Data recovery that saves your bacon

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Feb. 16, 2004 - Iíve had it with Maxtor Firewire drives. Having a long term (18 month) failure rate of 75% (3 of 4 drives dead over the last four years), doesnít make me like the company or their products too much. While I may not be purchasing any more Maxtor drives ever again, there is a bright light for the lost data. R-Studio from R-Tools Technology is a cheap and effective program for recovering trashed drives and deleted folders.

So why the big fuss over the failure of another Maxtor drive? Well this drive just happened to be my back up drive for a book on After Effects (and all the files) I have been writing, archives of class lectures, workshop materials and notes for After Effects and Final Cut Pro seminars that I teach every so often, photos and images that I have taken over the last four years, and of course the archive of all of the articles I have written for DMN over the last three years. While some of the items on the drive have the priceless/sentimental value to them, there is an actual dollar amount I can place on the rest Ė roughly $300,000 in intellectual property. [an error occurred while processing this directive]You may now ask, ďWhy didnít you back everything up?Ē This was the same question my wife said when I told her about the failure. This WAS the backup drive. Itís not like I was writing and deleting files to this drive on a daily basis. This was for back up purposes only. With Maxtorís claim that their drives are perfect for archive and backup purposes, there shouldnít have been a problem.

So at 2 A.M. when the drive failed and Windows said the drive had to be reformatted, you can probably understand the sinking feeling in my stomach and the words that came out of my mouth expressing my views toward the company. I donít know if I should give Maxtor any slack on this or not. The first two drives that failed were their first-gen drives (40GB each), and I gave the company the benefit of the doubt that it could have been the technology needed a little improving. The drive that just failed I purchased two years ago and did not include the Maxtor RT technology that Charlie White trumpeted about in his review. But still, I have noticed that about every 18 months one of these Maxtor drives has failed. What about the fourth drive? I use it on my Mac for my Final Cut Pro work, and while it hasnít failed yet, 18 months is quickly approaching and I am becoming a little nervous.

This brings me to my review of a fabulous application that does a great job of recovering lost data. R-Studio, from R-Tools Technology, is a simple application that scours drives looking for deleted files and, in most instances, can recover the information in-tact.

The second time I had a Maxtor drive fail, and I contacted the company directly, they offered to put me in touch with some data recovery companies that could save my data. The drawback of course is that these companies charge in the neighborhood of $600 per drive. This wasnít in my budget at the moment so I did some looking around and found R-Studio. For only $80, this product does exactly what I need, allowing one to decide which files need to be recovered, doesnít demand that the drive be sent away for repair, and saves a huge bit of change in the process.

R-Studio begins by looking for all the drives on your system, even if those drives are faulty, are not formatted, or have been reformatted. This is especially useful if the only way you can get a drive to be recognized by Windows is to reformat it. R-Studio can even find files if the drive has been reformatted from FAT32 to NTSF.

Once, R-Studio has identified the drives, you tell it to scan a particular drive and it goes to work examining every little sector on disk. In the case of this 150GB drive, it can take quite a while to perform the search (roughly two hours if the drive doesnít fail again). Once complete, it gives you a listing of what files it has found and a rough probability of its recovery.

It is this last bit which is so amazing. R-Studio does such a great job of finding missing and deleted files, it will often find files you didnít even remember deleting off your system the first time. In my case, R-Studio found numerous files from July 2002, way back when I first purchased the drive. As a test, I tried to retrieve those files even though they were no longer needed, and R-Studio did it!

Before you get too overly excited about these claims, I need to point out a few gotchas. First, R-Studio can only retrieve full files that have not been over written with other data. For example, if you have an image file in sector one of your drive, and then delete, and overwrite that file with another image, R-Studio might be able to identify the deleted file, but it may not be able to get it back fully. To continue on our example, R-Studio might retrieve the previously deleted image file type, name, and size, but the data contained in that image file is corrupt and not useable. This can lead to some frustration as you will need to manually check the results. This does go pretty quickly though as you can identify which files are corrupt after about 10 minutes.

The second gotcha also relates to the first; there is chance that even if R-Studio retrieves a file that has been over written, it may not contain the data you thought. In one rather funny example, I recovered a movie file from the offending drive, but when I played it back it was another movie file with a different sound track.

The final gotcha doesnít relate to R-Studio, but rather your drive space. I donít own another 150GB or larger drive, so doing a full recovery of the drive is next to impossible. If you want to recover your files, you obviously canít write back to the drive you are recovering from. However R-Studio does offer a couple of solutions. The first is that you can create a region for R-Studio to scan (say 0 Ė 90 GB). This works pretty well, and I was able to recover about 70% of my lost data this way. The only problem with scanning only a portion of the drive, is if your drive is severely fragmented, you might find that many of the directories R-Studio finds in the first region point to files located outside of that region. This means you can retrieve those files, without first expanding your search.

R-Studio also allows you to save your scan data information. This allows you to quickly reload the results of your scan, should you need to perform the recovery operation at a later date or when you have more hard drive space available. This keeps you from having to rerun the entire scan all over again.

Finally, if you have a very troublesome drive (with bad blocks and sectors) and the drive continues to worsen, you can image the drive to another disk and then perform the recovery operation on the image. Again, you will first need to make sure you have a drive with enough space for the image file to reside on.

All of these options make this a versatile application, and the fact that you can save your data for less than a hundred bucks, make it well worth the small investment.

While I probably havenít answered all of your questions about this product, I can say this; R-Studio works. It finds your data, recovers what it can (in most cases the files you really need), and saves you from Hulking Out when your drive suddenly decides to go belly up. While Maxtor will no longer get any of my business, R-Tool Technology certainly will. If you are on a PC system, and you are worried that someday you will suddenly lose all of your data, then you need to get this program now. I give R-Studio a Must Buy recommendation.

For more information on R-Studio, visit www.r-studio.com.

When not working deep in the labs of the DMN Central Division testing the latest and greatest software/hardware products Stephen Schleicher can be found at the local university teaching a few courses on video and web production. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also visit him on the web at www.mindspring.com/~schleicher

Source: Digital Media Online, Inc.

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