Data Loss and Recovery: The Essential Dos and Don’ts

It happens. Whether it is a hardware failure, human error, or data corruption, the result is the same – panic. And in that panic, we can tend to do some impulsive things that will only make things worse. Before you start attacking the problem of your own in a feverish frenzy, stop, take a breath, and approach this situation rationally. There are definitely wrong ways to approach data recovery on any system and there are good strategies. Here are some tips specific to help you manage the issue gracefully.

Hardware Drive Failure


  • Open the hard drive – you will expose all of the media. Whatever is inside will not be “recoverable” unless you are a recovery engineer and have a clean room environment.
  • Try to switch out circuit boards. There can be conflicts issues with firmware, and then your problems are just worse.
  • Go online and look for homemade remedies. One, for example, is placing your drive in the freezer and then trying to spin it up. If any moisture has accumulated on the media surfaces, you drive is destroyed and no recovery will ever happen.
  • Keep power cycling or clicking – it will not work and could make recovery impossible.
  • Install recovery software – your files will be overwritten.


  • Backup your data – this may be a moot point now, but for future reference, it’s really important
  • Contact a professional. Unless you are really skilled and really sure of what you are doing, don’t take the chance. Spend the money and get your files back.

Collapse of RAID

If you have to ask what RAID is, you need to avoid trying anything. Basically, RAID puts hard disks together in one logical disk. It is supposed to make data loss happen less often by having a few copies of it stored and also allows more overall storage.


  • Take advice from the Original Equipment Manager unless they configured the system. They will not know how to fix this.
  • Unless you are able to determine exactly what drives have failed and when they did so, don’t try to re-build. You can literally corrupt all of your data.


  • There is only one here – contact a data recovery expert/company

Loss of Outlook

If your Outlook is corrupted, you have probably lost your emails, your contact list, your calendar, task manager and more. This can be devastating if you depend on Outlook for all of the features it offers.


  • Try to recover your data using one of Microsoft’s tools unless you really understand what you are doing. There are .pst to .ost files recovery procedures, and you need to understand the difference before you dive in.


  • Study the entire Microsoft recover protocols before you being anything. And don’t begin anything if there is even one step you do not fully understand.
  • Contact a data recovery service if you are unsure about anything.
  • Backup everything important in the cloud – if you lose it on your device, you still have it!

SQL Recovery


  • Try to make a backup to the same drive
  • Use the disk or the RAID if the failure was caused by the hard drive
  • Try to restore the database until you have copied all files to an external source. The restore operation can overwrite other data you have.


  • Again, do make backup copies of all files on an external storage device so they are not corrupted while you attempt a recovery.
  • Contact professionals if there is anything of which you are unsure

Obviously, there is one overriding principle here, and it is the single most important activity to avoid data loss. Backup your data every day, and do a full backup at least every week, if not more often.

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Written by:
Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien
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