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Recovering Data on Your Mac

By Rob Boirun, BurnWorld

Recovering data from your Mac can be quite difficult once the Trash folder is emptied. In many cases, getting back personal files on your Mac may result in only a partial recovery of your files and folders if you don't take the correct steps.

The simple truth is, it's really not an easy task to undo something that is permanent.  Don't believe everything you see in the movies where any computer hack can do just about anything on a computer with only a few button presses and in only a few seconds. With Mac OS X, it may be impossible to recover any data under certain situations. However, you will find steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood of at partial recovery if not a full.

Check the Trash (Folder)
Once you realize that you deleted a file that you really want to keep the obvious first thing to do is to look in the Trash Folder for the accidentally deleted file. The Trash folder in Mac OS X is actually a private, hidden directory located in each user's Home folder. The path to the folder is ~/.Trash.  If additional hard drives or USB sticks are attached to the system, those drives contain a hidden directory called .Trashes, which in turn contains a hidden Trash folder for each user.


An important note to keep in mind is that after the trash is deleted, the actual file isn't overwritten immediately. The hard disk space occupied by deleted files is considered free hard drive space by OS X. But once you start adding new files and installing programs more than likely this space will be used up, and once that happens the deleted files are gone for good.
If you used the Empty Trash Securely option and it was enabled, it is highly unlikely that any data could be restored. Even though many people stay with the default of not emptying Trash securely for performance reasons, OS X still enables Empty Trash Securely selection for a small minority of people. The key reason why file recovery is impossible with Empty Trash Secure happens is because the drive data is overwritten several times to make sure there isn't any possibility of recovery. A true sign of a security app.

Getting back to the topic on hand, if you did delete a file you need back the next matter at hand is to minimize the write activity on the hard drive with the deleted file. Like I mentioned earlier once you start adding new files to the system the greater the chance of older files getting overwritten.

Free Built in Data Recovery
The dd command on Mac OS X and UNIX is used to copy a hard drive partition or a whole hard disk piece by piece. It comes with virtually every Unix System in  addition to Mac OS X. The dd command itself won't recover data, however it can be used to create an image backup of each and every byte about the hard drive, such as the free space that contains deleted files. Normal backup utilities do not backup free space that is where deleted files reside until overwritten.
The backup images from dd along with other similar programs can be useful to allow for the Macintosh system to be used, while retaining the ability to restore the deleted file via a dd backup.

Only experts are suggested to use the dd command, because it has the nickname "Disk Destroyer." The reason for that nickname is because if the command is typed incorrectly, it might overwrite the wrong hard disk.

If your dd picture of hard drive is done, some disk recovery programs are capable of browse the dd image. Unencrypted EnCase and CopyCatX images can sometimes be used too.

Using Mac Data Recovery Software
With the many Macintosh data recovery software titles available, most of them work by booting the machine via the recovery software bootable DVD instead of to OS X. When the data recovery software programs are running, the program begins to search for deleted files and asks the consumer which files to revive.

Salvaged data must be written to a separate partition or USB flash drive. Another option is to burn the data to a DVD or Blu Ray disc using a recommended burning app. Always search for the best Mac DVD Burning Software before deciding on one. If recovered information is written on the same partition, it might start overwriting the data that's in the process to be restored. There isn't any guarantee that files recently deleted would be the last to become overwritten.
Many Mac data recovery software have free trial modes in which the user can scan for his or her deleted files free of charge to ensure it really works.  However to salvage the file you must purchase the program. It might be better to keep trying different software's until one of them finds the deleted file you are looking for.

Utilizing a Hard disk Recovery Service
If the records cannot be retrieved by utilizing Mac file recovery software, then your only other options are to hire a data recovery service team that specialized in Mac OSX.

The process typically requires removing the hard disk containing the deleted files and sending it to get looked at. The hard drive is then delivered back to the end user along with the restored files. Disc Doctors and DTI Data  are two such businesses specializing in the process of Mac file recovery.

Even though Mac data recovery services are significantly pricier than making use of file recovery software, most professional file recovery businesses will not charge any fees in the rare and unfortunate situation where the removed files cannot be retrieved.

Finally Notes on Preventing Data Loss on Mac Computers

Taking into account that all hard drives at some point fail, the most effective way to prevent data loss on Mac computer systems is to try to regularly back-up crucial files and data. The optimal situation is to possess a reliable (and preferably automated) daily backup system in position.

It is also extremely important to have multiple data backups in different physical locations to prevent against loss of data due to fire, flooding or theft. Remote online storage is a common solution. You will discover a large number of companies focusing on online data storage. One example is, many Mac users take advantage of Apple's MobileMe online service specifically for the included option of remote data storage.

Even with these preventative actions, unexpected data loss is a fact of life for Mac computer users. Having said that, it is comforting to know that most cases of data loss can be fixed by Mac data recovery software or a data recovery service specializing in Mac systems.

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Rob Boirun is the lead writer for www.burnworld.com which covers DVD Blu Ray Burning topics. You can follow BurnWorld on twitter.
Related Keywords:mac data recovery,mac drive, data recovery,mac os x, burn world

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