songs would initially start to play but then skip around all over the place. Next on our list of possible fixes were iPod diagnostic modes. These are accessed on this iPod using the following process:
Toggle hold switch on (red) then off (white)
Hold down the menu and center (select) button for a few seconds to reset the iPod
Once the white apple logo appears, press and hold center (select) button and previous (<<) button
From this secret menu we tried a full test (be aware that testing the SDRAM took around 20-30 minutes and shows no activity until it is finished)
These test all passed with flying colours so it was back to the drawing board. Thinking back to the fact that the iPod worked fine when it was Macintosh formatted we decided to try a firmware downgrade. All we had to do was choose a firmware from the list and load it onto our iPod. We tried 2005-11-17 which contains firmware version 1.0 for the 5G iPods. We did have to plug the iPod into the PC and then eject it from the taskbar before the restore utility would work.
Since downgrading the iPod it has worked flawlessly and been playing music non-stop. Apple appears to be ignoring this problem instead of providing an update or even recommending this downgrade option. Hopefully this little guide will save a few iPods from the scrap heap and maybe even provoke a response from the big A. We will have to wait and see what Firmware 1.3 brings.