Recovery from previous installwithin Windows?

Gateway / Mfatxstl el2 500s
September 1, 2009 at 18:15:16
Specs: Windows XP home
My parents took their 3 or 4 year old dell to
someone to have it looked at because things
were generally running slow. That person
formatted the computer and reloaded windows
without saving any of their previous data.

Are there any data recovery programs that will
run from within windows to find files that
remain from the previous install? (Old outlook
express email, mozilla bookmarks.)

I live hundreds of miles from them and can
provide support remotely, but I suspect that
many of the recovery programs run from some
kind of boot disk before ever getting into
windows. My parents would never be able to
do that on their own.

Any advice?

See More: Recovery from previous installwithin Windows?

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September 1, 2009 at 19:02:26
I am afraid any data on the computer is lost forever. No data can be recovered.

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September 1, 2009 at 19:24:29
From what you said, I would have to agree with Ewen. In the hands of an expert 'some' of the files 'might' be recovered. But the fresh install that was done would definitely limit the recovery. And in any case, everything done on the PC now increases the chance that the old data will be overwritten.

The best thing to do is physically remove the hard drive and attach it to another system as a slave. Then attempt the recovery, but complete success is very doubtful.

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September 2, 2009 at 05:15:50
Thanks for the replies folks, but I hate to give up that easy.

Isn't this whole list of software made for this very purpose?:

Under the category of "Format/Fdisk" they all have a check.
"Data recovery program recovers data that's been accidentally
deleted from a hard drive after it's been formatted or modified
by Fdisk."

I did a trial of the first one but it didn't seem like I was running
it correctly or something.

I was thinking that several years ago I ran some software on
my computer and it let me retrieve quite a few files from a
previous install...

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Related Solutions

September 2, 2009 at 05:58:30
As aegis 1 stated the best chance is to slave the drive to another computer and install recovery software on that computer to search the drive. The more your parents use the drive the less likely to recover anything. If the drive was formatted and then Windows was installed the chances are less. If only installed over the top then perhaps there may be a chance.

If you really want to try then here is my suggestion. Have your parents buy a USB external hard drive of sufficient capacity to clone the Dell drive in its entirety to the USB external. That is not an extremely hard process to do. Then ship the drive to you for examination.

Still not much chance.

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September 2, 2009 at 10:31:45
As stated above... there are utils that can allow recovery of data - even after a system has been rebuilt - within reason...

The less anything is written to the system as is - the better the chances of recoving "some" lost data.

A trawl for data recovery software (or something similar) will bring up more than a few; and many of them will allow a trial version...

It is likely beyond your folks to do this themselves? Best you can hope for is to clone the drive as is an external usb drive (as already suggested?); and then send it to you to have a go; sed drive slaved or usb into your working system with a suitable util run from there?

Discourage writing/saving anything further to the drive if possible; and definitely no erasing etc of whatever is on the drive now...

I have tested a few of the utils with varying success; the more you pay the better your results.

OnTrack have a domestic version; and a more Pro (and expensive) version. Many of the Pro outfits use OnTrack or similar...

And worse case.... send drive to a Pro house who specialise in data recovery? It "can" be done - but may not be cheap... Remember too that the NSA, FBS, CIA and so on allegedly can get back to somewhere around 24 reformats/overwrites etc. on a given drive; and recover whatever is/was on there at any time... But they have the know-how and utils etc...

Regardless of outcome of your efforts... encourage your folks to use an external usb drive to safely store all critical data etc. in fututre; and also regularly to make DVD/CD copies as well? That way they won't get burned away again?

Would have been nice if the "someone" had bothered to safeguard their data first... before rebuilding etc...?

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September 2, 2009 at 10:57:33
Another thing to consider is the type of format command used. If the person used quick format, there may be some chance to recover files provided that your parents stopped using the computer. If the person used long format, there is no chances that you can recover files. Quick format only removed the file allocation table (FAT) while leaving everything else intact & overwritten by the new OS installation. Long format wipe out the FAT and all files that made the hard drive feel like clean and unusued.


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September 2, 2009 at 11:09:58
mmm - good point "XP..." Hopefullly "someone" did the kwik 'n dirty approach... and thus there "may" be a chance or three???

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September 2, 2009 at 11:24:30
Ok I may be way out in left feild here but I have used a program called "get data back" by "Runtime Software" that has recovered some, actually a good beit of data after a complete format and a new operating system installed. I even used it once to recover data from a drive that was fomatted in FAT and reformatted to NTFS. They went from Win. 98 to XP Pro. I think, if I remember correctly it had problems recovering from the same drive it was on though. If the program was on "C" it did pretty good recovering from "D" not so good from "C". If the drive is partitioned and it can be installed to the opposing drive it may be worth a shot.

I am not sure of the cost anymore it has been a good while. If the data is that important that you would be willing to pay for the program you may want to see about having a technician look into it.


Practice makes perfect but only if you practice perfectly!

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September 2, 2009 at 11:41:06
Hi "likely"

I have a colleauge here at work who has used that same util to great effect... It's one of many such utils - but as you say it can do a lot - and not that many pennies? All of these utils I think perform best if installed to run from another working system; and problem drive is either slaved or via usb connection?

Wouldn't hurt to try - and again there may be a freebie limited use version to test run and see if will do anything useful?

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September 2, 2009 at 13:46:39

I have run it from the same system. Some where durng set up it I believe suggests not installing it on the same drive you plan to recover from. I have installed on "C" and recovered a great deal from "D" on a partitioned drive. I have also recovered some from "C" of the same drive. I have not yet installed on a single partition drive. I understand it would, I imagine, work better if I had slaved the drive into another system, but at the time that option was not available.

The OP mentioned looking for email and bookmarks. While it is a pain to loose these, we have all made that mistake, to me that stuff is not worth paying for, but if your going to and really aren't that computer friendly I would suggest having a technician do it. It may cost more but you may also get a lot more in return.


Practice makes perfect but only if you practice perfectly!

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September 2, 2009 at 13:48:57
PC Inspector (freeware)
Zero assumption Recovery
The demo is limited
It will only recover 'up to' four folders per run
But you can make multiple runs
IMO the best, but not free

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